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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): My hon. Friend mentioned the British Antarctic territory. I am not sure whether it has a permanent resident population, but my question relates to the fact that it is a claim rather than an agreed possession in the sense in which the other territories are so named. Can my hon. Friend clarify that point?
Mr. Bradshaw: Not immediately. I shall endeavour to do so in my winding-up speech. None the less, my hon. Friend is absolutely right on this point: as far as I am aware, there are no permanent residents in the territory to which he refers.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Apart from Gibraltar, which my hon. Friend has listed, none of the other overseas territories is included in the European Union. Will he make it clear now or subsequently that, when the Bill is enacted, people to whom British citizenship is extended will, ipso facto, be citizens of the European Union? European Union citizenship is not geographical; it depends not on whether we are in the United Kingdom but on whether we are British citizens. I do not believe that that is made clear in the Bill or the explanatory notes.
Andrew Mackinlay: My hon. Friend had not been elected when the Maastricht legislation was introduced, so I understand why he does not know that it provided for the citizenship that I described. We are citizens of the European Union and I am pleased to tell him that he is, too. He needs to have the matter clarified by the time that he makes his winding-up speech, because it is a very important constitutional point. I believe that citizenship will benefit these folks, although some people might take a different view, so we need to know whether they are citizens of the European Union. I assert that they are.
Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh): I understood the Minister to say that the citizens of our overseas territories would enjoy the same rights as other EU citizens. Does that include the rights to free travel and work throughout the Union and therefore throughout the territories?
Some of the territories, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are prosperous; others are less so. Most, such as St. Helena and her dependencies Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, are remote. Whatever their differences, they have a close, long-standing connection with Britain.
In March 1999, the Government published a White Paper entitled "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories." It was a culmination of a wide-ranging review of our relationship with the overseas territories. It laid the foundations for a new relationship built on the fundamental principles of self-determination, the acceptance of responsibilities on both sides and the greatest possible control for the people of the overseas territories over their own lives. It set out an agenda explaining what each side expected of the partnership in terms of support for good governance, sustainable social and economic development and protection of the environment.
In his foreword to the White Paper, the then Secretary of State made it clear that our partnership must be founded on self-determination, and that the overseas territories would be British for as long as they wished to remain British. Britain has willingly granted independence when it has been requested, and will continue to do so when that is an option. I should like to reaffirm that that remains the position.
Partnerships are not always easy, and I recognise that we may not always get the balance right, but I believe that our relationship continues to evolve positively, in consultation with the territories, and that we have made good progress on White Paper issues such as financial regulation, human rights, the environment, constitutional reform and good governance.
Mr. Bradshaw: I emphasise the assurances that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister for Europe have given. However, I warn Members that I am not prepared to be drawn on Gibraltar outside the scope of the Bill.
We need to maintain momentum. The White Paper agenda still holds good, and there is further work to be done. The proposal to grant British citizenship to British dependent territories citizens in qualifying territories, and to recognise their British connection properly, is an important component of that process. The proposed citizenship provisions in the Bill apply to all territories except the sovereign base areas of Cyprus, which are excluded because of their special status as military bases, established by treaty with Cyprus.
The Bill formally changes the name of the territories to British overseas territories, and the term "British dependent territories citizens" to "British overseas territories citizens". It is no longer appropriate to use terms such as "dependent territory" or "colony". They are outdated and fail to reflect either the nature of our relationship and partnership with the overseas territories or modern reality. The Bill alters those terms in the British Nationality Act 1981 and will add a new definition of British overseas territory to the Interpretation Act 1978, so that it can be conveniently used in all future legislation.
We estimate that around 200,000 people could become British citizens on or following enactment. The number is an estimate because it is not yet possible to tell exactly how many people will benefit. Apart from those who already hold British dependent territory passports and live in and outside the territories, others who live in them and do not yet have that status will come forward after commencement of the Act to seek naturalisation or registration as British overseas territories citizens and go on to apply for registration as British citizens.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Will my hon. Friend clarify one point, which, surprisingly, is not about Gibraltar, but about the Falkland Islands? Will the people of the Falkland Islands, St. Helena and other places still have the right to self-determination? Will the Bill provide for that?
Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. There is, however, no compulsion about British citizenship. We believe that most people will want it, but British overseas territories citizens, as the Bill proposes that they should be known in future, will have the option to renounce British citizenship and to retain their current status should they so wish.
British dependent territories citizens from the Falkland Islands already have British citizenship, and those of Gibraltar are already entitled to apply for it. We do not expect all British dependent territories citizens in other territories to want to apply for new passports describing them as British citizens.
I have already said that those people who prefer to continue with their British overseas territories passports will be free to do so. We expect the take-up rate to vary from territory to territory and according to circumstance.
I hope that right hon. and hon. Members have had an opportunity to read the Bill and the explanatory notes, both of which were deposited in the Library after First Reading and are readily available in the Vote Office. Nevertheless, it may be helpful if I summarise the content and scope of the Bill. As soon as the Bill has passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent, clauses 1 and 2, which deal with the change of name to "British overseas territory" and "British overseas territories citizen" will take effect. At that point, all references to the territories will be formally changed. I say formally, because the description "overseas territories" is already in common usage. Those clauses deal only with changes of name and involve no substantive change of law.
Clause 3 sets out how existing British overseas territories citizens, as they will be known, will automatically become British citizens with the right of abode in the United Kingdom on commencement of the citizenship provisions of the Bill. In other words, they will not have to apply for citizenship, although they will have to apply for a British passport to show documentary evidence of their new status and to facilitate travel.