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Earl Russell: The Minister over-simplifies a little by suggesting that those affected by the amendment do not have a particularly close connection with this country. I declare an interest. I have a pupil who is directly and squarely within the words of the amendment. He has just completed his degree at the college and been awarded the History Today prize for the best dissertation by any candidate in the whole of history finals. He wishes to do postgraduate research
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The noble Earl has picked out a bad case. I shall not commit myself to suggesting that it would translate itself into good and effective law, but we shall read through with great interest what the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have said and take those points into consideration. I have not heard anything today to persuade me that our general approach is wrong.
Lord Avebury: I am obviously not going to persuade the Minister to agree to the amendment this afternoon, but I am grateful for his assurance that he will take the matter away and consider it. Perhaps he will confirm that he would be prepared to meet me to discuss the problem with members of CAMPAIGNS, of whom there are about 50. The concession would not affect a vast number of people and make a difference to the immigration figures.
I do not see how people can comply with the requirement of having to live here and demonstrate the connection if, like the leader of CAMPAIGNS, they are treated as overstayers. He comes here intending to reside permanently in the United Kingdom, but he has no right to do that and after eight years he is up against the possibility of being deported. Does the noble Lord consider that members of the organisation are in a Catch-22 situation? Maybe they have lived overseas for many years and therefore cannot demonstrate the connection with the United Kingdom that the Minister demands. On the other hand, if they come to the United Kingdom in an attempt to establish their connection with this country, they become illegal entrants and the noble Lord and his minions will throw them out. That does not make sense.
The noble Lord has already admitted that there is gender discrimination, which was only partially corrected by the 1981 Act. He did not answer my question about the Human Rights Act. Does he think that the gender discrimination that is incorporated into our nationality law, without the amendment, will land the Government in severe trouble?
Those are the matters that I would like to discuss with the noble Lord. On the basis that we shall have an opportunity to talk about them with those who are aggrieved by the rejection of the amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it at the moment.
The noble Lord said: The amendment is grouped with a large number of others. The purpose is to seek clarification, because there is confusion in the early part of the Bill, which continues to refer to citizenship when it really means nationality. Will the Minister explain that? There is a legal definition of nationality, whereas there is not yet a legal definition of citizenship.
The amendment follows a discussion that we had with the Citizenship Foundation, which explained that not much thought has been given to the distinction between the legal understanding of nationality and the social and philosophical understanding of citizenship. Many of us who have applied for a visa to travel to other countries know that we are frequently asked not about citizenship, but about nationality. That is where confusion occurs between the two expressions.
In part, this is a probing amendment. However, there is also an underlying question of whether it would be more consistent for legislation to deal with the well-understood legal concept of nationality rather than muddying the water by adding citizenship, the meaning of which is nowhere properly defined. It would be helpful if the Minister would clarify that. Should we substitute "nationality" for "citizenship"? I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for raising this issue. Some legal systems and treaties consistently use the term "nationality", whereas others consistently refer to "citizenship" while trying to convey the same meaning. Our understanding is that both expressions are in current usage in the UK. They have been used interchangeably and still are to a large extent. Nationality has tended to be used in the narrow, more technical sense of a person's international identity, belonging to a particular state. It may be evidenced in the use of a passport. Citizenship is more about the various rights, duties and opportunities that define one's place and conduct in a society. It has an internal complexion to it. We talk about active citizenship within a society. Nationality is a concept primarily of international law for inter-state purposes such as diplomatic protection.
We have made it clear in earlier debates that we see the acquisition of British citizenship as a significant life event. We are seeking to enhance the process of becoming British. As a sign of the importance that we attach to the matter, we want to encourage that feeling. The use of "citizenship" is therefore more appropriate. I think that, linguistically, other countries conduct themselves in a similar way. We think that, in seeking to persuade us to reverse our
I understand the debate which the noble Lord is trying to stimulate. We recognise that it is a very important debate. However, we believe that our term is not only more user friendly but perhaps more relevant in achieving our policy objectives. With that, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I did not intervene earlier because I wanted to hear the Minister's reply. Having heard it, I am now as much confused as enlightened by it. He said that citizenship is more about rights and opportunities. However, he also said that the terms "citizenship" and "nationality" tend to be interchangeablealthough they tend to be used for different purposes. That seems a very unsatisfactory basis for legislation, where words need a precise meaning and not simply to tend to mean one thing or another according to the whim of the person using them.
I think that the Minister said that the terms are not synonymous in this legislation. If that is so, I think that we will need to know the difference. The process of naturalisation is quite clearly intended to confer both nationality and citizenship. If they are different, what is the difference?
This debate all comes down to the difficulty we have in this country in defining "citizenship" and a "British citizen". A few days ago, we heard a very eloquent exposition from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford who gave us a very traditional view of the British constitution and the role of the people of Britain within that constitution. I think that he said that sovereignty rests with the Sovereign in Parliament and under God. In such a traditional view, the people of this country are clearly not citizens but subjects. That is the position in England, although it may be different in Scotland. I have no idea of the position in Wales. Scots have told me, however, that the position is definitely different there, where there is a tradition of citizenship which we do not have.
Citizenship is referred to very specifically and clearly in the part of the legislation dealing with the oath and the pledge that people will be asked to take during the citizenship ceremony. The Bill proposes the words,
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