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5.20 pm

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I want to follow on from a point made in passing by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell). Albeit inadvertently, he traduced Michael Foot when he referred to the events of 1982 in the Falkland Islands. I imagine that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were present for the debate in which Michael Foot and John Silkin vigorously prosecuted the then Government for their dilatory handling of the Falklands dispute. For the record, one of the hallmarks of Michael Foot is that he does not yield to violence or tyranny. He did not do so in either 1982 or 1938, when other people were appeasing. I wanted to put the record straight on behalf of a distinguished Labour party and parliamentary colleague.

Both Front-Bench speakers referred at some length to the White Paper on overseas territories. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister wanted the House to believe that the Bill represents a substantial commitment on the proposals that the White Paper canvassed. The provisions to grant citizenship to people in overseas territories and to change in statute the term "dependent territories" to "overseas territories" were indeed contained in the White Paper. I give him full marks for that, but the document also contained a hell of a lot more, and the Bill is seriously

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flawed and deficient because it does not address other fundamental issues, some of which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Romford.

I canvassed proposals in the House by introducing a ten-minute Bill in the last Parliament to deal with the central problem: the severe democratic deficit that exists for these thousands of people who are soon to be British citizens, who are peppered around the globe and whose Parliament is, ultimately, this place. Their Prime Minister is the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) and their Foreign Secretary the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). If the United Kingdom decides to go to war, they go to war too. They do not have the privilege of saying, "If you don't mind, we'll sit this one out." They are committed lock, stock and barrel. Indeed, when such events arise, we invariably discover them, and the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and all these other archipelagos suddenly become important. I think that the word is "bunkering", but basically, we need them and suddenly remember them.

There is a severe democratic deficit that is yet to be addressed. Hon. Members will see that, in the White Paper, which my hon. Friend the Minister prayed in aid, Baroness Symons, its architect and author, canvassed many ideas. One of them, which would be better than nothing, is the suggestion that the chief Ministers or legislative councils of overseas territories should be able to petition the House from the Bar of the House. Of course, that proposal has long been lost and forgotten.

Personally, I think that there is no substitute for democratic representation in this place for all the people who will become citizens. That happens not only in France, but in Spain, the Netherlands and the United States of America. When the Minister listed the territories, he referred to the British Virgin Islands. Next door to them are the United States Virgin Islands, which have a delegate in the United States Congress. He cannot vote, but he has access. There are comparable arrangements elsewhere.

Sooner or later, we will have to address the matter. If we do not, I shall look forward to the day when two or three of the territories will muster the strength to prosecute Her Majesty's Government with vigour—and they will win. They will do so under human rights legislation and, surprisingly, under European law. A lady in Gibraltar won the right to the franchise in Europe although Home Office and Foreign Office lawyers said that she would not. I predicted that outcome in the House. The Government are often badly advised by Home Office and Foreign Office lawyers, especially on the subject that we are discussing. Sooner or later, we must deal with that.

One of the problems with the House of Commons is the cosy consensus between those on both Front Benches about so many matters. The Conservative Government have acquiesced in or perhaps caused all the wrongs that Back Benchers have mentioned today. For example, hon. Members referred to Lord Waddington, who was beating his breast about how black people from Bermuda had to go through one access channel at Heathrow when white Bermudans went through the other. Yet no one said that he was once Home Secretary. At least, I do not believe that such a comment was caught by the Official Report, but I put it on the record now.

I wish to make one other point, only in passing, because it is not relevant to the Bill—I wish that it was. The Conservative Government could have dealt with all the

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issues that have been canvassed about Gibraltar—you had to stop some hon. Members from getting involved in them, Mr. Deputy Speaker—when Spain acceded to the European Union and to NATO. As on so many occasions, we unhappily have to say of those on both Front Benches, "They're both the same and they're both to blame." The sooner we get the Government out of the legislature, the better. We would thus remove the nonsense of hon. Members who go into opposition pretending that they were not responsible for things that are wrong.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton: The hon. Gentleman is being slightly provocative as usual, but he is fascinating to listen to. On citizenship, I hope that he agrees that some hon. Members from the Conservative and the Labour parties have held consistent views, whichever party has been in government.

Andrew Mackinlay: The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) never took the Thatcher or the Major shilling. He certainly will not be offered the Blair shilling; neither, I suspect, will I. Time and again, hon. Members who have been Ministers pretend that they are not guilty. That was evident in a debate on human rights earlier this week. It makes this place nonsensical.

Earlier, I asked the Minister why the Bill and the explanatory notes do not state that granting citizenship to people in the overseas territories means, ipso facto, that they are citizens of the European Union under the Maastricht treaty. Colleagues who are walking encyclopaedias on the treaty agree on that, although we may have different opinions about its work. I welcome the fact that people in the overseas territories will have the right to protection and some consular services that European Union citizens receive from other overseas missions when, for example, United Kingdom representatives are not available. I believe that if the Minister makes lawyers stay late at night and get their books out, they will find that such rights and obligations flow from the measure. That brings us back to whether there is a severe democratic deficit.

I am sure that people in the overseas territories will be able to show that their failure to be represented here is unlawful under human rights and European Union legislation. We must now consider whether they should be enfranchised for the European Union. Of course, the measure does not make the overseas territories part of the European Union, but the people are European Union citizens. That will be tested sooner or later. Through their voting systems, most other European Union countries afford votes to people in archipelagos around the world. I wish that the Government would deal with the matter rather than be dragged, screaming and kicking, to fulfil obvious obligations. I hope that the Minister will at least say that he will ask the Department to reconsider that matter and, perhaps, be proactive, rather than merely pretending that it does not need to be tackled.

The case for the territories to be represented here is overwhelming on moral as well as practical grounds. If we are going to afford these people British citizenship, this place has an obligation to ensure that they have good governance—we had that obligation anyway, but now it has increased.

When you and some of the other hon. Members present entered the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a substantial slice of the globe was still made up of colonies, which occupied

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the interests of a large number of hon. Members, who were familiar with those places. Now, the globe is only peppered with those small places and we are not walking encyclopaedias on these issues. Many of us do not have access to the territories. If we do have access, it is on a nice Commonwealth Parliamentary Association visit—those are attractive and worth while.

We do not know whether the stewardship and governance of the citizens that we will create through this measure are good. I am referring in particular to the governors of the territories. I do not mean their local legislatures, as they can throw out the Chief Minister or the Legislative Council. The governor, however, is appointed by the Foreign Secretary. We do not know if the governors are good, bad or indifferent. We have no way of knowing.

I invite the House to consider that that is one part of our Administration that is not under the spotlight of scrutiny. Scrutiny generally is still seriously deficient, but we now have Select Committees, which are looking into every nook and cranny of the Administration. Due to the geographical handicap, however, we do not know if a governor in one of those obscure places is behaving like Terry Thomas in "Carleton Browne of the FO". We have no way of knowing because we do not have colleagues from the territories coming here to ask questions and we do not have access to them as Members of Parliament.

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