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Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill [HL]

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009

Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Amendment 25

Moved by

25: Clause 39, page 29, line 19, leave out “probationary citizenship leave” and insert “limited leave to enter or remain”

My Lords, we have tabled this amendment so that we have another opportunity to discuss probationary citizenship leave. The discussion in Committee was quite frustrating, because we spent a lot of time on the name “probationary citizenship” rather than on the principle of what it adds to the citizenship journey. It was clear from the government amendments and the debate in Committee that the Government’s drafting and thinking on the amendments are not as advanced as they ought to be. Given that the Government propose to introduce a draft Bill in October, there is the opportunity to return to these provisions when thinking is a bit more advanced and the proposals are sufficiently developed for us to scrutinise them.

As drafted, probationary citizenship is no more than another name for temporary or limited leave, which is why our amendment seeks to actually call it what it is. As named now, it contributes to the complexity of the Government’s naturalisation proposals. It gives the impression, by renaming it, that something new and different is being proposed, when it is actually the same process by another name. While we are on the matter of the name, it is worth noting that the consultation threw up the fact that the very word “probationary” has negative overtones and makes people tend to think of someone who has done something wrong and is on probation. I am sure that is not the Government’s intention—I am sure that they have heard this view before—but it would be good, if they intend to change the terminology, if they could think of something more positive.

The main reason to question this again is that the debates we had before dinner have shown very clearly that we are talking about the same process but simply renaming it. I would be grateful if the Minister could elucidate what the Government’s thinking is on what this actually adds to the object that we are all trying to achieve, which is to have a much better assimilation programme. We do not feel that simply renaming it in this way is the strongest way of achieving it. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the amendment, because we need some clarity on what just changing names does. I am not at all clear either why we could not stay with the names that people understand and know. The only people who are not going to get confused are those who are coming into the system right at the beginning. Sometimes it is better just to leave things as they were. The noble Baroness has put it very well. We are trying to do something that makes things better, not just tinker around with the words.

My Lords, I appreciate the contributions by both noble Baronesses. I recall in Committee being upbraided by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for getting into the argument about the name, when he made the point, which has been made again tonight, that it is a question of substance and what it actually means and does. I will try to deal with those principal points of concern in turn.

First, it is argued that “probationary citizenship” is merely further limited leave and as such it should simply be called that, and doing otherwise merely serves to complicate the system. That was, succinctly, the position of the noble Baroness. I agree that probationary citizenship is, legally, a grant of further limited leave to remain. We have made no secret of this. The question is on the second point, where the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said that it is the same system by another name. We do not believe that it is. I strongly disagree with the point that it adds nothing to the system other than to complicate it. We would argue that it supports our aim to make the path to citizenship clearer for migrants and the public. Our proposals set out a much clearer architecture than exists at present, by simplifying the multiplicity of routes to citizenship and replacing them with three clear routes—the work route, the family route and the protection route—and three clear stages: temporary residence, probationary citizenship and British citizenship or permanent residence.

There have been suggestions that another stage is being put in, but that is not so. At present, all migrants must pass through two stages—limited leave, then indefinite leave to remain—to qualify for citizenship. Under the new system, they must still pass through two stages to get to citizenship; namely, temporary residence and probationary citizenship.

A second accusation is that probationary citizenship serves no purpose and offers no benefit to the migrant. That is not correct. The new stage of probationary citizenship marks out that migrants who qualify for it have already started to make a significant step on the road to citizenship; probationary citizens are eligible to naturalise if they meet the requirements. All migrants, whether they intend to stay here for one day or for ever, start off as temporary residents, subject to certain exceptions, such as gateway refugees who get permanent residence on arrival. There are no distinctions between migrants in terms of the leave that they have; they are all temporary residents. But it is not possible for migrants in this first stage to progress directly to citizenship/permanent residence. Only those who make that significant step to probationary citizenship are in the privileged position of being able to naturalise. That hugely significant benefit to the migrant should be acknowledged; it gives them a distinct status and it is our way of acknowledging that step.

I also reject the suggestion that probationary citizenship does not encourage integration. Once a migrant takes that significant step towards citizenship by qualifying for probationary citizenship, our aim is to give them a distinct form of leave with a distinct name so that their minds will be focused on the fact that they now have to choose whether and when they wish to apply for citizenship. If they wish to qualify for citizenship, they can do so in a minimum of one year if they do active citizenship. We think that by introducing probationary citizenship, we will encourage migrants to make a conscious choice about their long-term future in the UK.

At the same time, giving this group a distinct type of leave helps to demonstrate to the UK public that these people are making a significant commitment and have advanced on the path to citizenship, thus promoting community cohesion. We want to encourage all migrants who qualify to stay in the UK permanently to take up full British citizenship. We think that this is the best way to facilitate the full integration of a migrant into UK society. Under the old system, in which migrants passed from limited leave to remain to indefinite leave to remain before being eligible for citizenship, there was little incentive to apply for citizenship as the terms of ILR are similar to those of British citizenship. However, by introducing probationary citizenship we are rectifying this. There are significant benefits to the migrants of being a citizen compared with having probationary citizenship and they can qualify for citizenship more quickly than they can permanent residence. As such, by introducing probationary citizenship, we are creating strong incentives for migrants who qualify to stay here permanently to take up full British citizenship and thus integrate more effectively into UK society. I am sure that the whole House supports efforts to improve integration.

Noble Lords will appreciate that what I have stated leads us to the conclusion that the stage should be called “probationary citizenship”. Indeed, as I stated in Committee, I am more than happy to consider other names if someone can suggest a preferable alternative. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that a positive term would be welcome. My judgment of “probation” is not the same as that held by people with a background in law and order. However, at present, I do not think that the phrase “limited leave to remain” improves the proposals, as we would lose the advantages that I have outlined which “probationary citizenship” would attract. For the same reason, I do not think that the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, in Committee of “interim leave to remain” is an improvement. We want to make it clear that the migrant has advanced on the path to citizenship and neither suggestion does that. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, suggested the term “qualifying citizenship” as an alternative. While that has its merits, our concern is that it does not quite capture the essence of the stage, in that, at that point, the migrant is on probation and, if they so wish, can prove that they have earned the right to citizenship.

Therefore, I continue to consider that “probationary citizenship” is the right term for this stage. As I have said, we do not suggest that that is the best phrase. If more positive and more effective names are put forward, we could be persuaded, at a later stage in the Bill, to make a substitution. In the mean time, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for a positive run-through of how the Government see the situation. He left the door open at later stages, so I am sure that the other place will want to come back to this issue. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 25 withdrawn.

Amendment 26

Moved by

26: Clause 39, page 29, line 25, leave out “been in continuous employment” and insert “not been in breach of conditions of that leave”

My Lords, in Committee we tried, with only partial success, to clarify what the Bill means by “in continuous employment”. This is another attempt to get some clarification about how that term will be interpreted. We extracted from the noble Lord, Lord Brett, an acknowledgement that in the present economic circumstances migrants would often cease to be in employment, but he then added “for short periods”. With 2 million people out of work, and that number rising, it is getting increasingly difficult for somebody who is thrown out of a job through redundancy or through the employer going bankrupt to find a new job, however widely he casts the net. The compelling circumstances may not be of that short a duration and victims of the recession are entitled to know how this discretion will be exercised.

Like so many things in the Bill—we have discussed this before—everything will be left to guidance so that noble Lords and another place will have no say in what the final solution is to be. The noble Lord, Lord Brett, said that he took the point about domestic servants who leave an abusive employer and may not be able to get a reference, and he promised to let us have greater detail on how that problem will be tackled. Although the problem was raised in the context of domestic service, there may well be other circumstances where a reference is unobtainable. A case where the employer goes bankrupt is perhaps the most obvious. We also discussed what happens when the worker loses his job a few weeks before he comes to the end of probationary citizenship and the latitude that would exist when interpreting “continuous employment” in an elastic way that would allow that final period out of work to be overlooked. I presume there is to be guidance on all these questions, but we have to take it on trust that what comes out in the end, weeks after the Bill receives Royal Assent, would have been agreed by Parliament if we had been able to look at it. That is not a satisfactory way to legislate and makes a mockery of the idea that Parliament exercises control over the Executive.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, pointed out, this amendment replicates the amendment we discussed in Committee. Various comments were made and concerns expressed at that stage. I hope that I can answer them in this reply.

I am sympathetic to the spirit behind the amendment. I agree that the requirement that a migrant on the work route must be continuously employed should not be interpreted rigidly; that is why we have the discretion to waive this requirement where appropriate. The Government recognise that it is in no one’s interest to refuse people who for the vast majority of the time have been contributing to the UK if they are subject to a relatively brief period of unemployment.

I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, setting out details of what “continuous employment” means. I hope that he and the other noble Lords have had chance to read that correspondence. I will summarise the position. This requirement is wholly consistent and underlines the Government’s clear policy that migrants who enter via the work route—for example, tiers 1 or 2 of the points-based system—are here to work or to be economically active. This is what the points-based system makes clear.

To respond to the points raised in Committee, I was grateful to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for raising the point that “continuous” is not same as “continual” and to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for reading us part of the UNISON briefing which asserted that “continuous employment” is a specific legal term that means that in the majority of cases an employee must be working for the same employer in order to qualify. The question was asked whether continuous employment means continuous employment with one employer. I confirm that it does not. We are absolutely clear that a person can meet the continuous employment requirement in the earned citizenship clauses where they change job, or types of job, or self-employment during the qualifying period. That will not be a disqualification.

Within our guidance, which we are continuing to develop taking into account the helpful points raised by noble Lords in Committee, we will explain that a person need not have had the same employer throughout the qualifying period or have remained in the same business where he is self-employed. We will ensure that any definition of continuous employment takes into account the position of certain groups, such as entrepreneurs who may be company directors and therefore not technically employed.

I was asked for further detail on how we exercise discretion to waive the requirements for individuals to have been in continuous employment. I reiterate that we expect that any discretion will be exercised sparingly and in deserving cases. However, as I said, the Government recognise that it is in no one’s interest to refuse people who, for the vast majority of their time here have been contributing economically to the UK. In assessing whether to apply discretion, we would take into account a number of factors, including the person’s overall employment record while in the UK; the length of time for which they have been out of work; and the explanation or evidence offered by the individual. I think that that deals with several points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about redundancy and bankruptcy, which is not necessarily anything that the individual migrant worker has any control over.

A key point raised in Committee was how overseas domestic workers could be affected by the continuous employment requirements. As we confirmed, continuous employment does not need to be with one employer. We committed in our response to the Visitors Consultation to preserve the current arrangements, which can be summarised as follows.

Overseas domestic workers in private households will remain a separate category outside the points-based system, while private servants in diplomatic households are included in the international agreement sub-category of tier 5. So we have two groups: those in domestic diplomatic households, who are covered by an international agreement on tier 5; and a separate category for domestic workers. We are committed to preserving that existing separate route for overseas domestic workers and the protection that it affords; and we will review it as appropriate after two years of operation of the new immigration system. We will also want to allow the anti-trafficking strategy to be properly road-tested.

All overseas domestic workers currently have an avenue to settlement in the UK after five years’ continuous employment. Overseas domestic workers in private households will, under requirements for obtaining probationary citizenship in this category, still be able to leave their employer and seek alternative work with another employer.  That continues to enable domestic workers from overseas to remove themselves from abusive situations.

Clause 39(7) gives discretion to waive the requirement to have been in continuous employment.  We will carefully consider the exercise of that discretion, particularly in cases where overseas domestic workers have left their employment due to abuse.

I hope that the assurances that I have given noble Lords will allow the withdrawal of the amendment.

My Lords, the final remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Brett, that the Government will carefully consider whether to waive the requirements in a case where the domestic worker left employment because of abuse by the employer, was not adequate. Surely those are precisely the circumstances in which the Minister should have been able to assure us that the discretion would be exercised. I cannot imagine why, if it is proved that a domestic worker was beaten up by the employer and that was the only reason they left, there should be any valid excuse for not using the discretion. I still feel anxious about the way in which the discretion is to be exercised, because there is no indication of how long a person can be without employment before the discretion ceases to be operative.

My Lords, I want to offer at least my personal reassurance that when I used the term “consider carefully”, my interpretation of that term is that one's attention would be drawn to the fact that there had been accusations of domestic abuse. Even if there was no guarantee that that could be proven, it would be a circumstance in which I would expect a very keen eye to be cast with a view to taking that discretion to a point where it relieved the abused migrant from a situation where they continued to be deprived because of their having left the household.

My Lords, that is a bit stronger than what the noble Lord said before, and I take some reassurance from that. Particularly in a case where the domestic worker is proved in a court of law to have suffered abuse, that should be conclusive, so the noble Lord should be able to say not that the discretion might be exercised there, but that it would be. It is a question of precision.

I was in the middle of saying that no one who loses their job would be certain whether the Minister would even consider waiving, let alone decide to waive, the requirement. As I said initially, given the economic circumstances at present, it is increasingly difficult for anyone who is thrown out of work to find another employer, particularly in the same category. A person who comes in under a particular tier may be allowed to change employer, but will he have to seek employment within that category? If, for example, he comes in as a tier 1 professional and cannot find a job in his sphere, would he be allowed to take a much more humble job just to be certain that he does not come within the exclusions of the clause?

Fundamentally, under the rules for the points-based system, a person is required to be and to continue to be in work, so I question the necessity of having such a discretion in the Bill. Would the noble Lord agree that under the points-based system adequate safeguards already exist to make sure that a person remains in work, so we should not try to gloss it in the Bill?

My Lords, I am slightly surprised by those last comments because I thought that the concerns of noble Lords in Committee was that when considering continuous employment we should not be so rigid as to reject someone whose unemployment came from a situation beyond their control for a relatively short period. The noble Lord raised the question of how the condition interacts with the employment requirements under the points-based system. I recognise that migrants on work routes will have further conditions attached to their leave, such as not having recourse to public funds. Migrants granted leave under tier 2 may have that leave curtailed if they are out of employment for more than 60 days. I do not think that that makes the continuous employment requirement unnecessary. It is wholly consistent with, and underlines, the Government’s clear policy that migrants are here to work and to be economically active. By having a discretion, we can apply a human face, which we are often accused of not applying when coming up against rules and hard cases. I had hoped that what I was saying about continuous employment not being with the same employer would be more encouraging to the noble Lord than it has been.

My Lords, I am a little encouraged. The noble Lord said that a person in tier 2 can be out of work for up to 60 days under the employment rules. Is he now saying that when Ministers come to exercise their discretion under the Bill, they will always excuse someone who has been out of work for as much as 60 days, and that the discretion only comes into play if you exceed the limits in the existing tier requirements?

Can he also deal with my other question that if a person is in, say, tier 2—it does not matter which tier—and he cannot get a job in the category under which he came in, would he be permitted to accept less professional or less advanced work without forfeiting his right to apply for citizenship at the end of the period?

My Lords, I have some difficulty in a sense. I was trying to signal that in the current employment situation, which the noble Lord used as background at the start of his contribution, there would be hope that the discretion which we believe is necessary would be exercised sympathetically for the people who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. That is the intention. For those who have contributed economically, which can be demonstrated over a number of years prior to their losing their positions, it is not our intention to deny them the chance of continuing their valuable contribution to society.

On the noble Lord’s other point, to be absolutely clear, I shall write to him.

My Lords, we have probably gone as far as we can on this issue this evening. I am grateful to the noble Lord for saying that the discretion would be exercised sympathetically. My problem is that people’s interpretation of “sympathetically” can vary enormously. The noble Lord is nodding as I say that. I think that we have gone as far as we can for the time being and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 26 withdrawn.

Amendment 27

Moved by

27: Clause 39, page 29, line 29, at end insert—

“(g) that A must declare whether he or she holds a passport of another nationality and, if so, what nationality this is; and(h) that, following the acquisition of British citizenship, A must declare if he or she subsequently obtains a passport of another nationality.(2A) Failure to comply with sub-paragraph (2)(h) will result in the cancellation and withdrawal of the United Kingdom passport.”

My Lords, earlier we were discussing the tidal flow of information that the Home Office was arranging to collect in order to allegedly protect our citizens. In this amendment, we are discussing the shortage of information that is essential, in my view, to enable the Government to protect the realm. It seems extraordinary that this amendment should be necessary at all. I have talked to a number of colleagues on all sides of the House about it. To paraphrase their view, they said that it is common sense that the UK passport authorities should have full details of any other passport held by an applicant for UK citizenship and that any UK passport holder should be required to inform the UK passport authorities if they subsequently acquire the passport of another country. An obvious sanction to ensure compliance, as included in my amendment, is the risk to a dual passport holder of having their UK passport cancelled and withdrawn if they have concealed the possession of the passport of another country.

I raised a number of points on the inadequacy of the administration of the passport system at Second Reading and the noble Lord, Lord West, replied:

“I am listening. There are some difficult areas there. I think that overall the UK Passport Agency does well, but some issues need to be looked at closely”.—[Official Report, 11/2/09; col. 1208.]

I have heard nothing more from the Minister. My plan was to seek in Committee to amend the Bill to cover various points on passports that I raised at Second Reading, such as the need for the Registrar-General on the recording of a death to tell the Identity and Passport Service so that the passport can be cancelled; the need for sensible fees for people who lose their passports, have them stolen or sell them; and the need to deal with the complicated problem of some members of Her Majesty’s forces holding dual nationality. However, I was advised that passports are issued under the royal prerogative and that this limits the power of Parliament to legislate on their administration. I hope that the Minister will comment on that suggestion. In my view, this is precisely the sort of thing that Parliament should be able to legislate on.

Whatever consultations the Home Office may have had since I raised these points six weeks ago at Second Reading—I suspect there may have been none—I have consulted widely with colleagues of all parties. This amendment avoids the problem of the royal prerogative limitations and, I submit, would on its own, even with its limited obligations and sanctions, strengthen our border defences.

The danger of would-be terrorists and other criminals, such as money launderers, travelling in and out of the United Kingdom on one passport and then using a second passport for other nefarious journeys has been well demonstrated. It is therefore crucial that details of any passports held are on the database of the Identity and Passport Service.

I have been told by persons in the intelligence community that our security services are much concerned about certain gaps in our control over dual passports and their use. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, who has much expertise in these matters, explained to me this morning that she had to be at a conference on terrorism this evening but that she strongly supports my amendment. We are constantly told of the risks of terrorism from Pakistan, in particular, and my amendment could help to guard against that.

I have been looking through the Government’s strategy for countering international terrorism—Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare—which was published yesterday. The section on UK border security on page 108 is amazingly woolly. There is no reference to the Identity and Passport Service, although there is much about the famous £1.2 billion e-Borders system, which will not come into full force for years. There is nothing to suggest that information on dual nationality, which is so clearly needed, will be collected.

Sadly, but I suppose predictably, this massive 174-page Home Office document is far more about presentation and aspiration than substance. It contains lots of lovely photographs. There is a photograph of the Prime Minister, which was clearly taken on the day he was told he had been made Chancellor; it shows none of the woes and cares that he has on his face today. There is another photograph of the Home Secretary. There are a lot of other interesting photographs that might be of some interest to my grandchildren; I do not know quite why they are in the report. There is a double-page spread of a police car speeding through the roads of London, another double-page spread on St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye, and another double-page spread of just a crowd, with no explanation. There is another double-page spread, which may have some relevance, of people queuing up at the UK Border Agency. I am not very surprised, but nor am I very impressed so far with that document.

I refer to the rather sad Written Answer that I received from the noble Lord, Lord West, on 9 February, which stated:

“Although applicants for British passports are asked for details of any other passports held at the time of application, any system of recording passports obtained or renewed during the validity would be costly and difficult to enforce where a person with dual nationality chose not to notify the acquisition of a passport in their other nationality”.—[Official Report, 9/2/08; col. WA 167.]

That demonstrates why this amendment is needed. It would be nice to feel that the Home Office could add to its much needed objective of becoming fit for purpose by replacing its costly and difficult philosophy with a “can do, will do” philosophy. I hope that one day a strong Minister will be able to impose such changes. Meanwhile, I seek to help the Government by moving this amendment. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Marlesford, who has produced a serious argument in favour of the Government looking at what should be done about dual passports. I suspect that exceptions would have to be made for security reasons and other directions, but the principle behind what my noble friend is talking about must be correct. People who say that they believe that they belong to this country should not waft off under another country’s passport without us having any idea which country they are represented by. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond somewhat positively to my noble friend.

My Lords, I agree. I support my noble kinsman on this point, because as usual he is very knowledgeable and has thought about this problem thoroughly. Not knowing who has a dual passport in this country and having no sanction against people who do not admit to having one are very real problems. I hope that the Minister will realise that just occasionally an individual in this House or somewhere else has a good idea. The Government think that individuals cannot possibly have good ideas and that only their advisors, huge organisations or—occasionally— Oppositions have good ideas. However, this is an extremely good idea and it comes from someone with an original mind, and I will be very disappointed if the Government do not at least look at this; it could be explored when the Bill goes to the House of Commons. I hope that we will not have a dismissive speech of a much needed good idea.

My Lords, I agree that it is a very interesting idea. It comes from a noble Lord who is full of interesting ideas, as I know from being a fellow member of a Select Committee where he often makes significant contributions.

For many years I had a second passport: I used one to enter Israel—for instance, when I was there in 1976 to hear President Sadat addressing the Knesset, which was quite an historic occasion—and the other I used for neighbouring Arab countries where an Israeli stamp on the passport could have meant refusal of admission. There may be legitimate reasons why people have more than one passport. Since the UK does not object to dual nationality, there is no reason why a person who acquires British citizenship should not retain both the citizenship and the passport of his previous nationality.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is seeking an additional requirement that a person would have to satisfy in order to be naturalised as a British citizen. He would have to declare whether he holds a passport of another nationality and, if so, which one; and, if, once he has been granted British nationality, he subsequently obtains the passport of another state, he should declare that as well. This sounds very reasonable.

In other countries, there are records of departures as well as arrivals. We know that the intention is to extend our own records to include departures as well as arrivals. It would be convenient to be able to match the records where a person used different passports for arrival and departure. There may be another reason for wanting to compare the records of particular individuals. For example, if a person is a criminal suspect it may become important to trace his movements in or out of the country. That would make it not only desirable but perhaps essential to know which passports he was using.

As far as I am aware, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is the originator of the proposal in this amendment and it has yet to be canvassed or discussed outside Parliament. Although one can see that it would facilitate the detection of cross-boundary criminal or terrorist activity, I respectfully suggest to the noble Lord that he finds a way of consulting more widely or of pressing the Government to do so, rather than asking for the clause to be prematurely inserted in this Bill. I do not disagree at all with him with regard to the sense in which he has raised this but, before we finally agree to it, there should be wider consultation, for example with civil liberties organisations, to check that we are not doing something that we would regret later on. I hope that the Government will adopt this proposal, have their own consultation and come back to the House with definite proposals based on them.

My Lords, I am a little concerned about this amendment; care should be taken because, like the noble Lord, in my business life, I, too, had two British passports: one to enter South Africa and one to enter Kenya and other parts of Africa: with the same passport you could not do both. I have always been entitled to an Irish passport, which is often very much more useful for entering the United States, for example, where I am likely to be arrested if I enter on a British passport. There are all sorts of reasons why business people, politicians and the like might need more than one passport—in my case, three. I would hate to feel that the Irish passport details were on a database alongside my British passport or that, if I had a second British passport, it was also on a database so that the world’s terrorist organisations or anyone else could suss exactly where I was and what I was doing.

My Lords, three years ago we introduced personal passport interviews for folk applying for a passport for the first time. About 300,000 applicants have had to have a personal interview before being issued with a British passport. I have heard that, after 246,000 interviews, not one applicant had been refused. Did the Government not introduce personal passport interviews in order to prevent this from happening? Has any evaluation been made of the effectiveness of the personal passport interview? If so, could that information be published in order to let us know whether the interviews have been any help in eliminating dual passports, terrorism, fraud and whatever else they were set up to do?

My Lords, I do not think that, when discussing this amendment, we should be too concerned about people who have legitimate reasons for holding more than one passport. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has drawn this amendment very narrowly, so that it would apply only to people seeking full British citizenship.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting mini-debate. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, whose expertise and endeavour on this question of dual passports I have experienced and dealt with previously. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that good ideas in this House do survive and prosper. On a number of occasions during my 10 years here, legislation has been improved by individual Cross-Bench Members and individual Members of all parties putting forward compelling amendments, which have, perhaps not at the first attempt, persuaded the Government to adopt the policy.

I should like to assure noble Lords that this is not a proposal that we have not looked at. However, while at first glance it seems to have attractions, examination reveals that there are significant problems with it in terms of its effect and its enforcement. We must be clear that a legitimate passport is but one documentary proof of an individual’s identity. As has been said, a person may legitimately hold passports of different nationalities, but those passports all do the same thing: they confirm the person’s identity.

In criminal investigations, including those relating to terrorism, what is important is knowing the identity of a person of interest to the authorities. Passports and other travel documents help with this, but they are by no means the only way of fixing a person’s identity. Details of persons of interest to UKBA and the law enforcement agencies are held centrally. These check lists, containing names and known aliases, are used in a range of circumstances. When people are travelling, passenger details are checked in advance against these check lists using our e-Borders system. In this way, an individual of interest can be detected, regardless of how many passports he may legitimately hold, and appropriate action can be taken.

Furthermore, it is not clear that this amendment would be enforceable. A passenger of dual nationality cannot be forced to show a passport of a particular nationality at a border. If he legitimately holds passports of different nationalities, he is free to choose which one he wishes to use to prove his identity. As a number of noble Lords have said, this proposal perhaps requires a little more investigation, construction and consultation before the Government would be prepared to consider it. We are not relying on the royal prerogative in defence of our position; I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, on that. I also take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on the effectiveness of passport interviews, which were introduced in 2007 at regional offices throughout the UK. I do not have the statistics that he seeks, but I will ensure that he gets them. In the mean time, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment, which at this stage is being resisted as unnecessary and unenforceable.

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Surely we are looking at the making of citizenship. It is pertinent to ask if those seeking to stay here have an alternative passport. We all know that there are good reasons for having a couple of passports, as has been ably demonstrated. I hope the noble Lord will, as he has said, look at this. I will certainly not accuse him of wriggling. I liked his answer, which was measured and very good, but in a matter of citizenship we had better find out how many passports an immigrant has.

My Lords, the practical difficulties extend a little beyond my original answer. The amendment calls, of course, for the power to cancel a passport if a person fails to tell us that he has another passport. It is not clear how we could establish that a person holds a different passport if he does not disclose that information. Further, as failure to disclose that you hold a passport of a different nationality is not grounds for the refusal of a passport in the first place, there does not appear to be anything to prevent the person in question simply applying for a new passport after the existing one is withdrawn and cancelled. This would appear severely to undermine the effectiveness of the amendment. These are the practical problems associated with the amendment, although we all identify with the wish behind it and the noble Lord’s intention of making our borders safer. At this stage, we remain unconvinced that it is practical to put the proposal into effect.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this brief debate. I can reassure everyone, including my noble friend with three passports, that this is in no sense directed against dual or triple passport holders, or against having several passports. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, pointed out, it is narrowly intended that those who are being given British citizenship should be required to disclose details of other passports that they hold. Of course it is enforceable and recordable. If you apply for anything, be it a passport, a driving licence or an insurance policy, and you tell lies about it, you are subject to sanctions. If somebody deliberately conceals that they have another passport when they are asked and required by law to declare it, it is not unreasonable for there to be a sanction. Potentially, this would be the removal or cancellation of the existing British passport. That seems to be perfectly sensible.

I have had other parliamentary answers in which it is made quite clear that the Government do not have the slightest idea how many British passport holders have other passports. That is a serious gap in their information. We have to tackle it. I realise that we cannot make a decision tonight, but I hope that the Government will inquire properly into this. I look forward to hearing in more detail from the noble Lord, in writing, about the points that I have made in this debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 27 withdrawn.

Amendments 28 to 30

Moved by

28: Clause 39, page 29, line 38, at end insert—

““(ba) treat the applicant as fulfilling the requirement specified in paragraph 1(2)(c) where the applicant has had a qualifying immigration status for only part of the qualifying period;”

29: Clause 39, page 29, line 39, leave out “requirements” and insert “requirement”

30: Clause 39, page 29, line 40, leave out “1(2)(c) and (d)” and insert “1(2)(d)”

Amendments 28 to 30 agreed.

Amendments 31 and 32 not moved.

Clause 40: Application requirements: family members etc.

Amendment 33

Moved by

33: Clause 40, page 33, line 7, at end insert—

“( ) treat A as fulfilling the requirement specified in paragraph 3(2)(c)(ii) (including where it can be fulfilled only as set out in paragraph 3(5)) where A has had a qualifying immigration status for only part of the qualifying period;”

My Lords, as I have asked for before, could we have an explanation of the precise effect of the five government amendments to Clauses 39 and 40? To the best of my knowledge, we have not had one so far.

My Lords, I am more than happy to write to the noble Lord and explain the amendments in greater detail, if that would be helpful to him.

Amendment 33 agreed.

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: Clause 40, page 33, line 8, leave out from “the” to “where” in line 10 and insert “requirement specified in paragraph 3(2)(d)”

Amendment 34 agreed.

Clause 41: The qualifying period

Amendment 35

Moved by

35: Clause 41, page 34, line 19, leave out from “period” to end of line 33 and insert “is—

(a) 6 years in a case within paragraph 1;(b) 3 years in a case within paragraph 3.”

My Lords, I return to a subject we have already discussed in Committee. So far as the citizenship requirements are concerned, we have been through the changes of names of the various stages—I do not think that we have achieved anything—but we now move to the requirements for citizenship. I want to concentrate on what those requirements will be under the earned citizenship proposals.

It is ironic that while the Bill is so short on detail that we have been trying to instil some transparency into it, Part 2 sets out a prescriptive list of requirements for naturalisation that will have to be fulfilled. They include that people are of good character, have sufficient knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic language, and know about life in the United Kingdom. Those are already requirements under previous legislation. They are not new; they have been part of the nationalisation procedure for some time. I do not complain about them, although this is the first time that we have seen provisions from other legislation in this area laid out. It is right that they should be easily identifiable. However, the one requirement that has not been part of the process so far is the need to undertake an activity.

I declare my role as chair of the England Volunteering Development Council, which is part of Volunteering England. Two members of the staff of Volunteering England are on the design group that is formulating recommendations on how the activity requirement is to work. I want to underline once again not my objection to the notion that some sort of voluntary service could be a useful contribution to citizenship, but to its virtually compulsory nature. In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Brett, said that it is not compulsory, but if people want to expedite their citizenship application and get there on a faster track by reducing the number of years on the journey, they will feel compelled to fulfil this requirement. It is therefore essential to ensure that there is clarity about what “activity” actually means, how potential citizens are going to know what they should do, and what would qualify as voluntary work. It is also essential that they know how to access the relevant information.

Many people who come to this country hail from completely different cultures with no detailed idea of what active citizenship or voluntary service actually mean. We need much greater clarity on the amount of time they need to be involved. I understand that the current suggestion is likely to be a minimum of 50 hours; that is the recommendation from the design group. But how those 50 hours are to be achieved, and over what timescale, has still not been properly identified. It could be 50 hours over six months or even six years. The information I have seen does not make it clear.

Another problem is that the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will operate from September this year, is to be the arbiter of the CRB checks. Can the Minister tell us what level of checking citizenship applicants will have to go through if they wish to work with children or older people, and how long the delay is likely to be before they could start on what will be a necessary process? The entire experience of the CRB and ISA is based on checking people who come from this country, and not on those who do not necessarily have a history over here which can be identified. It could be a long time before the checks to see whether people are suitable are ratified. It could also rule out a great deal of voluntary work if whichever of the ISA or the CRB deals with it is not able to bring those forward at some speed.

It will also be a requirement that anyone doing voluntary work will have to have a referee, who will have to sign the document confirming that the applicant’s activity had been properly carried out. However, while the design group suggested that any regulation of applicants will be light touch, there are potential penalties if the referee makes any false statement. There is concern that that may deter some people from acting as referees, particularly if they are from small organisations or not absolutely certain what qualifies as a suitable activity. The referee will, as I understand it, have to come from the organisation supervising the activity; will it, then, be a requirement that that person is sufficiently senior to know all the answers about whether the activity is proper?

Questions remain, therefore, about those who will find it difficult to give the time to an activity, such as mothers with young children, particularly as we have just discussed that one requirement for full citizenship is that there will be people who will have been in virtually full-time employment. Mothers with small or disabled children are going to find that difficult, and it seems hard to jeopardise their possibility of an expedited citizenship for that reason. Will there be any let-out or exceptions made for people whose position makes it completely impossible for them to do an activity but who, under any other circumstances, would want to because that activity is in the list of requirements? I beg to move.

My Lords, I must inform the House that, if the amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 36, by reason of pre-emption.

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 36 and the amendments consequential upon it in this group.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, has raised some important questions. In Committee, we discussed what a bureaucratic nature this system has, and I read carefully what the Minister said about the design team and its work. Nevertheless, a fundamental question remains: why can the person not provide, at least initially, proof of what they have been doing as an active citizen? That seems the right way round, so my Amendment 36 suggests it. That is the right approach. The amendment takes into account what they can do, where they are living and what sort of activities are available there, what their community sees as its own priority, no doubt, and so on. It is a far more normal way to further the aim that we all have that everybody should be happily slotted in to being an active citizen.

I was also struck by the concerns of Volunteering England, which are worth listing. Some refer to the applicant, among them the concern that it might be hard to find opportunities. Certainly, I can see that applying to some rural areas. For example, where I live in north Devon, if you were living on the fringes of Exmoor for some reason—if you had, perhaps, come here to be something as remote as a beekeeper—it might be hard to find any other volunteering activities out there.

Volunteering England is also concerned about whether applicants would understand the criteria. A very serious problem, which it lists next, is the risk of devaluing volunteering. That is something that we should all bear in mind: volunteering is supposed to be just that and, if it becomes compulsory, it is hard to still call it volunteering. The fact that Volunteering England has this concern is something that the Minister should take seriously. The process should not become a tick-box exercise.

Volunteering England is concerned, too, about the treatment of volunteers, as some organisations might be a bit ruthless. If they know that the applicant has to be a volunteer, they might exploit them. Then there is the question of volunteer expenses. Volunteering England also lists a lot of concerns about host organisations. That is equally serious; at the moment most host organisations, especially the smaller ones, are already under tremendous pressure. What are they supposed to do if three or four people turn up wishing to volunteer, making large demands on the time of the people running the organisations? On the other hand, it would be mean to turn them down, because that would jeopardise the possibility of even becoming a citizen.

Volunteering England mentions supporting applicants with additional needs; that will, again, be hard for smaller organisations. If most people are addressing big organisations, by its very nature that will become a problem for the big organisations. There are also lots of legal issues to be addressed. Then there is the question of referees, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about. Would they have direct knowledge of the activities? The Government fall back on the fact that local authorities could do a lot of the accrediting. The Minister will know that local authorities at the moment, for one reason or other to do with the economic crisis, are under tremendous pressure. There is simply not the capacity in their staff to take on a whole other tranche of work doing vast amounts of accreditation.

I still have deep concerns about the bureaucratic nature of this design, whether or not a design group has been designing it. It would seem a much better starting point to come from where the applicant is and then, if the UKBA staff assessing the situation have serious concerns, they could start the checks. In an awful lot of cases, the letter and back-up materials would be sufficient in themselves.

My Lords, I feel sorry for the Minister, as the Government are on a very sticky wicket here. He said that he preferred the description, “a fog of uncertainty”, because he did not know what shape the activities would take. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, several of us met two representatives from Volunteering England, who gave a very full explanation of the ideas of the design group. I have read the latest document in the Library, and I am grateful to the Minister for circulating another version. However, I still have serious misgivings about the principle.

I have heard the noble Baronesses talking in detail. It worries me a little that we are getting into the detail; I do not know why we are even discussing it today. I have misgivings about the whole scheme, because it seems to be in contradiction of the whole point of voluntary work. I said in Committee that voluntary work should be judged retrospectively, as it is rather like a curriculum vitae and, far from designing activities in advance, whether you get the co-operation of the voluntary sector or not, the Government should take account of the work that the applicant has done, not prescribe what it should be. Voluntary work is just that—something that a person volunteers for. It can never be a condition. I do not see how the monitoring exercise will work. Think of how many avenues you have to go down in the voluntary sector. It would be a classic, expensive piece of bright red bureaucracy, with no clear conclusions for citizens.

I am not against listing types of voluntary work. I am not against using volunteering as supporting evidence to help towards a qualification or drawing up guidelines. I am against the voluntary sector being roped in to police a scheme, almost as an agent of government. After all, non-governmental work is often the opposite of government.

The Minister made another important point in Committee—col. 562 of Hansard—when he said that organisations had not raised major concerns. Well, they would not, would they? They have not been told about the scheme. Only a handful of organisations have been drafted in. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, suggested a pilot scheme before this goes into legislation, which may be a good idea. It might work, but I remain sceptical, and I go along in particular with Amendment 36.

My Lords, like my noble friend, I was impressed by the Volunteering England briefing. I hope that the Government have received a copy, because it contains serious criticisms of the way that the scheme is being approached. Those must be taken on board by the Government, because Volunteering England is a participant in the UK Border Agency’s active citizenship design group, which is advising civil servants on how the proposals could affect the voluntary sector. If Volunteering England, as a participant in the design group, has raised all these questions, surely we need to probe much more thoroughly into what the Government’s plans are.

My noble friend listed many concerns raised in this document. I will highlight one item that the Government should pay attention to, namely the burden of the active citizenship scheme on organisations that will employ volunteers and the fact that the scheme has not planned a budget or guidance for helping organisations to meet these costs. I invite the Minister to say whether this is the end of the matter and whether there will be no public money to assist volunteer organisations that participate in the scheme.

I also ask the Minister what he has to say about Volunteering England’s injunction to local authorities and other public bodies to fully engage with the scheme as potential host organisations. My noble friend has said that we are expecting a lot of the existing volunteer organisations. Can we not enlist public authorities to fill the gap, if there are not going to be enough places? I seriously think that may be the case, if there is suddenly a host of applications from people wanting to take part in the active citizenship scheme and there are no places for them. How are we enlisting local authorities and statutory bodies to fill the gap? Obviously, no effort has been made so far, otherwise Volunteering England would have known about it.

My Lords, I suggest that this needs to be looked at very thoroughly. It is a nice, good, warm idea, but the structure and guidance seem completely absent. When somebody comes from an entirely different culture and environment, you cannot expect them immediately to take their place in a volunteering sense in a community. It will take time. They have to become aware of the community and its needs. Some of them will be thrilled to voluntarily volunteer; that is what they will want to do. However, we are asking the ordinary person on the citizenship path to do something that the majority of people in the UK do not do. What percentage of those in the United Kingdom volunteer? I do not know; it is a question that we cannot answer. However, we must not ask those from different backgrounds and cultures to do more than we are willing to do. I suggest that they will also come across hurdles such as CRB checks. Who will verify their CRB checks if they are new in the community? We want to see all these things work and we would love to see people integrated into our communities, but we need far more guidance than we are currently receiving.

My Lords, I am afraid that I, too, am very sceptical about this volunteering scheme. At Second Reading, I said that it seemed quite wrong to be requiring this degree of volunteering in order to knock quite a proportion off the increased period required for qualifying for citizenship. Above all, if we all volunteered—it would be a good idea, and a large proportion of people do during their lifetime—it might be much more acceptable. However, as the noble Lord has just said, to require it not of all citizens but only for this reason is not a good idea.

We all need to know a great deal more about the point about Volunteering England and the design group, which everybody seems a bit nonplussed by. If the Government are absolutely fixed on it, I suppose that we are not likely to see them pull back from it. Particularly in the case of those immigrants with the sort of families that require a great deal of time to care for—family members may be disabled or have learning difficulties and so on—and, above all, of those who have been performing for some time within their own communities to help new immigrants to settle into our community, I would automatically give them a tremendous plus and entitle them to citizenship rather earlier. I hope that this can be gone into in much more detail.

My Lords, I appreciate the contributions that have been made. I heard some of these points made in great detail in Committee. I will not repeat what I said then, except for two points. First, the Government are clear that they see active citizenship as a positive way for migrants to earn citizenship more quickly and to assist with their integration into British society. However, I hear a number of terms, and I heard them in Committee, such as “roped in” and “compulsory”. It would not be compulsory for any migrant to participate in the active citizenship scheme. It would not be compulsory for any voluntary organisation to take part in the scheme. It would not be compulsory for any local authority. This scheme is, we hope, designed by those who know rather better than Home Office civil servants and—dare I say it?—Ministers what will work and what incentive we are seeking to create. In fact, the design group itself is voluntary.

Volunteering England has asked a series of relevant questions and there are others. All the questions put by noble Lords tonight have the validity of a question to which there must be an answer. However, that answer is coming through the design group. The questions are discussed within the design group, although some of them will be external and will have to be addressed to the Home Office as the sponsoring department that wants to see this light-touch, non-bureaucratic system put in place.

It is a mistake to suggest that the compulsion element is severe. It is not. If people do not want to volunteer in real life, they do not, and they will not do so in these circumstances or otherwise. However, this is about providing an incentive, which will help not only the individual but the integration of migrants into our society so that our society is at ease with itself and understands the multicultural and multiethnic backgrounds of its citizens.

In Committee, several noble Lords expressed interest in the work of the design group. I believe that a document exists entitled Clearing the Fog. A further substantial document has been produced and I have arranged to have it put in the Library. However, this is not the end game by any means. The Bill will proceed through the other place, where no doubt demands will be made for updated information, and the questions which have been posed here and others will be asked and will need to be answered. However, the situation is not entirely as has been suggested tonight because in Committee I heard some noble Lords speak in support of the proposal. Indeed, some noble Lords support it tonight. They are not questioning the concept but asking practical questions about how to make it successful. Those questions deserve to be answered. It is vital that people understand how the measure will operate. That is why we have placed a further document in the Library which contains more information from the Active Citizenship Design Group on its emerging thinking. Where I cannot deal with noble Lords’ questions tonight I undertake to write to them with a more detailed response.

I hope that the information we have provided goes some way to alleviate noble Lords’ concerns and shows that we are willing to share our findings as soon as they have been agreed by the design group. We want provisions that will work and be transparent. I also trust that this information demonstrates that we are developing proposals on active citizenship in the fairest and most common-sense manner. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will not feel that they have to press their amendments.

These amendments would severely restrict the ability of the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations the conditions which will be used to determine when a person meets the active citizenship requirement. However, we are not seeking to determine that from on high. The design group is discussing the legitimate questions asked by Volunteering England and other bodies, and no doubt will in turn ask those questions of the Home Office. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about people effectively being able to self-assess their contributions. It is hard to see how a system that relies solely on evidence submitted by the applicant would operate. We need to set down certain parameters to this requirement which can be easily understood and followed by all concerned so that we produce a not overly bureaucratic system which people value and seek to take up.

Noble Lords have mentioned people with disabilities or those with family responsibilities. Discretion is built in to the system to allow such circumstances to be taken into account. Noble Lords also referred to the need for a light touch to be applied. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, asked what CRB checks are required with regard to active citizenship. Criminal Record Bureau checks are a key concern. We acknowledge that there is clear benefit in carrying out these checks in order to protect our children and vulnerable adults from harm. Clearly, it is not an option to abandon those checks. Protection issues must take precedence in this area. CRB checks are relevant to certain existing volunteering opportunities. However, many of the individuals and organisations who take part in active citizenship will not have to get involved in CRB checks. But as part of our communications strategy we will ensure that migrants are aware of what is expected in terms of CRB checks if they choose to volunteer to work with children or vulnerable adults.

I was also asked about the role of the referee. We need to prescribe who can act as referee to ensure that those verifying active citizenship can make a quick objective decision and that applicants can approach a suitable person for that reference. Our current proposal is that a referee should be defined as someone in a supervisory capacity with personal knowledge of the applicant’s active citizenship. This presents a lower risk of fraud compared to allowing simply anyone to act as a referee. The referee will have personal knowledge of the activity and, because they are in a supervisory capacity, they will be keen to protect the reputation of the organisation that they represent, as well as assisting the applicant. As I said, it is important that we have information available, that migrants can find out what the opportunities are and that those from different cultures can understand the concept of volunteering as it has grown up in the UK over the past century or more.

One of the suggestions is providing an information pack for migrants on arrival in the UK and, equally, when they are seeking probationary citizenship. There may be other questions that I have not been able to answer, but I offer to pick those up and write to noble Lords.

I appreciate that noble Lords are concerned that we are coming with a lot of information which, if not a fog, still has a degree of mist around it. I offer the assurance that the regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure, so that Parliament will be able to scrutinise and agree beforehand what emerges from this very hands-on—for those involved—and, we hope, voluntary system, which will assist the migrants and the aims not only of the Government but of everyone in this House for a more integrated society which is at ease with itself.

My Lords, can I clarify one detail? If there is no adequate scheme available for an individual migrant within a reasonable travelling distance of where they are living, would they be exempt? The Minister may well say that it is covered by discretion. If there is no adequate scheme available, would they be exempt, or would they be prejudiced by delay for the two years?

My Lords, the noble Baroness asked a very good question, and I do not know the answer. In essence, I would have thought that the first thing was to establish clearly with all the available voluntary organisations where opportunities might be most local and most appropriate. Failing that, this is a question for both the design group and the Home Office officials liaising with it to have on board. Again, I will look into it, and I will happily write to the noble Baroness.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply; unfortunately, most of the questions still remain. It may be that until the design group has reported or come to its final conclusions those questions are going to hang about, because they are absolutely germane to how this activity requirement will work.

One area which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and which I touched on, is important for the Government to take on board. Who is going to pay the voluntary organisations for helping to undertake this work? The volunteers by definition may very well need volunteer expenses, such as childcare, travel and so on. That needs to be taken into account and cannot just be slid over. The worry about this is that the Government issued a question and answer document, and this expenses question was not part of it. It is something that needs to be picked up.

Of course, it is not compulsory, but in reality it is compulsory. Who is going to want to do another two years’ worth of trying to become citizen when they can cut corners and get in a couple of years sooner by doing this voluntary activity? It is as near compulsory as makes no matter. It is quite a burden on the voluntary sector, and there is a lot more to be worked out.

I understood the Minister saying that the design group recommendations will be a statutory instrument and will come to both Houses for affirmative resolution. The Minister nods, so we can have that on the record. That will be something, and we will have another chance. The Minister has made a lot of promises to write to us with responses, but Third Reading now has such strict rules that we are not going to be able to make use of the information that we get. It would have been helpful to have had it in advance.

This has been an important debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and other noble Lords for their contributions and I thank those who were present at the meeting with Volunteering England who took on board the concerns which have already been raised with the design group. Those concerns did not arrive through a backdoor as they had already been raised. For today, and probably for the rest of the Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 35 withdrawn.

Amendment 36 not moved.

Amendment 37

Moved by

37: Clause 41, page 34, line 33, at end insert—

“(6) In the case of an applicant with refugee status or humanitarian protection status, the number of years in the period is 5.”

My Lords, I have spoken briefly to the amendment, but I want to move it now as I would like to hear why the Government believe that refugees should have to do voluntary or community activities in the same way as economic migrants or regular visitors or incoming spouses and other such categories. I beg to move.

My Lords, with the lateness of the hour I shall be succinct. We believe that all citizens who seek to become members of our community by being British citizens will have the advantages of and gain from the active citizenship proposals. We see no reason why refugees would want to exempt themselves from that or to be treated differently. We give them refugee status and the assistance that goes with it and I do not believe that that should exclude them from this group. If I can provide any more detail, I shall write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, I am not very satisfied with that reply but it is all I shall get tonight. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 37 withdrawn.

Amendments 38 to 40 not moved.

Amendment 41

Tabled by

41: Clause 41, page 35, line 19, at end insert—

“( ) For the avoidance of doubt, the qualifying period for persons with full refugee status, who have complied with Article 31(1) of the UN Convention on Refugees (T951), shall commence with the date of their entry into the United Kingdom.”

My Lords, I do not wish to move the amendment unless the Minister wishes to make a statement on it.

Amendment 41 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 9.57 pm.