Clause 8 - Requirements for naturalisation etc.

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 19 October 2021.

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Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:45, 19 October 2021

The clause seeks to enable the Secretary of State to waive requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen under section 6, naturalisation as a British overseas territories citizen under section 18, or registration as a British citizen under section 4 of the British Nationality Act 1981. At present, there is no power to waive the requirement to have been present in the UK at the start of the qualifying period except in relation to applications for naturalisation as British citizens from current or former members of the armed forces, which presents a barrier in otherwise deserving cases.

The immediate necessity for the clause arises from the circumstances of people of the Windrush generation, many of whom were deprived of their rights to register their British citizenship by the Home Office’s failure to ensure that people were aware both of their rights and of the need to exercise them. It has since become necessary to use naturalisation without a fee as a means to put people in the position they should have been in all along as British citizens. However, since some people were wrongly exiled from the UK, the remedy has been inadequate for some people who were only recently able to return.

The main barrier stems from the requirement for naturalisation that a person must be present in the UK at a fixed point five or three years before the date of their application to naturalise. The clause therefore seeks to amend the 1981 Act to allow the Secretary of State to waive the requirement that the individual must have been present in the UK or relevant territory at the start of the qualifying period in the special circumstances of a particular case. The waiver will be introduced in relation to the requirements to naturalise a British citizen under section 6 of the 1981 Act, to naturalise as a British overseas territories citizen under section 18 or to register as a British citizen under section 4.

The clause would not have been necessary had the Windrush scandal not happened in the first place, and we wish to place on the record our concerns that it happened because of the hostile environment that was created by the Home Office. Although we welcome clause 8 and will support it, we wish that it had never been necessary because of the injustice of what happened to all those people.