New Clause 5 - Former British-Hong Kong service personnel: right of abode

Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 4th November 2021.

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‘(1) The Immigration Act 1971 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 2(1) insert—

“(c) that person is a former member of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps or the Hong Kong Royal Naval service, or

(d) that person is the spouse or dependent of a former member of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps or the Hong Kong Royal Naval service.’—

This new clause would mean that all former British-Hong Kong service personnel, plus their spouses and dependents, would have right of abode in the UK.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is on a cause championed by Andrew Rosindell for many years: the 300 or so Hong Kong servicemen who seek UK citizenship in recognition of their service in the UK-Hong Kong Army before the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. With family included, we are talking of about 1,000 people.

Hongkongers served in our armed forces from 1857 right up to 1997 through world wars and numerous other conflicts. Hong Kong servicemen are recognised by the Ministry of Defence as veterans. In the early 1990s, the British nationality selection scheme allowed certain British nationals—rather than citizens—who were permanent residents of Hong Kong with a right of abode and who met a number of other eligibility criteria to apply for full UK citizenship. Of 654 British-Hong Kong servicemen who applied, only 159 were granted citizenship. Until now, the Home Office has resisted the campaign, but surely recent developments mean that it is now irresistible and that the Home Office must think again.

The Home Office previously refused to budge on the grounds that veterans are deemed to have Chinese citizenship and that some were locally recruited staff, who could not have reasonably expected the right to British citizenship. However, those recent developments, which we understand and know only too well, have seen the Home Office introduce the really welcome scheme for British nationals overseas. It could have refused to establish any BNO scheme for precisely the same reason they have refused the campaign of the hon. Member for Romford. However, it rightly put those arguments aside. It should also put them aside in relation to these veterans, 97 of whom qualify for the BNO scheme. Let us build on that excellent work through a new clause such as this, which would ensure that all British-Hong Kong service personnel, plus their spouses and dependents, would have the right of abode in the UK. In the circumstances, surely it is the right thing to do.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Before we adjourn the Committee, may I thank hon. Members for the courtesy with which they have conducted proceedings? These are contentious issues, and the Committee’s conduct has been commendable. I am grateful. I also offer my thanks on the Committee’s behalf to the staff and Officers of the House.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Craig Whittaker.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.