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Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: UK Passport Service staff do not detail the requirements or hold the application papers for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen. All inquiries and requests are referred to the Home Office Nationality Group in Liverpool.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Citizenship is a matter of law, which is determined by the facts of a person's date and place of birth, those of their parents and the application of the provisions of the relevant legislation.

The British Nationality Status of Aliens Act 1914 determined in law that all persons born in the United Kingdom and Crown's dominions would hold the status of British subject.

The British Nationality Act 1948 introduced the concept of citizenship and determined which British subjects would become a British subject, citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (BSUKC). The Act came into force on 1 January 1949, and provided for all persons born in the United Kingdom and Colonies to become BSUKC by birth. Those born in a foreign or Commonwealth country who had a father born in the United Kingdom or existing colony would become BSUKC by descent. Other British subjects with a close connection with an independent Commonwealth country became British subjects, citizens of . . . (the Commonwealth country).

The status of British subject was retained by a small number of British subjects. In particular Irish citizens born before 1 January 1949 could elect to remain British subjects. British subjects born in British India before 1 January 1949 who did not become citizens of India also remained British subjects on 1 January 1949.

The British Nationality Act 1981 provided for BSUKCs who had the right of abode in the United Kingdom to become British citizens on 1 January 1983. It also retained the status of British subject for those who remained British subjects on 1 January 1949.

British subject status only applies to those born before 1 January 1949 and cannot be passed to further generations by descent, as is the case with British citizenship. The status will fail to exist when the last British subject is deceased.

All British passports are issued in the same format and are only distinguishable by the status shown on the personal details page, or in some cases where the passport holder is not a European national for passport purposes by the absence of "European Union" on the front cover.

The major difference between the status British citizen and British subject is that British citizens are able to travel freely within the European Union whereas British subjects who are not European nationals for passport purposes, may need to obtain visas prior to travel. Individuals holding "British Subject" passports may be required by the immigration laws of the receiving country to obtain visas prior to travel. This is not a matter over which the British Government have any authority to intervene. The UK Passport Service therefore recommends that all travellers check with the travel agent or the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country they intend to visit if a visa is required.

There are no changes envisaged.

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HMP Maghaberry: Immigration Act Detainees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many Immigration Act detainees were held in HM Prison Maghaberry at the most recent date; whether any were children or juveniles; how many were awaiting deportation; and whether their regime (akin to that of prisoners on the enhanced regime) would be improved if they were treated as remand prisoners.[HL2451]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: As at 27 December 2003 (the latest available date for which data are available) fewer than five individuals recorded as having sought asylum were detained at HMP Maghaberry, all of whom were adult males.

It is not possible to identify how many of these persons were awaiting deportation.

Detainees held at HMP Maghaberry are at present treated as unconvicted prisoners, who would include prisoners on remand.

Information on the number of people detained as at 27 March 2004 will be published on the Home Office website (www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1. html) on 25 May 2004.

Asylum Seekers: Gender Issues

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the new Home Office instructions on gender issues will have the effect that women applying for asylum will always be interviewed by women.[HL2472]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Home Office Asylum Policy Instructions on Gender reinforces the existing position that every effort will be made to ensure requests for same-sex interviewers are met.

Afghanistan: Reconstruction

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their assessment of the significance of the current situation in Afghanistan in their action against Al'Qaeda; and in this context, what are they now doing, together with their allies, to limit the power of the warlords and to increase aid and assistance for civil reconstruction.[HL2445]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As a result of our efforts with the US and others in Afghanistan, that country is no longer a safe haven for Al'Qaeda (AQ). It is not always easy to distinguish AQ elements from other groups hostile to the current political process in Afghanistan. Extremists are undoubtedly attempting to establish bases there from which to operate, but successful military operations conducted by the coalition and units of the Afghan national army (ANA) are preventing them doing so.

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AQ operations worldwide have suffered disruption. AQ leadership is dispersed and operating under increasingly difficult conditions. Many key operatives and planners have been detained.

The US-led coalition and NATO have now deployed a total of 12 provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) to help to extend the authority of central government at the expense of regional power-holders. The UK-led PRT in Mazar-e-Sharif helped to broker a ceasefire between two regional commanders in October 2003 and more recently played a key role in preventing factional unrest developing in Faryab Province, where a second UK-led PRT is now being established. The new PRT is already working with ANA and Afghan national police units sent to the area by President Karzai. PRTs have had a demonstrably beneficial effect on security in the areas they cover and this in turn helps to facilitate reconstruction.

On 1 March 2004 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced in his Written Statement (Official Report, Column 74WS) an increase of the UK's commitment, from £200 million over five years to at least £500 million over the same period. This funding is to support a range of reconstruction work, support for conflict prevention, and the counter-narcotics effort. A booklet outlining DfID's programme in Afghanistan has been placed in the Library of the House. International donors demonstrated their commitment to Afghanistan at the Berlin conference held on 31 March to 1 April 2004 by pledging 8.2 billion dollars of assistance over the next three years. This represents two-thirds of Afghanistan's requirements over this period. We hope that the full requirement will be met through more money becoming available from donors that were only able to make one-year pledges in Berlin.

Iraq: Amnesty International Report

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their response to each of the 11 recommendations in the Amnesty International report on the human rights situation in Iraq, entitled Iraq: one year on the human rights situation remains dire.[HL2446]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are carefully considering the recommendations of the Amnesty International report Iraq: one year on. With regard to the specific recommendations, we will be writing to Amnesty International once we have had time to consider them fully. We will place a copy of our response in the Library of the House.

Sudan: Darfur

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received evidence from Darfur, western Sudan, that rape is being used as a weapon of war; and what is their reponse to the

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    comments of the United Nations co-ordinator, Mukesh Kapila, that the situation is comparable to the Rwandan genocide.[HL2474]

Baroness Symonds of Vernham Dean: I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave him on 19 April (Official Report, Cols. WA 2–3).

We have received alarming reports of systematic clearing of areas in Darfur based on the ethnic origin of the population in those areas. Civilians have been targeted. We have made clear that reported attacks directed against civilians, including rape, should be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. A five-person team from the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights is in Darfur to investigate reports of serious human rights violations. We await their report. But the situation in Darfur is very different to that of Rwanda in 1994.


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