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Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 12 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL] will redress any racially discriminatory impacts of United Kingdom nationality law arising from the distinction between British citizens and other categories of British national with more limited rights of entry to the United Kingdom. [HL1301]

We are not proposing to make any changes in relation to the status of British nationals within the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. We have already made provision for those holding other forms of British nationality to register as British citizens. If a person lives in the United Kingdom for a period of five years, and meets certain residence requirements, he or she can apply for registration under Section 4(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981. Since April 2003, British overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons have been able to apply for registration under Section 4B of that Act if they do not have any other nationality. The British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997 also provides for the registration of those who would otherwise be stateless and are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong.

In his citizenship review Lord Goldsmith noted that there are particular legal reasons why we need to retain the category of British National (Overseas) with links to Hong Kong, because of our treaty commitments. He also acknowledged that the status of British overseas territories citizen needs to continue in order to recognise connections to a particular overseas territory as well as to Britain. He therefore proposed a change to end the separate statuses of British overseas citizen, British subject and British protected person.

We are of the view, however, that any changes to the status of those in these three groups at this time would still leave complications in the overall nationality framework, and that our earlier reforms and the passage of time will have the combined effect of reducing any current anomalies.