I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House of this odd hangover from previous legislation. Children born overseas to unmarried British fathers before July 2006 were unable to acquire citizenship by descent from their father. However, the UK Border Agency will register such people as British citizens if an application is made before their 18th birthday.
I thank the Minister for those comments. He was also sympathetic when my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) raised this matter two years ago. Will he seek a legislative opportunity to correct this situation by statute rather than rely on discretion, which may or may not be applied to children who may or may not be inside the country?
As I said, my hon. Friend makes a valid point. There is, however, an established registration route for children born to British unmarried fathers under section 3 of the British Nationality Act 1981, which allows the Home Secretary to register any child under the age of 18 as a British citizen, and this discretion has been used for many years. Of course those who are not able to register because they are over the age of 18 can instead naturalise as British citizens if they are resident in the UK and meet the requirements for naturalisation. As he says, any change to the nationality law would have to be made through primary legislation and there is no appropriate vehicle before the House at the moment.