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Volume 972: debated on Friday 2 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he intends to take to reduce the current delay of about two years before a decision on applications for naturalisation can be given; and if a system of priority can be established which would assist those who have already lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years and whose cases are clearly and accurately documented.

The main reason why applications for naturalisation are currently taking about two years to be decided is that there has been a substantial increase in the number of applications made in the past three years, which has coincided with a period of restraint on Civil Service manpower. A good proportion of all applicants for naturalisation have lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years or more and I would not feel justified in giving preferential treatment to applicants on this criterion. It has been the practice of successive Administrations to deal with applications strictly in the order in which they are received and this has been accepted as the fairest way of proceeding.