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Houses of Parliament: Use of CS Gas

Private Notice Question

3.50 pm

Asked By Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, the details of the incident on Tuesday involving the use of CS spray are a matter for the House of Commons, not for me. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss them. All Metropolitan Police officers throughout London carry CS spray as part of the equipment designed to give them a range of possible responses to incidents. There is a standard operating procedure prescribing its use. Metropolitan police officers operate under these same guidelines, wherever they are on the parliamentary estate.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for that Answer, but I asked him quite specifically about the implications for this House, not what happened in another place. Two issues particularly concern this House.

Another place has a screen in the Public Gallery and, of course, we do not. Therefore, we are not as secure as Members of another place from cross-contamination if CS gas is to be used. Should the fact that we do not have a screen now be reviewed?

Whatever the position in another place, a number of Members of this House suffer from severe respiratory disorders of various natures. Again, through cross-contamination, those conditions might be severely exacerbated or even worse. Accordingly, can the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees assure this House that CS gas would only be used in this House in extraordinary circumstances, such as a terrorist incident or where the safety of the public or Members of this House was threatened?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, on the latter point, I can give the assurance that CS gas would only be used in the most extreme circumstances by the Metropolitan Police. The proof of that is the fact that they have had CS gas on them for 15 years and Tuesday was the first time it had ever been used.

We do not have a screen for the Public Gallery, unlike the House of Commons. That has been looked into in the past. It was considered, and is still considered, impractical and undesirable to put one up there. I take the noble Baroness’s point about noble Lords possibly having more respiratory problems than Members of the House of Commons. CS gas is indeed obviously an unpleasant substance, but the police only deploy it in the severest situations. It is deemed safe—apparently; I take their word for this—for asthmatics. None the less, the welfare of all Members must remain uppermost in our minds. Doubtless, this issue will be given appropriate consideration by the relevant authorities.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, if CS gas can only be used in the most extreme circumstances, to use the noble Lord’s phrase, why have the media not reported what those extreme circumstances were in the Commons?

The Chairman of Committees: I cannot answer for the media, my Lords.

Lord Boston of Faversham: My Lords, is it not the case that this matter stands out for possible consultation between another place and your Lordships’ House? Would the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees particularly consider my request for the possibility of consultation between the authorities of the two Houses of Parliament?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, this matter was considered yesterday by the Joint Committee on Security, whose chairman will meet the Lord Speaker later today to discuss the issue.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I was present in the other place when two CS gas canisters were thrown from the Public Gallery. In those days there was

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nothing to prevent such an action taking place. I was not in the Chamber when it happened; I was in the tea room, but that did not save me from the respiratory effect of CS gas because it entered the air conditioning system. Therefore, I suggest that protection in the form of a barrier between us and the Public Gallery might not be effective in the event of a CS gas attack similar to the one that occurred in the other place.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, we are discussing the use of CS gas by the police on Monday night, not the throwing of CS gas from the Public Gallery, which is a different matter altogether.

Lord McNally: My Lords, although the idea of two journalists wrestling behind the Speaker’s Chair after Mr Eric Pickles’s party is a recipe for a Whitehall farce, at the heart of this there is a very serious matter: we are a vulnerable House and we need protection. I think that the House would be less confident if it thought that the police were not able to carry the kind of equipment needed to defend us. I certainly would not like to ask policemen to undertake that task with rules and restrictions that prevented them defending us and defending themselves.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right; CS spray is one of a range of tactical options available to police officers confronted by violent people, and one of these people was violent. They have batons, handcuffs and carry CS spray. Ultimately, armed officers can be called to deal with the situation.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees look at another aspect of this problem; namely, that none of the three people involved was a Member of either House of Parliament, and, presumably, they were supposed to be accompanied in the Palace of Westminster, which is in a state of severe alert, yet they were free to wander around the corridors unaccompanied?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I need to be extremely cautious about commenting on matters that took place in the House of Commons, which are for the House of Commons security authorities to deal with. I know that, were such an incident to take place at this end of the Palace, we would not wish the House of Commons to interfere in what we do.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, were the officers concerned armed with pepper sprays and, if so, was a considered decision made to use CS gas in preference to those?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, my understanding is that the officers concerned are armed with CS gas, batons and handcuffs.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, can the Chairman of Committees confirm that armed police officers were introduced into the Palace of Westminster without any consultation with Members of this House or another place?

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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I do not know the answer to that, but they are not generally deployed within the Palace; they are usually deployed on the perimeter.

Motion agreed.

Perpetuities and Accumulations Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.59 pm

A Bill to amend the law relating to the avoidance of future interests on grounds of remoteness and the law relating to accumulations of income.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Bach, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Political Parties and Elections Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

3.59 pm

Moved By Lord Bach

Motion agreed.

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
5th Report from Constitution Committee
7th Report from Constitution Committee
9th Report from JCSI

Report (2nd Day)

4 pm

Amendment 42

Moved by Lord Brett

42: Before Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—


(1) Section 3 of the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61) (acquisition by registration: minors) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2), for “within the period of twelve months from the date of the birth” substitute “while he is a minor”.

(3) Omit subsection (4).”

Lord Brett: My Lords, I am pleased to move the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend following discussions between Committee and Report. I am very grateful for the indulgence of the House, which allowed us to take away a number of items based on specific cases and to seek to deal with them. That was a useful and profitable way of doing things. I am grateful to the officials in the Home Office who

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came down from the nationality division in Liverpool to help to progress those. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, reminded us at the time that, while we were dealing with case law that arose from individual cases that might assist us, the matters of principle would come back. Indeed, as noble Lords can see from the Marshalled List, there are a number of amendments on matters of principle.

The Government’s amendment relates to the registration of minors under Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981. Section 3 enables a child born outside the UK to register as a British citizen if his or her parent is unable to transmit British citizenship automatically because he or she is a British citizen by descent. The law currently specifies that an application under this section must be made within 12 months of a child’s birth. The Government accept that, in view of the changing employment and residence patterns over time, the 12-month requirement set out in 1981 is now too stringent. The amendment therefore removes the 12-month deadline and replaces it with a requirement that a child be under 18 on the date of application. In future, a child up to the age of 18 will have an entitlement to register if his grandparent had or would have had British citizenship other than by descent on commencement of the BNA 1981. The parent is thus a British citizen by descent. While this broadens the category of people who can gain British nationality under this route, it continues to be essential under Section 3(2) that the parent in question has lived in the UK or qualifying territory for a period of three years before the child’s birth, except where that child was born stateless.

It is also a principle of national law that good character must apply to all those over the age of 10 who are applying for citizenship. Thus, by increasing the age requirement to 18 for this route, we must ensure that good character applies to those applying between the ages of 10 and 18. Applicants for British nationality must satisfy the Secretary of State that they are of good character, based primarily on the applicant’s criminal history, but also on their financial standing, their candour in relation to immigration and nationality matters and their general standing in the community. It is entirely consistent that those applying under this section must be vetted to ensure that they meet the good character requirement. I beg to move.

Amendment 42A (to Amendment 42)

Moved by Lord Avebury

42A: Before Clause 43, line 6, at end insert—

“( ) After subsection (3)(b)(ii) insert—

“(iii) was a British citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of the birth of the child in question, or would have been such a citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of the birth of the child in question but for his or her death.””

Lord Avebury: My Lords, we are grateful to the Government for having listened to us on the registration of minors and for the various discussions that we have had with the Bill team during the past couple of weeks. Those discussions have led to this solution for the problem of the registration of minors, which has

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been with us for a long time. We would be even more grateful if the noble Lord would go a little further and consider the improvement of Section 3(2) of the BNA 1981, as provided for in our amendment.

A key requirement of the section as drafted is that the grandparent must have been a British citizen otherwise than by descent on the date of birth of the parent who is a British citizen by descent. We propose that the same right should be granted to the grandchild of a British citizen otherwise than by descent who has acquired that status after the grandchild’s parent in question has also acquired British citizenship by descent. That would deal with those covered by the granting or registration of citizenship under the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990, the Hong Kong (War Wives and Widows) Act 1996, the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997 and the British Overseas Territories Act 2002. Many of the grandchildren of these people cannot benefit from new Section 3(2)(a) as drafted because it requires the grandparent to have been a British citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of the birth of the child’s parent or on commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981.

Perhaps I may briefly give two examples. First, GP from St Helena was conferred British citizenship otherwise than by descent by Section 3 of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002. Her daughter, P, has lived in the UK for more than three years and was granted British citizenship by descent under the same Act. So GP is a British citizen otherwise than by descent and P is a British citizen by descent. P then has a child, C1, who is born overseas and is not entitled to register as a British citizen because GP became a British citizen only on 21 May 2002 and was therefore not technically a British citizen at the time of parent P’s birth. There may be many British citizens by descent on whom British citizenship was conferred under the 2002 Act who could never be covered by or benefit from Section 3(2) of the BNA 1981, despite having long-standing residential connections with the United Kingdom.

Secondly, GQ, who registered under Section 1 of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990, became a British citizen otherwise than by descent. Her son, Q, born in 1998 was then registered under Schedule 2 to that Act as a British citizen by descent. After living in the UK for nearly 10 years, Q meets the residential test under Section 3(2) of the BNA. While he is on temporary assignment abroad with his wife, she gives birth and the child, C2, cannot be registered as a British citizen under Section 3(2) because the grandparent only became a British citizen otherwise than by descent after the parent’s birth.

Under Amendment 42A, a child must have sufficient connections to the United Kingdom to be entitled to registration as a British citizen when at the time of their birth: first, the child must have a grandparent who is a British citizen otherwise than by descent; secondly, the child must have a parent who is a British citizen by descent; and, thirdly, the parent must continue to meet the United Kingdom residential requirements of Section 3(2), unless the child is born stateless. Our amendment would put all grandparents holding British citizenship otherwise than by descent on an equal

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footing. Their grandchildren would qualify if the parent held British citizenship by descent and met the residential requirement set out in Section 3(2) of the BNA 1981, unless the child was stateless.

Our Amendment 50 would remove the good-character test for stateless children who were registered under Section 3(2). That is in line with government policy. Clause 45 and its predecessor, Section 58 of the 2006 Act, make exceptions for children, the stateless and the de facto stateless and we are merely adhering to those precedents. I beg to move.

Lord Brett: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks; gratitude is the order of the moment, if not the day. I also congratulate him on the passion and conviction that he has put into his campaign for stateless people, in particular stateless children. While I accept his passion and conviction, I am sure that he knows that there is a point of principle at issue between the Government and his party.

As I have previously indicated, the Government believe that the good-character application should apply to all those seeking British citizenship. It is appropriate that, despite what the noble Lord said, this route on good character should apply not only to those who are stateless. Section 3(2) is not principally a provision that affects stateless children; its main beneficiaries are parents who are British citizens by descent and who have lived in the UK for three years at any time before the child’s birth. The fact that stateless minors can apply under this section does not mean that it is a statelessness provision. In theory, stateless children could apply under any of the “minor” provisions, such as Section 1(3) or Section 1(4).

In an attempt to be relatively brief, perhaps I may turn to the noble Lord’s other amendment. Amendment 42A would change the requirements of Section 3(2) retrospectively in respect of the status of the grandparents at the time of birth, but I am also unconvinced about that argument. Although it might bring clarity to the position of grandparents, we believe that it breaches the entirely appropriate point that, if the grandparent was not a British citizen at the time that the parent who would be a British citizen by descent was born, there should not be a right to British citizenship under Section 3(2). It is a core principle of nationality law that those who wish to become British citizens must have a close connection with the United Kingdom. This amendment would create a route to citizenship for a child with a limited, if any, connection with the UK.

However, it is appropriate that in an exceptional case of hardship, where a child of a British citizen by descent may not acquire the nationality of his or her birthplace, such children can be considered under the exercise of discretion. Therefore, although I ask the House to accept the Government’s amendments, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, excepting the points that he has made, the Government do not accept the case to extend the categories of those affected to those with a lesser connection with the UK. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment and to accept the Government’s amendments to allow for minors in this group to register for British citizenship, some of whom might otherwise be without nationality.

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