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Naturalisation Applications

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 9 November 1950

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish the names of sponsors of persons applying for naturalisation.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what qualifications are regarded as necessary for those British subjects who sponsor an alien's application for a certificate of naturalisation.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will arrange for the names of persons sponsoring applications made by aliens for British citizenship to be made available for public inspection.

A person who applies for naturalisation in the United Kingdom is required to include in his application declarations of support from four British subjects by birth who are intimately acquainted with him and are householders, but applications are never granted solely on the recommendations of sponsors, however distinguished. I do not think that any public interest would be served by the publication of the names of the sponsors.

In view of the large number of unsavoury citizens we seem to be accumulating, will the right hon. Gentleman tighten up the qualifications of sponsors?

Would not the Home Secretary be safeguarding himself if he adopted this suggestion, because the sponsors would be doubly careful if they knew that their names were liable to be published?

I do not think so. The sponsors are among the people interviewed, but it is not upon their views that the final decision is reached.

In view of the fact that British citizenship is the proudest privilege which can be conferred upon any man, will the right hon. Gentleman consider introducing legislation, reserving the right in each case to publish the names of the sponsors, to act as a deterrent to abuse?

No, Sir, I think it would be very wrong to pick and choose between one applicant and another.

Does my right hon. Friend accept the suggestion that we are collecting a large number of unsavoury citizens? If so, what is he prepared to do about it?

No, Sir, I do not accept that suggestion, which I did not think was worthy of comment.

Surely "householder" is a qualification? Cannot the qualifications for a sponsor be narrowed?

I should be very reluctant to go beyond the qualification of householder and suggest that persons with houses either above or below a certain rateable value should be disqualified from being sponsors.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ensure that all applications for naturalisation by aliens are dealt with in his Department by British-born subjects.

I do not accept the implication that a person who is not British born is necessarily unsuited to deal with applications for naturalisation, but it so happens that all the members of the Home Office at present employed on this work are British born.

No, Sir. I hold strongly to the view that in the Civil Service the best person for the job should do the work.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what inquiries he makes in the country of origin of an alien who seeks a certificate of British naturalisation.

Inquiries are not made in the country of origin. A substantial period of residence in this country is required before an application for naturalisation can be entertained. Before considering such an application the fullest possible particulars are obtained about the applicant's history, including his family connections and past and present associations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, as a result of our unfortunate experiences before the war, of the need to know something of the background of people who come here and obtain naturalisation? Is it not very foolish, in view of the innumerable refugees in this country, that no inquiries should be made in their country of origin?

I have no power to make inquiries in the country of origin. My power ends at the three-mile limit. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that every necessary inquiry is made, and that a person normally has to have resided in this country for five out of the last eight years before his application can be entertained. We check up very carefully on his associates.

Do I understand that screening, which we all understood was a reliable method, really means that we know nothing, care nothing and have no responsibility?

No, Sir, it means nothing of the sort. It means that the most careful inquiries are made, and that every possible check that can be made in this country is applied.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the total average expense to the State of pursuing inquiries about any alien seeking British naturalisation; and what is the charge to the applicant.

The cost of making inquiries into applications for naturalisation varies greatly from case to case, but the average cost is estimated to be about £8. The standard fee for a certificate is £10.

Do those costs include the cost of making inquiries abroad? Did the right hon. Gentleman really intend to say what I understood him to say before, that he has no power to make such inquiries?

These costs do not include any costs for inquiries overseas, for no such inquiries are made.

On a point of order. As that reply seems to reveal a very unsatisfactory situation, of which the country has heard for the first time, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at an early opportunity.