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

Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee 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, read the First time, and Question proposed (this day), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I thank the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East for tabling new clause 5, which provides the Committee with the opportunity to consider granting the right of abode in the United Kingdom to former British-Hong Kong service personnel, their spouses and dependants.

The Government remain extremely grateful to former British-Hong Kong service personnel. Under the British nationality selection scheme, a limited number of personnel who were settled in Hong Kong could apply to register as British citizens. All veterans would have been eligible to acquire British national overseas status between 1986 and 1997. Therefore, many should hold BNO status. Those who hold BNO status may be eligible for the BNO visa that was launched in January this year and which provides a route to settlement in the UK, meaning that many former British-Hong Kong service personnel, their spouses and dependants will already have, or be on the path to having, settlement and subsequently British citizenship, which would confer on them a right of abode in the UK.

We must consider the impact on public services both of increased usage generated by the right of access granted by expanded citizenship, and of the additional costs in granting such rights, such as casework resource and resettlement resulting in lost income that is not budgeted for and is therefore not affordable. Additionally, although I recognise the significant contribution made by this group, it may be difficult to justify why this specific cohort should be granted the right of abode when others from former colonial garrisons are not. For these reasons, I ask the hon. Member to withdraw the new clause.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I do think there are very specific reasons why this cohort should indeed be granted what this new clause is looking for, and I suspect we will be looking at this again on Report. In the meantime, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.