Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Rawlings moved Amendment No. 15:



"( ) In the event of a dispute over an individual's claim to British citizenship, an appropriate framework shall be set up by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the overseas territory concerned, in order to resolve such a dispute.
( ) The final decision in relation to any dispute shall lie with the Governor of the territory concerned.""

The noble Baroness said: In relation to this final amendment we would like some clarification. While the criteria that must be satisfied for the acquisition of British citizenship are clear, I do not doubt that some cases will arise where an individual's claim to British citizenship is far from straightforward. I believe that there should exist, from the commencement of this Act, a framework for settling such disputes. That framework should be common to all the British overseas territories. For that reason the Secretary of State should work in consultation with the territories to ensure that conditions are the same throughout. The final decision in relation to any dispute shall lie with the governor of the territory concerned.

As I have already said, it is desirable that the governor of a particular territory has the capacity to decide who is eligible to claim British overseas territory citizenship and subsequently British citizenship. I believe that this amendment satisfies the notion of partnership in every sense. If the framework for settling disputes is formulated by both the Secretary of State and the overseas territories, it seems fitting that the governor of the territory to which the application refers remains the arbiter in individual cases.

Many of the problems raised by this Bill are a direct result of the Government's omission of several areas covered by the White Paper. Important questions remain unanswered. The Government want to remove any traces of the notion of dependants, yet are unprepared to state explicitly what the granting of British citizenship will mean in practical terms for the people of the overseas territories. The redefinition of the UK's relationship with the overseas territories cannot be limited to a change of name and the granting of British citizenship to the British Overseas Territories' citizens. I look forward to hearing clarification of the implications of these important changes.

We support this Bill and I am grateful, as I said earlier, to the Minister for all her letters and helpful notes. However, I repeat that we are deeply concerned that in reality this Bill is just politically-correct rhetoric, the only change being in name, as the Minister said. We feel that these overseas territories

24 Jul 2001 : Column 1894

are not the "independents" that we thought was implied by the change of name introduced under this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: I venture no opinion on the first subsection of this amendment, but I believe that the second subsection is probably inappropriate. Many of the territories that we are considering are, at the moment, either in the course of, or are about to be in the course of reconsidering their constitutions. I believe that it is inapposite that the governor of a territory should have a final decision from which there is no appeal. In the event of the rest of this amendment being accepted, any decision as to who has the final decision should await the determination of proper constitutional arrangements for all territories.

Baroness Young: I hope that this is an amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, may feel able to accept. It may not be absolutely correctly drafted, but I believe that it would be inappropriate in a Bill such as this not to have a procedure for dealing with disputed cases, and inevitably there will be some. How that should be dealt with and what the mechanism should be is a matter for decision, but I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the principle of the amendment and, if necessary, return with an amendment appropriately drafted.

Lord Hylton: I cannot agree with the wording of this amendment. I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. If there is a genuine dispute, such a matter should be settled by a court. It would be a mistake to put such a decision into the hands of the head of the executive.

Lord Rooker: This amendment is an attempt to put something on the face of the Bill. It reads:


    "In the event of a dispute over an individual's claim to British citizenship",

and so on, the final decision shall be taken by,


    "the Governor of the territory concerned".

That would be quite outrageous, for reasons that I shall explain.

The objective of the amendment--it is seductive--is to put in place a mechanism for dispute settlement. Such a mechanism already exists. Unsuccessful applications for passports or registration can be challenged at judicial review. Where a certificate of entitlement has been applied for, there is a right of appeal under the immigration legislation to an adjudicator and thence, in appropriate cases, to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal or Court of Session.

We have made clear in comment on earlier suggested amendments that discretion on disputes about British citizenship rests with the Secretary of State and not the governor of a territory. The matter has to rest with British Ministers who are answerable to Parliament. Therefore it follows that we cannot accept an amendment the effect of which would be to leave a final decision on disputed applications for British citizenship or claims to governors of territories.

24 Jul 2001 : Column 1895

Nor do we want to disturb the present arrangement that discretionary decisions under the British Nationality Acts cannot be challenged on their merits. The judgments that have been made in those cases, relating to such matters as character, associations and future intentions, are essentially subjective.

Every time when speaking as a Minister in the past I have had to say that there is a problem in regard to resources. In this case the problem of resources would mean that the costs of servicing a tribunal would add to the cost to be paid by the applicant. That is not the reason for not accepting this amendment. I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment due to the points that have been made from various sides of the Committee. It would be invidious to leave a decision on British nationality and British passports to a governor of a territory. Therefore, with that explanation I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Rawlings: I thank noble Lords for contributing to this short debate and the Minister for his explanation. We still feel that this Bill and most of these amendments have turned on semantics and the complication--as I said at the beginning--of not being able to acquire a clear understanding of the difference between "residence", "right of abode", "citizenship" and "passport holder". At later stages, on Report and at Third Reading, I hope that we shall be able to finalise those matters. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill [H.L.]

3 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Eligibility for travel concessions: age]:

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 1:


    Page 2, line 3, at end insert--


"(6) The appropriate Minister may by Order apply the provisions of this Act to any other age related travel concession related to public passenger transport services.
(7) Any order under subsection (6) shall be laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House."

The noble Baroness said: This Bill has only two clauses and may therefore not detain us too long. Because of its genesis, it cannot be too contentious.

24 Jul 2001 : Column 1896

The intention of the Bill is to extend the provisions of the various concessionary fares schemes that have existed in some shape or form since 1995, when the legislation to make legal the activities of local authorities which had already embarked on providing concessionary fares was passed.

As my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith reminded the House at Second Reading, the complexity of the various concessionary fare schemes arose because at that stage they were, for the most part, discretionary. Now, of course, as a result of the Transport Act 2000, there are statutory requirements to be fulfilled, and the result of this Bill before us today will be to extend all the provisions to men of 60, thus bringing everyone over the age of 60 into its scope, before it then moves the entitlement for both men and women to 65 by 2010.

For those who live in the city, and where there are good or at least adequate transport services, this universal provision will be of enormous benefit. But what of those who live in rural areas, where bus services are often less than adequate and where the only possible means of moving about is the car? These new provisions will not help them, particularly those men who are still working, who, if they lived in areas better served by public transport, would be entitled to reduced or free fares and who, as a result, would not benefit much from the scheme. How are they to benefit from the concessions if they cannot travel by public transport because there is none? That is one of the conundrums raised by the extension of the provisions, brought about by a general lack of infrastructure in rural areas, concerns about which have been raised many times in other debates in this House.

Those who live in rural areas and qualify for concessionary fares, but find themselves unable to take advantage of them, might be assisted by their local authorities providing alternative support, such as petrol vouchers, which could be given under certain circumstances within the terms of the concessionary fare scheme. There may indeed be other options for ensuring that everyone of eligible age can take advantage of the benefit to which they have now become, or will become, entitled. This amendment would enable local authorities to table any such proposals for consideration by the Minister and ultimate endorsement by Parliament.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page