All 6 contributions to the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023

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Wed 21st Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Royal Assent
Lords Chamber

Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill

2nd reading
Tuesday 6th June 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Second Reading
13:02
Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill seeks to address a technical legal issue identified by the Home Office with a long-standing policy that operated from 1983 until the early 2000s under successive Governments of both parties, relating to the criteria for determining whether European economic area nationals living in the UK during that period were “settled”.

The concept of settlement is important. The British Nationality Act 1981 defines it as being ordinarily resident in the UK and without restriction on the period for which one may remain, and it is also referred to as “free from immigration time restrictions”. As many Members will know, the Act introduced changes for acquisition of citizenship, shifting from a “birth on soil” approach to a requirement for at least one parent to be British or settled in the UK at the time of the birth. Thus the issue of whether or not an individual is settled has a knock-on effect on the citizenship of any children born to that individual in the United Kingdom.

Layla Moran Portrait Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)
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I thoroughly welcome the Bill. I have a constituent who falls into this category. She had to prove her nationality, although, having lived here for 33 years—this is the only country she ever knew, and English is the only language she has ever spoken—she did not even know that she was not British until she had to apply for a passport. She was estranged from her mother, and therefore found herself having to have very painful conversations with a family member to prove that she was what she had always thought she was. Does the Minister agree that the Bill will sort out issues of that kind?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I strongly agree with the hon. Lady. The Home Office would argue that her constituent has always been British and should be considered so, but there has been a degree of legal doubt following the recent case, so it was right that we brought forward this legislation at the earliest opportunity and that it is retrospective, so that all constituents who have been concerned can know that, clearly in law, they are and have always been British citizens.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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I warmly welcome this piece of legislation. I have a constituent whose son falls into this category and it was frankly alarming for him to be told that his citizenship was in jeopardy. It is really good that the Government have acted so swiftly and I urge everyone in the House to support this legislation. I hope that we will see it on the statute book as soon as possible.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. She has raised the case to which she referred with me to represent her constituent. As she says, being a citizen of this country is an important and special status, and nobody should be in doubt about whether that is truly legally sound. The Bill puts that beyond doubt, and I am pleased that we have been able to do this expeditiously. I am grateful for her support and, I suspect, that of Members on both sides of the House today.

During the period from 1 January 1983 to 1 October 2000, individuals lawfully exercising a free movement right in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland—for example, as workers—were considered by the Home Office to be free from immigration time restrictions. Consequently, they were treated as settled for nationality purposes and any children born to them during that period were regarded as British citizens. This interpretation was supported by Home Office policy documents and guidance.

However, as I have just referenced, recent litigation, while not directly challenging that historical approach, has exposed a legal technicality suggesting that it was not correct and that EEA nationals in exercise of a free movement right were not in fact settled, as their residence should always have been deemed subject to immigration time restrictions. This has understandably led to concerns about the citizenship status of individuals born in the UK in the relevant period to parents exercising a free movement right who had always thought themselves to be British and been treated as such by successive Governments. Given the passage of time and the volumes of people potentially affected, the House will appreciate that this uncertainty is not something that we wish to countenance.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
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Hopefully the Bill will proceed with support from both sides. On a directly related matter, the Minister will be aware that there are thousands of citizens across the United Kingdom, many of them in Northern Ireland, who were born a few miles across the border in the Irish Republic after 1948 but who are currently not allowed to get a British passport. Technically, even though they reside in the UK, have lived in the UK for decades, are taxpayers in the UK and vote in the UK, they cannot get a British passport without naturalising at a cost of £1,300. They have the support of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of this House and they have cross-community support in Northern Ireland. Once the passage of this Bill has concluded, will the Minister undertake to look again at this matter, revise it, and hopefully come forward with a proposition that will alleviate the problem?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. This is an issue that I am aware of and I would be happy to have a further conversation with him and to give it further thought. We want a fair system whereby British citizenship is available to all those who are naturalised and who have lived here for sustained periods, and a system that is as accessible as possible.

To continue the point I was making, legislating quickly and proactively to provide reassurance is the right thing to do. The Bill will operate by confirming in law the previous policy position. This will protect the nationality rights of people born in the UK to parents who were considered settled on the basis of exercising a free movement right and those who registered or naturalised as British citizens based on that policy. The Bill also clarifies when EEA nationals could be considered settled on the basis of exercising an equivalent right in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, which are part of the United Kingdom for nationality purposes. It is right that this approach is adopted in those locations to ensure that no one loses out on a citizenship right to which they have a reasonable expectation of being entitled, based on published policy and operational practice.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Like my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell), I fully support and welcome the Bill.

I am not sure whether the Minister is aware that, last week, a former leader of Sinn Féin said that, when Unionists talk to Sinn Féin about a united Ireland, it would be Sinn Féin and the Republic of Ireland that would be handing out British passports. I am very proud to have a British passport and the benefits it brings, so will the Minister put it clearly on the record today that people born in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will have a British passport; that it will be the Minister, the Government and the Department that will be handing out those passports; and that Sinn Féin and the Republic of Ireland Government will never hand out a British passport to any citizen, and nor should they?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and he is right to make that point. I will restate it for him, if that would be helpful.

I want to be clear that the Bill is not about creating new British citizens. These are people who have always considered themselves to be British, and whom successive Governments have also considered as such. They may have lived here, worked here, had children here and organised their lives based on policy published under both Conservative and Labour Governments confirming that they are British. It is essential that we provide them with legal certainty as to their citizenship status as soon as possible, so they can continue their lives in our country with the same rights and entitlements they have always enjoyed.

I think we can all agree that this short but important Bill seeks to do the right thing by putting the citizenship status of affected individuals beyond doubt, and I urge all colleagues on both sides of the House to support its quick passage.

13:12
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for that introduction and overview of the Bill. It is not often that I find myself in full agreement with him but, in this case, I am very pleased to say that we are on the same page. I am used to sparring with him—verbally, of course—on a range of topics on which we have not always seen eye to eye, but the Opposition welcome the Bill and the Government’s commitment to its expedited passage.

This is a narrow piece of legislation that addresses a specific issue. Its purpose is not to implement any changes in legal entitlements to British citizenship but, rather, to codify in primary legislation what has been the established position of successive Governments of both parties. As such, we have not seen any reason to table amendments and we are happy to work with the Government to facilitate the Bill’s swift passage and implementation.

The Bill covers individuals born in the UK to parents from EU countries between 1983 and 2000. It codifies their right to citizenship, in line with successive Governments’ understanding of the British Nationality Act 1981. Many of these people will have held a British passport for many years. However, recent litigation in the Roehrig case raised potential problems for those applying for a passport for the first time. The explanatory notes suggest that only a small number of first-time applications have been made, which the Home Office placed on hold in October 2022, as a result of the Roehrig case. The Government’s position is that the Passport Office will be able to move forward with those applications once this Bill takes effect. Beyond that, the total number of people who may be covered by this legislation remains unclear. According to the equality impact assessment:

“no official figures exist to highlight the scale of the cohort impacted. However, we have combined data from two sources to reach the conclusion that there were in the region of 167,000 children born to EEA mothers between 1983 and 2000”.

So I want to ask the Minister a few questions. I totally understand if he cannot answer all of them now, but it would be useful for the House to have some clarification. I reiterate that we are ready to support the Government in moving this Bill through Parliament as quickly as possible. My questions are primarily on issues of implementation, on which further detail of the Government’s plans would be helpful to the House. Given the substantial gaps in the official data available, does the Home Office have any plans to work with the Office for National Statistics to carry out further research on the number of people who may be affected, particularly in terms of first-time applicants for a British passport?

Secondly, the explanatory notes state that once the Bill is enacted, the Home Office will be in a position to resume the processing of passport applications placed on hold in October last year. Will the Minister confirm that that means the Passport Office will restart the decision-making process immediately upon the Bill’s entry into force? Thirdly, what steps does the Home Office plan to take to ensure that the individuals affected are provided with access to advice and support on their rights and, where relevant, on what action they may need to take to obtain confirmation of their citizenship status and whether and how they may need to apply for a passport? Fourthly, for those who have already applied for their passport and others who may wish to do so, will the Minister confirm whether there will be any expedited procedures to process such applications without any further delays? Finally, will he clarify the Government’s position on any fees that may be payable and whether there are any plans to waive fees for the applicants in question? I feel that in the coming months Members from both sides of the House may well come across some of those issues in their constituencies, and I am sure everyone would find it helpful to have that information on those points. As I say, the Opposition support this Bill and are happy to facilitate its rapid passage through Parliament.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

13:17
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I, too, do not seek to detain the House for long on this Bill. It is a rare day indeed when I agree with something that the Immigration Minister is bringing forward—let us get that point down and hope we never return to it again. [Laughter.]

The SNP welcomes the Bill for the clarity it will bring, particularly given the confusion that has been caused by different approaches taken by the Home Office on the question of what “settled” means in the context of free movement. I am reassured by the briefing that we received from the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, the3million, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and Amnesty International, which also welcomes the Bill. The way in which the Home Office has consulted with them on it is welcome and something the Home Office ought to be doing more often. The briefing states:

“We are grateful to the Home Office for consulting with us immediately prior to this Bill’s introduction. Nonetheless, the history of this matter provides a further example of our concerns that British citizenship, and British nationality law from which the right to citizenship is derived, has been badly mistreated by successive Governments over a period of some decades. This is but one stark example.”

So before the Government get too much into slapping themselves on the back for this Bill, they should be cognisant of the fact that many issues associated with citizenship remain, many of which we will see in our surgeries, as local MPs.

I do not seek to reiterate what others have said, but I am concerned at the lack of official statistics identified in the equality impact assessment. It mentions 167,000 children born to EEA mothers between 1983 and 2000, but there are an unknown number of grandchildren also in this cohort. So what further work are the Government doing both to identify these people to let them know what their rights are and what they should do, and to make sure that Home Office and Passport Office officials who are making the decisions are also very clear about the situation. The lack of clarity over this has been a real problem. It should be the case that everybody, when applying for their first passport, knows that they are doing so properly and have the right to do so to avoid any confusion. There is nothing worse than people applying for passports and then there being an unexpected delay in the process. We are coming into that season where we will get those kinds of inquiries.

I understand from the Library briefing that the Home Office had stopped issuing first-time British passports to people affected by this, so it would be useful to hear from the Minister exactly how many people are in this paused group and what will be happening now to ensure that they get their passports. I expect that there has been some delay involved as a result of that passport being paused—people will not have been able to travel or do the things that they wanted to do and they will want to know when they will get those passports once the process restarts. It would be useful to have a picture of exactly how many people are affected, and I am sure that the Passport Office will have those figures.

I also note that the equality impact assessment references “The Windrush Lessons Learned Review” of Wendy Williams. This uncertainty around status speaks to some of the difficulties caused for the Windrush generation, but as the UK Government have ditched some of their commitments on upholding the principles from the review, can we be assured that the confusion that has led up to this point will not be recreated in a new EEA Windrush? People who have the right to be here, who have settled status, and who have the right to apply for a British passport should face no further impediment or confusion in applying for their passport.

In closing, there is a lot more that the Government need to do to improve the processes around citizenship and applying for passports and to make sure that there is a clearer, simpler, cheaper and more effective route to citizenship in the UK. I am certain that an independent Scotland will seek to make that route much clearer, much simpler and better so that people have the right to be here and can fully participate as Scottish citizens in an independent Scotland, and I look forward to that day.

13:21
Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I am grateful to the hon. Members for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) and for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) for their support for the Bill. Hopefully, this spirit of unity will be contagious for other legislation shortly to return to the House.

Let me reply to the specific and valid questions. First, on statistics, I will not repeat the numbers that the hon. Gentleman raised. Those are the best assessment that the Home Office currently has. We do not have a plan to ask the ONS, or any other body, to do further, deeper research. We do not feel that that is necessary, primarily because, by virtue of this piece of legislation, the rights of those British citizens will be confirmed. It will be retrospective, so those individuals should not need to do anything now, other than the small category of individuals whose passport applications were paused. We will need people at the Home Office and the Passport Office to process those applications as soon as possible.

The hon. Lady asked how many applications had been paused. As of 26 May, 95 passport applications were on hold. We are in communication with those affected to keep them updated. Once the legislation passes, it will be beyond doubt that they are British citizens in law and have always been so and we will be able to proceed with their passport applications. I will ask the Passport Office to process their applications expeditiously, so that any inconvenience they may have been put through can be resolved as quickly as possible. There will not be a need for them to pay any additional fee beyond what they have already paid, which will be the normal fee for a British citizen renewing their passport or applying for a first-time passport.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
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When I have experienced casework delays with the Department for Work and Pensions, a consolatory payment is sometimes offered to people where there have been extensive delays. Given that only 95 people are involved, would that be appropriate in this case?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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We have not considered that, and I do not think it is necessary. We are of course sorry that those individuals have been inconvenienced; that was never the Home Office’s intention, either today or in the past. This litigation was unexpected and we have set out to remedy it as quickly as possible. I hope the hon. Lady will appreciate that we have brought forward this legislation quickly and, as she rightly noted, we have tried to consult relevant stakeholders so that there are good communications prior to its introduction.

The hon. Lady also mentioned Windrush; that is a very serious situation, but is a quite a different situation from the one we find ourselves in here. In this legislation we are reflecting a position that has existed in policy and guidance for several decades. We have responded quickly to implement the legal change necessary, following the court case heard in October last year, to provide that certainty. As I said in my opening remarks, we are not creating any new British citizens here, but recognising the citizenship of that cohort in law whom we had always believed existed and reflected in policy.

We remain absolutely committed, of course, to righting the wrongs of Windrush, whether through the Windrush compensation fund or more broadly, as she referred to, through ensuring that the Home Office makes good on its commitments to the Wendy Williams review. That is something we take very seriously.

In terms of any other impacts upon the individuals concerned here, there should be none. Once we have processed the remaining passport applications, those British citizens can and should continue with their lives as previously. We will ensure that Home Office staff, Passport Office personnel and any relevant stakeholders are properly trained so that, should people come forward with concerns in the weeks, months or years ahead as a result of this case, we can reassure them that, once this has been settled in law, they are and have always been British citizens.

I hope that responds to all the points made. With that, I shall conclude my remarks.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill

Committee of the whole House
Tuesday 6th June 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Considered in Committee (Order, this day)
[Dame Rosie Winterton in the Chair]
Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I remind hon. Members that in Committee they should not address the Chair as Deputy Speaker. Please use our names. Madam Chair, Chair, Madam Chairman or Mr Chairman are also acceptable.

Clause 1

Immigration restrictions to be disregarded in certain cases

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman
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With this it will be convenient to consider clause 2 stand part.

13:27
Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Given the short nature of the Bill, I will not delay the Committee unduly, but I want to explain briefly the nature of the clauses.

Clause 1 amends the British Nationality Act 1981 to confirm that an individual exercising a free movement right in the UK in the relevant period was not subject to restrictions on the period for which they could remain. The aim of this clause is to provide legal certainty on the citizenship status of individuals born in the relevant period to a parent who was considered settled on the basis of living in the United Kingdom and exercising a free movement right here, or those who registered or naturalised based on that policy.

The clause does not create new British citizens where there would previously have been no reasonable expectation, on the basis of published policy and operational practice, of being British. It does not change anything for people who have always been considered British; rather, it simply confirms in law the position they have always been in. The clause does not necessitate that they make a separate application to become British and is not related to the UK’s departure from the European Union. This issue has arisen separately and has been highlighted by the recent domestic legislation.

13:33
For England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the remedial period is 1 January 1983 to 1 October 2000. That is the period between the British Nationality Act 1981 coming into force and the introduction by regulations of the requirement for European economic area nationals to have indefinite leave to be regarded as free from immigration time restrictions. During the remedial period, an EEA national was treated as settled in the UK if they were living here and exercising a free movement right. Clause 1 confirms that position.
The remedial periods specified in clause 1 are different in the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Those jurisdictions fall within the territorial extent of the BNA and people born there are automatically British citizens. However, the Crown dependencies have their own legal systems and there are variations in the times at which they treated EU citizens as free of immigration restrictions. Clause 1 reflects those differences to ensure that someone who had a reasonable expectation of being British under previous published policy or operational practice keeps the citizenship to which they thought they were entitled.
Clause 1(2) also specifies that the measures introduced by subsection (1) are to be treated as always having had effect. I understand that that approach is somewhat unusual, as it is usually right and proper that the consequences of past events can be understood in the context of the law as it stood at the time, not what it may become in the future, but the case for retrospection in this situation is clear.
Were the measures set out in clause 1 prospective only, it would mean that affected individuals would become British citizens only after the date when the measure came into force. That could have wide-ranging consequences for their ability to live, work and study in the UK, and may inadvertently leave individuals liable to repay benefits or healthcare costs to which they would not technically have been entitled at the time if they were not then, in law, a British citizen. It would also have knock-on effects for the children or family members of those affected individuals who became British citizens by virtue of their status.
It is clear, therefore, that in order to restore such individuals to the position that they and the Home Office have always considered them to be in, and to ensure that they suffer no adverse consequence through no fault of their own, the measures set out in clause 1 must be retrospective.
In conclusion, long-standing Government policy will now, by virtue of the Bill, be confirmed in law, thereby protecting the nationality status of people born in the UK to parents who were considered settled on the basis of exercising a free movement right, and those who registered or naturalised as British citizens based on that policy. That is clearly the right thing to do for the countless UK-born people who have long considered themselves to be British. For those reasons, I commend the clauses to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.
Bill reported, without amendment.
Bill, not amended, considered.
Third Reading
13:34
Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

If only all Home Office Bills were as smooth as this one. It is a pleasure to speak on Third Reading and to use this opportunity to thank my officials at the Home Office for the good work they have done in producing this Bill in quick time, which provides the legal certainty that a significant number of people in this country—our fellow citizens—deserve. It is absolutely right that we put their citizenship status beyond doubt as quickly as possible, so that they are in no way disadvantaged and can continue their lives with the same rights and entitlements they have always enjoyed.

I thank all those who have prioritised the passage of the Bill through the House, including the House authorities and the Bill team. I particularly thank representatives from the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association and the3million, which have worked collaboratively and fruitfully with Government officials as the Bill has been developed.

I also thank the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) and the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) for their support, which is appreciated, and Members on both sides of the House who came today to represent cases that had arisen in their constituencies. They can now report to their constituents, as we all can, that this important matter is being resolved. For the reasons I have set out, I urge all Members to support the Bill in its passage to the other place.

13:34
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I echo everything that the Minister has just said and add our thanks to his officials and all the key organisations that have played a role in shaping the Bill. I also want to say to the Minister that this is very much a one-off—this sort of outbreak of violent agreement is a bug, not a feature. As I have said, we on the Labour Benches are very happy to support the rapid facilitation of the Bill through Parliament.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

13:34
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister. This will perhaps be a lesson to him to bring forward Bills that he has consulted on and that are less contentious than those he usually brings to the House. I would also like to make him an offer: now that he has the whole afternoon free, I have 145 outstanding immigration cases that I would be happy to discuss with him.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill

1st reading
Wednesday 7th June 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text
First Reading
15:50
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill

2nd reading
Monday 19th June 2023

(10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Second Reading
20:07
Moved by
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Migration and Borders (Lord Murray of Blidworth) (Con)
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My Lords, this is a short Bill and one that has a clear objective—to confirm in law specific past policy and operational practice under which European Economic Area nationals in exercise of a free movement right in the UK were treated as “without restriction” on the period for which they could remain in the UK—or “free from immigration time restrictions”, as it is often referred to.

At the outset, I make it very clear that this Bill is in no way related to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. Rather, the issues that this Bill seeks to address have arisen separately as a result of domestic litigation and concern the rights of residents arising between 1 January 1983 and 1 October 2000 in England, Wales and Scotland, with slight differences in the Channel Islands, as we will hear.

Individuals who are free from immigration time restrictions can apply to naturalise or register as British citizens where they meet the other statutory requirements to do so and, where they are also ordinarily resident, they are treated as settled for nationality purposes. The concept of settlement is an important one in nationality law. As many noble Lords will know, a child born in the United Kingdom to a settled parent is British automatically from birth. Thus the issue of whether an individual is settled has a knock-on effect on the citizenship of any children born to them in the United Kingdom. Recent litigation has exposed a legal technicality suggesting that European Economic Area nationals in exercise of a free movement right were not in fact settled, as long-standing policy had previously suggested, because it was said that their residence should always have been deemed subject to immigration time restrictions.

This has understandably led to concerns about the citizenship status of individuals born in the UK in the relevant period to parents exercising a free movement right who had always thought themselves British and been treated as such by successive Governments of both parties. Although it is impossible to calculate the exact numbers affected, as ONS data did not record the nationality or status of parents at that time, we estimate that around 167,000 people may have been born to EEA national mothers in the relevant period. When one considers that, given the passage of time, many of these individuals will themselves have had children in the UK, noble Lords will appreciate that ongoing uncertainty as to the citizenship status of such a large group is not something we wish to countenance. Legislating quickly and proactively to provide reassurance is plainly the right thing to do.

The Bill will operate by confirming in law the previous policy position. This will protect the nationality rights of people born in the United Kingdom to parents who were considered settled on the basis of exercising a free movement right, and those who were registered or naturalised as British citizens based on that policy. These individuals will not need to take any additional action; the Bill merely confirms the position they, and successive Governments, have always believed them to be in.

Noble Lords will note that the Bill also makes slightly different provision for the Crown dependencies. These jurisdictions fall within the territorial extent of the British Nationality Act, and people born there are automatically British citizens in the same way as those born on the mainland United Kingdom. But the Crown dependencies have their own legal systems, and there are variations in the times at which they treated EU citizens as being free from immigration restrictions. Accordingly, the Bill reflects these differences to ensure that someone who had a reasonable expectation, under previous published policy and operational practice, of being British, keeps that citizenship to which they rightly considered themselves entitled—and indeed as they have always hitherto been treated.

I think we can all agree that it is essential we provide all the individuals potentially impacted by this decision with legal certainty as to their citizenship status as soon as possible, so they can continue their lives with the same rights and entitlements they have always enjoyed. I place on record our gratitude to the usual channels and to all parties in the other place for the speedy facilitation of this legislation. I conclude by urging this Chamber to support the Bill’s quick passage, so we can do the right thing and put the citizenship status of the affected cohort beyond doubt as soon as possible. I beg to move.

20:13
Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Portrait The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his clear and helpful introduction. I do not wish to detain the House long in offering my full support for the Bill, which addresses a vital issue. I should declare half an interest: my wife is German, so we have dual nationality children. Obviously, they do not fall within the scope of this, but noble Lords will appreciate why I may be attracted to issues such as this. I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill and commend the Government for the proactive steps they have taken speedily to address this unusual technical issue within the existing legal framework.

I seek some assurances from the Minister about the process going forward. Will he give assurances to the House that anyone whose passport application may have been stalled in anticipation of this legislation will have their application expedited? Similarly, can he assure the House that once the Bill is passed into law, this information will be communicated quickly and effectively to officials, so that no one is adversely affected? This is particularly important, given that we have only a rough indication of the number of people directly affected by the Bill. The Minister cited 167,000, but how many children have they had?

Finally, on a wider point, are there any plans to review existing legislation to ensure that no others find themselves in similar circumstances?

20:15
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to say that the Liberal Democrats support the Bill and wish it a speedy progress. It may be somewhat illusory, of course, that a Home Office Bill should get the support of the House so speedily, but I am sure that this one is on the right path. It redresses the effect whereby people’s applications for citizenship, and those of their descendants, have fallen into limbo, an issue I will come back to shortly. I thank the Minister for making time for his officials to talk to me, and for answering all my various questions. The responses I got answered all the interesting issues which might come up.

There is the interesting case of the Crown dependencies, and the different dates is one of the issues we discussed. Of course, we know that, having different legal systems, they are obviously going to have different dates in the Bill in respect of when they completed that legislation.

The question of communicating with those affected by the Bill is one of great interest. Those who are making an application for the first time will have no knowledge that this has been a problem. There will be those who may be related to—perhaps descendants of—those who have been caught, from among the small number of people the Government know about, and who have made applications and had them held in limbo. There may also be others who have heard the information from relatives or friends, and who may be deterred from making an application for a passport because they think there is still a problem.

This is an issue for the Government, who need to make sure that this message is sent out and to ask those whom they know about to pass it on to their descendants and others. The information the Government provide online and through passport offices needs to be quite clear that there is no problem in this matter, should people think that there still is. The Bill will clear the pathway for the descendants—grandchildren in particular—where it is putting that right.

The Bill has retrospective effect because it is trying to be corrective and permissive. For those of us with an interest in whether a Bill should be made retrospective, it is very clear that these circumstances are different from those of another Bill that we will debate in a week or so which has retrospective measures for other purposes. Where the retrospection in this Bill is permissive and corrective, it is absolutely correct that it should be taken.

The Liberal Democrats will not table any amendments to the Bill. I wish it a very speedy progress through this House.

20:18
Viscount Stansgate Portrait Viscount Stansgate (Lab)
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My Lords, I support the Bill but have one quick question. How long was the time between the Government discovering this anomaly and the preparation of this legislation?

20:18
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill. I agree with his first sentence: it is a short Bill with a clear objective and we in the Labour Party support it. Given that it is a short piece of legislation which codifies the long-standing policy position of the Home Office under successive Labour and Tory Governments, we see no need to offer any amendments and look forward to supporting its speedy enactment. In the meantime, we call on the Government to set out further detail on their plans on issues including: data collection on individuals potentially affected by the Bill; provision of information and support to affected individuals on passport applications; and the timing of implementation across the UK, its Crown dependencies and overseas territories.

First, what steps will the Government take to assess the number of people likely to be affected by the Bill? Will they work with the ONS to carry out further research and publish fuller sets of data on passport applications by affected individuals? What discussions has the Minister had with Administrations in the Crown dependencies and overseas territories on the implementation of the Bill? What assessment has he made of the number of people who may be affected in those areas?

Secondly, can the Minister tell us what advice will be made available to concerned members of the public, and to Members of this House making inquiries on their behalf, to ensure that they are provided with all the information they may need? The noble Lord, Lord German, raised this point.

Thirdly and finally, when will the processing of passport applications which were placed on hold in October 2022 be resumed? Given the delays these applications have already experienced, will there be an expedited process for dealing with them without further delay?

We agree that we need to put the citizenship of this group of people beyond doubt. We thank the Minister for facilitating today’s business and for the meetings that I had with his officials earlier in the week.

20:21
Lord Murray of Blidworth Portrait Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con)
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My Lords, I express my sincere gratitude to all noble Lords for their clear show of understanding of the importance of this legislation and its swift parliamentary passage. It is a very pleasing contrast to some other legislation. The swift passage of this legislation is essential to ensuring that we can provide legal certainty to the individuals affected at the earliest opportunity.

To respond to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and the noble Lord, Lord German, we expect the vast majority of people to benefit from this change without any interruption to them—possibly without their awareness. They will simply have considered themselves British and will continue to consider themselves British, to be British and to be able to renew their British passport. The Bill merely confirms in statute the position that they, and successive Governments, have always believed to be the case.

In answer to the point on communication, I confirm that we have already published a factsheet on GOV.UK and relevant guidance will be updated the moment the Bill receives Royal Assent. We are engaging with key external stakeholders such as the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, Amnesty International and the3million so that they can all update their websites, inform those whom they are in communication with and provide reassurance to their members. We have also briefed the European Union delegation and consular group so that they can provide advice to their citizens where necessary. His Majesty’s Passport Office is in direct communication with customers with paused cases—as of 15 June there were 106 such cases. It has already been informed about the introduction of the Bill and will be informed when it receives Royal Assent. As soon as the Bill is commenced, which will be immediately upon Royal Assent, those paused passport cases will be processed in an expedited fashion, as my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister made clear in the debate in the other place.

To respond to the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, the legal proceedings in question took place in October 2022—that is when the hearing happened—and judgment was handed down in January 2023. The Government took swift action to put the status of those affected beyond doubt and the Bill was introduced—as the noble Viscount will have seen—in the spring of this year. It was debated in the Commons on 6 June. In my submission, it was a very swift transition. The appreciation of the correct course was clear, and we are very grateful to all parties for the cross-party support which has enabled this Bill to pass so swiftly through Parliament.

I have already set out the other reasons why the Bill is necessary, and I will not reiterate them here. I thank all noble Lords who have supported the Bill, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Ponsonby and Lord German, for their engagement with me. I also thank the Bill team, who have worked at pace to respond to this pressing issue as quickly and proactively as possible. I thank the authorities of the House and the usual channels for allowing it to be presented so swiftly.

To pick up a couple of points raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in respect of reviewing the position in relation to ensuring that this does not happen again, the circumstances surrounding the decision in the Roehrig litigation were very unusual and very much based upon their own facts. However, that does not mean that we have not reflected on what has happened here. We rapidly identified the need to make the legal change; were such a situation to rise in the future, we would be prepared to make a similar arrangement, but we do not envisage that there will be such an issue.

I am grateful for the comments from the noble Lord, Lord German, in respect of the practically retrospective effects of the Bill. It is right that the application of the Bill should be as seamless as possible to the British citizens who may be affected.

I take this opportunity to thank the representatives from the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, the Immigration Law Practitioners Association, Amnesty International and the3million, who have worked collaboratively and fruitfully with government officials as the Bill has been developed. They also offered reassurance and provided updates on the Bill’s progress to their members.

In conclusion, these are sensible, fair and necessary measures that address a pressing issue, potentially spanning several generations of people with established ties to the United Kingdom. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House and beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
House adjourned at 8.27 pm.

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Bill

Committee stage & Report stage & 3rd reading
Wednesday 21st June 2023

(10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023 Read Hansard Text
Committee (and remaining stages)
15:51
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Senior Deputy Speaker (Lord Gardiner of Kimble)
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My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to the Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. With the agreement of the Committee, I will now report the Bill to the House without amendment.

House resumed. Bill reported without amendment. Standing Order 44 having been dispensed with, Report and Third Reading agreed without debate. Bill passed.

Royal Assent

Royal Assent
Thursday 29th June 2023

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 16 November 2022 - (16 Nov 2022)
11:06
The following Acts were given Royal Assent:
Shark Fins Act,
Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Act,
Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act,
Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act,
Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act,
British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act,
Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act,
Financial Services and Markets Act.
The following Measure was given Royal Assent:
Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure.