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Eec: Movement Rights Of British Subjects

Volume 326: debated on Wednesday 15 December 1971

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government which types of British subject will not have freedom of movement in the E.E.C.]

My Lords, on December 1 my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie informed our Lordships of the definition of a United Kingdom national which had been adopted and notified to the E.E.C. Council of Ministers. I can best summarise the position by saying that the definition includes all citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who are patrial under the Immigration Act 1971, and thus exempt from immigration control; but that it does not extend to citizens of independent Commonwealth countries, even if they are patrial.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Can he explain to me whether somebody who had been here for a good number of years, say, from Barbados, but who has not acquired United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship, will have to get this citizenship in order to get into Europe? Is this definition of a national now accepted by the E.E.C., and is it to be the definition of a national for all time to come?

My Lords, a Commonwealth citizen who has been in this country for some time has an entitlement to apply for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by means of registration after a period of five years. Once he is registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, the free movement of labour provisions will apply to him. As regards the definition, that is a matter for the United Kingdom Government. We have formulated this definition and have notified the Council of Ministers accordingly.

My Lords, does the Minister recollect that last night, when I put a Question about Asians with British passports, he indicated that he would be making a reply to-day? I should like to ask him this question. Is it the case that Asians with British passports arriving from East Africa at the time of our entry into the E.E.C. will have to go through not only the preliminary period of five years but also an additional five years, making ten years in all, before they can enter Europe?

My Lords, I should like to clear that up as it is a misconception. A United Kingdom passport holder from East Africa arriving in this country for settlement will after five years become patrial and acquire the right to abode under Section 2 of the Immigration Act. At that point he will have the benefit of the free movement of labour provisions. There is no question of a ten-year period.

My Lords, do I understand that the term "independent members of Commonwealth countries" includes those from Canada, Australia and New Zealand? Can the noble Lord explain away the illogical, anomalous and unfair position that Italians, Frenchmen and citizens of the Six countries can come freely to the United Kingdom, whereas members of Commonwealth countries who were associated with the United Kingdom in two great wars are precluded from free access into the countries of the Six? Where is the logic in that?

My Lords, this Question is about the definition of a United Kingdom national for the purposes of the free movement of labour provisions of the Treaty of Rome. The citizen of an independent Commonwealth country will not be eligible unless and until he applies for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by registration after a period of five years. There may be some cases where there is dual nationality, and if a Commonwealth citizen also holds citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies, then he would be eligible from the start.

My Lords, can it be that the countries of the Six propose to exclude from access to their countries some members of some Commonwealth countries who are coloured?

My Lords, I repeat that what we are talking about is the definition of a United Kingdom national. There is no existing statutory definition, because there is no separate citizenship of the United Kingdom alone which distinguishes citizenship of the United Kingdom from citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Therefore the definition which my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave in Brussels recently follows closely on what is contained in section 2 of the Immigration Act.

My Lords, what the noble Lord is talking about is clear, and he expresses it with commendable clarity. But would he answer the question put by my noble friend; namely, what is the logic as between a restriction on the movement of a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, who fought with us in the last war, and free entry for citizens of those countries who fought against us? That is what my noble friend is asking.

And that, my Lords, is what is outside the terms of the Question on the Order Paper. We debated it earlier on the Immigration Bill.

My Lords, may I refer back to the Question? Would the noble Lord continue to be as clear as he has been up to now, and explain why there is delay on this topic? Would he tell us when the definition of a national is likely to be reached? Further, would he say whether those citizens of some Commonwealth countries who will have to renounce their own citizenship in order to acquire United Kingdom and Colonies citizenship will be catered for in this definition of a national?

There is no delay, my Lords. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has notified the Council of Ministers of the definition which Parliament was told about on December 1. As regards Commonwealth citizens who apply for our citizenship by way of registration, in some cases the legislation in their own country permits dual citizenship. Where that is so they will retain their citizenship of the independent Commonwealth country while holding citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies as well. They will thus be able to take advantage of the free movement of labour provisions. In the case of both India and Pakistan local legislation does not provide for dual citizenship, and so a final choice would have to be made by the individual.

My Lords, I am sorry to press the matter but does the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, realise that Algerians who have taken up residence in France in recent years will have access to the United Kingdom without any inhibition whatever, whereas members of Commonwealth countries will not be permitted access to the countries of the Six? Is that not completely illogical?

My Lords, it is not the fact. On whether or not it is logical I need not comment, because it is not the case that an Algerian has the benefit of the free movement of labour provisions within the Community. There are bilateral arrangements between France and Algeria which enable special entry facilities to France, but they do not apply to the other five member States of the Community.

My Lords, will the noble Lord now answer a question which I asked him some time ago and which he was then unwilling to answer? If two West Indians come in on the same steamer, one of them perhaps a British citizen from Antigua and the other a citizen from the next-door island of Guadeloupe, why is it that the British citizen is not allowed in here but the French citizen is?

My Lords, we have debated this point on a previous occasion. There are four French Overseas Departments: Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Reunion. They are parts of Metropolitan France, and are represented in the French Assembly. Their position is quite separate from either the present or former French dependent territories, or from the independent Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean.