Clause 9 - Citizenship: stateless minors

Nationality and Borders Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 19 Hydref 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The clause amends the provision for registering a child as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen when the child was born in the UK or a territory and has been stateless since birth. Although it applies to both British citizenship and BOTC, it addresses an issue specific to the UK, so I am going to talk about British citizenship. However, parallel changes will be made in relation to BOTC.

It may help if I put the issue in the context of all children born in the United Kingdom. Since 1983, a child born in the UK will be a British citizen automatically only if one of their parents is a British citizen, is settled in the United Kingdom or, from 13 January 2010, is a member of the armed forces.

“Settled” is defined in the British Nationality Act 1981 as being ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and not subject to an immigration time restriction on their stay. That effectively excludes those whose parents only have limited leave to remain or are here illegally. Those exempt from immigration control because of diplomatic service or as members of visiting forces are also not regarded as settled. Any child born in the United Kingdom after 1 January 1983 who was not a British citizen at birth has an entitlement to register as a British citizen if the parent becomes a British citizen or settled in the UK, if the parent joins the armed forces, or if the child lives here for the first 10 years of their life.

In addition, there is provision for children born in the UK who would otherwise be stateless to acquire citizenship. If a child is born in the UK to a parent who is a British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen or British subject and would otherwise be stateless, they will acquire the same nationality as the parent. Alternatively, if a child is born in the UK and is, and has always been, stateless, they can apply to be registered as a British citizen before their 22nd birthday based on a period of five years’ residence. Those provisions enable us to meet our obligations under the convention on the reduction of statelessness. That means that if a child is stateless and has had no other citizenship or nationality from birth, they can effectively be registered on reaching the age of five—rather than after the age of 10, like other children born in the UK.

The UK, like many other countries, allows for citizenship to be acquired by descent by a child born abroad to a parent who holds that status by birth. Under most countries’ citizenship laws that happens automatically, but some countries require the parents to register a child’s birth for the child to access citizenship. That is the case for India and Sri Lanka, where a child’s birth needs to be registered at a high commission if they are to be recognised as a citizen.

We are aware that increasing numbers of non-settled parents in the UK are actively deciding not to register their child’s birth at the embassy or high commission, and thus failing to secure their child’s entitlement to their parents’ nationality by descent.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

The explanatory note just says that there have been cases. This is a very serious change. Can the Minister give us examples of analysis that has been done and the types of circumstances in which such decisions are taking place? Tell us about the scale. I see no evidence of a significant problem, whereas I do see that the clause could cause significant harm.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 4:00, 19 Hydref 2021

I am grateful to the hon. Member for prompting me on this. I have a fairly lengthy speech on this clause. I will come to those points, and will illustrate them with some specific case studies, which I hope will be of interest to him.

As I was saying, this results in the child remaining stateless from birth and enables them to be registered as a British citizen once they reach the age of five if they meet the other criteria. We have seen a significant increase in applications, from tens per year to thousands. In 2016-17, there were 32 applications to register stateless children on this basis. That increased in 2017-18 to 1,815 applications. This allows individuals, including those who have overstayed or entered illegally, to acquire British citizenship for their child, which can in turn benefit their own immigration status.

We do not think it fair that parents can effectively secure a quicker route to British citizenship by choosing not to register their child’s birth. In doing so, they are depriving their child of a nationality, which is about not only identity and belonging, but being able to acquire a passport or identity document, and the ability to travel overseas, such as to see family. They are also taking advantage of a provision that is intended to protect those who are genuinely stateless.

I will say, for the avoidance of doubt, that the process of birth registration is not impossibly difficult. It is simply a matter of completing a form and supplying supporting information about the parent’s identity, status and residence, and the child’s birth. The fee to register a child’s birth at the Indian high commission in the UK is £19; it is £53 at the Sri Lankan high commission.

In changing this provision, we want to maintain the ability for genuinely stateless children to benefit, but we want to change the registration provisions so that parents cannot effectively choose statelessness for their child and then benefit from these provisions. That is right and proper, and in line with our international obligations.

We think it is right that children who genuinely cannot acquire a nationality should be able to benefit under the stateless provisions of the 1981 Act. This change reflects our expectation that families should take reasonable steps to acquire a nationality for their child. We will set out in guidance the sort of steps that we think are reasonable, and applications will be considered on an individual basis.

The provisions are not intended to negatively impact children of recognised refugees who are unable to approach the authorities of their former country. Hon. Members may argue that it is important for a child to have a nationality. We agree. That is why we are a signatory to, and are committed to, the 1961 convention.

Why are parents choosing not to acquire a nationality for their child when they can, leaving the child without the ability to travel urgently if needed for five years? Let us look at a typical example that addresses the point raised by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Llafur, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

The Minister refers to a typical example, but I believe that the question put was about the overall number of cases. Will the Minister provide the House with the overall number of cases involved, and specifically the number of cases in which the Government suggest nationality is being deliberately withheld?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Let me talk through the case studies in the first instance, because I think it is useful to set this in context. Child X was born in the UK, which their Indian parents had entered as students. The student route is not one that leads to settlement, so they could not have assumed they would be granted indefinite permission to stay. The college they were studying at had its sponsorship licence revoked, and the parents remained here illegally.

At the time of X’s birth, both parents were in the UK without lawful leave. Steps were taken to remove X’s parents, who absconded at one point. However, an application was made to register X as a British citizen, under the stateless minor provision, a few days after their fifth birthday. While they had not approached the Indian high commission to register X’s birth, the parents provided letters they had obtained from the Indian authorities stating that there was no record of the birth having been registered, so they clearly had no fear of approaching the Indian authorities.

X was registered as a British citizen, as the current wording of the British Nationality Act 1981 left us no other option. The parents then made an application to remain in the UK on the basis of family life, which was granted because it would have been harsh for the British child to leave the UK. I hope that Members across the House will agree that, while it is not X’s fault that their parents manipulated the system, it is not right that as a result they can acquire citizenship earlier than other children born here, whose parents have remained in the UK lawfully and been fully compliant.

We have heard the comment that parents should be able to choose which nationality their child has, but this is not about French parents living in the UK with settled status, for example, choosing whether to apply for a French or British passport, as the child holds dual nationality. Nor is it about parents who are dual nationals, such as a parent who is a British citizen by birth and citizen of Bangladesh by descent choosing not to register their child’s birth, which would have allowed them to acquire citizenship of Bangladesh in addition to British citizenship. No: this is about parents who are choosing not to acquire their own nationality for their child and leaving them with no nationality for a significant period until they can eventually qualify for British citizenship.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has published a document entitled “Guidelines on Statelessness nr 4: Ensuring Every Child’s Right to Acquire a Nationality through Articles 1-4 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness”. Those guidelines cover situations where it is possible to acquire the nationality of a parent by registration. They provide that the responsibility to grant nationality to children who would otherwise be stateless is not engaged where a child is born in a state’s territory and is stateless but could acquire a nationality by registration with the state of nationality of a parent, or a similar procedure.

The guidelines go on to say that it is acceptable for contracting states not to grant nationality to children in these circumstances if the child concerned can acquire the nationality of a parent immediately after birth and the state of nationality of the parent does not have any discretion to refuse the grant of nationality. However, that does not apply if a child’s parents are unable to register, or have good reasons for not registering, their child with the state of their own nationality. That must be determined depending on whether an individual could reasonably be expected to take action to acquire the nationality in the circumstances of their particular case. The effect of this clause therefore reflects the approach recommended by the UNHCR.

We understand that parents want the best for their children, and that a future in the UK represents that to them, but it is not right that they choose not to acquire a nationality for their child in order to facilitate that. We want genuinely stateless children to be able to benefit from our stateless child provisions, but we expect those who can easily acquire a nationality for their child to do so.

I will pick up on the point the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark made, because I am sure he wants to prompt me on that, but I first wanted to get through those case studies and set out the Government’s rationale. Clearly, in some cases there is a perverse incentive, and it undoubtedly disadvantages those who are acting in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the law. It is right to address that, and that is why we are taking the measures proposed in clause 9 to close that loophole.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Llafur, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Will the Minister provide the overall number of cases that the Government believe fit this category? Will the Government also publish the number of children involved in similar cases where the parents have been trying to regularise their status within the UK? We had examples this morning such as that of my constituent Ade Ronke, who was wrongfully accused by the Home Office of having a prosecution that she did not have—it was a case of mistaken identity. There are cases like that, and hers took seven years to regularise. I mentioned this morning that at least two cases in my constituency took 10 years. There may be many children across the country whose parents have been waiting very many years to sort their status, who could fit into this category, but are being mislabelled by the Government.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

The direct answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we can provide details of the number of applications, but we cannot confirm the specific number of cases in the way he is requesting. We know this is happening, and we believe that there is a perverse incentive for people to choose not to acquire a nationality, so that the family as a whole can jump the queue.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Llafur, Sheffield Central

May I confirm that I heard the Minister right? Did he say that the Government and Home Office are clear that this is happening, but they cannot give any indication of the extent?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

As I have said, we are aware that this is happening. We think it is right to take steps through the Bill, so that those going through the process are not disadvantaged relative to those who are seeking to make use of this loophole.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office)

We believe that clause 9 will disentitle many stateless children who were born and grew up in the UK from their existing statutory right to British citizenship. I have heard what the Minister said. I think it would require a fair bit of cunning and conniving to conceive a child, wait for five years and not register them before applying for citizenship. This applies not just to children aged five, but to children aged five to 17. There may be many children caught up in those circumstances. We therefore strongly oppose this clause and believe that it should be removed.

Let us be absolutely clear about what the Government are trying to change with this clause. The existing law in section 36 of the British Nationality Act 1981 gives effect to schedule 2 expressly for the “purpose of reducing statelessness”. Paragraph 3 of schedule 2 is designed to prevent children born in the UK from growing up without nationality. As Ministers made clear during the passage of the 1981 Act, the provision was needed to ensure continued compliance with our international obligations under the UN convention on the reduction of statelessness, to which the Minister referred. In accordance with that convention, the provision entitles someone under the age of 22 born stateless in the UK who has lived in the UK for five continuous years at the point of application and who has always been stateless to register as a British citizen.

Clause 9 inserts a new paragraph 3A into schedule 2 of the 1981 Act for stateless children aged five to 17, requiring the Secretary of State to be satisfied that the child was unable to acquire another nationality before the child is permitted to register as a British citizen. It considers that a child can acquire a nationality where the nationality is the same as that of one of the parents, the person has been entitled to acquire that nationality since birth, and in all circumstances it is reasonable to expect them, or someone acting on their behalf, to take steps to acquire that nationality.

We oppose clause 9 because it is unethical and puts children’s rights in jeopardy. It unnecessarily restricts a vital safeguard intended to protect the rights and best interests of a small group of marginalised children born in the UK. For those affected, statelessness can mean problems accessing rights and services, denied opportunities, unfulfilled potential and a sense of never quite belonging. As worded, the new provision would give the Secretary of State wide discretion to prevent a stateless child born in the UK from acquiring British citizenship, perpetuating their statelessness. The Opposition believe that clause 9 creates an additional and unjustified hurdle to stateless children’s registration as British citizens and to satisfying the Secretary of State that they cannot secure some other nationality. This is in addition to the child having to show that they were born stateless in the UK, have remained stateless throughout their life and have lived at least five continuous years in the UK at the point of exercising their statutory entitlement to be recognised as a British citizen.

For many years, the existing requirements have together proved a high barrier to stateless children securing citizenship of the UK, which is where they were born, where they live and where they are connected to. Clarification of the relevant law by the High Court in 2017 and awareness raising by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, the European Network on Statelessness and others have enabled several children to apply to be registered under statutory provisions that are expressly intended to reduce statelessness. Prior to this, applications were so few as to be negligible. That indicates the profound inadequacy of the Home Office’s previous operation of the provision, and the strong likelihood that there have been a growing number of children living stateless in the UK, in contravention of the original parliamentary purpose, and following the UK’s international commitment to reducing statelessness.

The purported justification for the draconian clause 9 bears no relation to any matter over which the child has any control or influence, or for which they have any responsibility. It is suggested that some parents may choose not to exercise a right to register their child with the nationality of another country, and may leave their child stateless for the purpose of securing British citizenship, but no evidence has been presented for the idea that some parents may choose not to exercise the right to register their child with the nationality of another country. In any event, an application for registration of a stateless child’s entitlement to British citizenship is a complex matter, and that itself has been an effective and unjust deterrent to the exercising of the right.

The UK Government have provided no evidence to justify restricting children’s rights in such a way. In fact, the leading organisations in the field have evidence to show that stateless children and young people born in the UK already face significant barriers to acquiring British citizenship under existing law, and that has a significant detrimental impact on their wellbeing. Young people have described how their inability to acquire British citizenship leaves them feeling alienated and excluded.

It is also disturbing that the human rights memorandum prepared for the Bill does nothing more than assert that the Home Office has

“carefully considered the best interests of the child throughout the formation of all the policy given effect to in this Bill.”

It also asserts that the clause is “reasonable” and that the Department is “satisfied” that it is compatible with its international law obligations. Nowhere in any of that is there even an attempt to set out what is in the best interests of the affected children, let alone how they are addressed by the clause or how they may be considered to be outweighed by what would have been substantial considerations.

It is worryingly apparent that children and their rights are again being overlooked or ignored by the Home Office in the clause, just as they are in many other parts of the Bill. That is especially cruel given that the impact will be to leave the child stateless, possibly throughout childhood, in circumstances in which they had been born in the UK, grown up here and developed their identify and connection here alongside their peers, only to discover at some point that, however connected—in every sense of the word—they may be to this country, it rejects them in the most profound sense.

It is disturbing to hear how young people have described their inability to acquire British citizenship to various organisations working in the area. They have said that it leaves them feeling alienated and excluded. For instance, one anonymous young person in the situation said:

“When I had just become a teenager, or possibly just before, I recall feeling very left out. The school was organising a day trip to France. I couldn’t go because of my status in the UK. I didn’t really understand what this status was and why I should be different. All I knew was that my friends were going on a trip and I had to stay behind. This came up more than once.

At school and with friends I would make up excuses as to why I couldn’t go. I felt like I had to navigate all this on my own as I was trying to fit in, but I couldn’t do everything my friends and peers could do. It did not seem fair. I could change my hair or my accent and do so much else to fit in or not as I wanted, but my status was something I had no control over. I felt alienated.”

That was a young person represented by the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens.

Here is another, who said:

The UK was my home and yet it wasn’t for me the safe and secure place that it was for others. I belonged here but that belonging wasn’t safe and secure like it was for others. I grew up with these feelings and it affected my confidence. I questioned my identity because I understood I was British but that was in some way not accepted or acknowledged. I wondered where I did belong if not in the UK. I didn’t know anywhere else. I felt lost.

My struggles with these feelings continued throughout the rest of my childhood. I became more cautious with friends and other people. I worried that I might not be accepted by them and I shied away because I did not want to risk being shunned or ridiculed or rejected.”

How deeply upsetting it is to hear how those young people have been deprived of a sense of belonging and equal status in the country they call home.

I and Opposition colleagues believe that the clause, if adopted, will exacerbate existing challenges leading to the further exclusion, alienation and marginalisation of children and young people in the UK. In short, it is an affront to domestic and international law concerning children’s rights and statelessness. It is also more basically an affront to children. It will impose the most profound of exclusions on children—denial of any citizenship, particularly that of the place where they were born and live, and the only place that they know. The exclusion and alienation inflicted on children through their formative years will be highly damaging to their personal development and any feelings of security and belonging. That is why the Opposition will vote against the clause.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:15, 19 Hydref 2021

I wish to echo everything the shadow Minister said in outlining why we passionately oppose the clause. As I said in earlier speeches, and has been illustrated by many hon. Members, citizenship is fundamental to a person’s identity. It provides a status and security that no visa or immigration leave can ever match. When talking about statelessness, we may sometimes be talking about people who have neither citizenship nor any immigration status. Organisations that work with stateless kids have provided myriad case studies and examples of the dreadful impact that it can have on them. In essence, they are one of the groups most deserving of our protection and consideration—those without any citizenship at all. Without citizenship, a whole host of other rights become almost impossible, leaving that person with a huge gap in their identity, security and sense of belonging.

We talk often about children who belong to recognised stateless populations, such as Kuwaiti Bidoon, Kurds, Rohingya or Palestinians. Also, there are children who suffer from discrimination under the nationality laws of other countries—the same type of discrimination that has existed and that we have been trying to correct in British nationality law. They could be children in state care, for example, particularly if one of the parents is not available or not co-operative in proving links or nationality.

As matters stand, stateless children and young adults under 22 can register as British if they were born here, have always been stateless and meet the five-year residency requirement. Even now, it is not always a straightforward process, as has been explained by the European Network on Statelessness. Lots of hurdles remain: we have touched on registration fees, as well as lack of knowledge and awareness of the rights of stateless children and challenges in providing proof. I would be keen to rectify that, but instead, for some reason, the Home Office is taking it upon itself to erect further hurdles, making it more difficult, not easier, for children under 18 to be registered as British. Clause 9 restricts access to registration of stateless kids, and is worded in such a way that it gives a broad discretion to the Secretary of State to decline applications, which we believe is in breach of international law.

We have not heard at all from the Government today what assessment they have made of the impact that will have on statelessness. There is no doubt in my mind that it will increase statelessness among children, but that does not appear to have been weighed up in the Government’s reckoning. That is absolutely contrary to the intention of the 1981 Act, which rightly set out to reduce statelessness.

There are three key points: first, the case has simply not been made. There is a bland assertion in the explanatory notes that there have been cases where parents have made that choice. But today, despite pressing for some sort of analysis of the scale of the issue, essentially what we have been given is one extreme case, as the shadow Minister said. I am utterly unconvinced that there are lots of parents going underground and running away from the Home Office all for the sake of trying to secure statelessness in this manner. That case has simply not been made today. That is a wholly inadequate explanation. It actually reflects where Home Office policy making sometimes goes wrong: isolated examples where the rules have arguably been used for purposes slightly beyond how the Home Office would like them to be used are identified, and then an utterly disproportionate response is forthcoming, which may be able to stop those isolated cases but also stops a lot of absolutely deserving cases, and impacts on totally innocent individuals. To put it succinctly, the baby is thrown out with the bath water.

We have called for greater detail: how many cases? We need more examples than one extreme case. What, ultimately, is the problem? There was a lot of talk about queue jumping, but it does not impact on others who perhaps have to wait 10 years for registration. Their rights are not impacted at all. At the end of the day, in one extreme case, a child who has done nothing wrong may end up registered as British five years before they otherwise might be.

Secondly, on international laws, the shadow Minister says that in our view this is in breach of the 1961 UN convention on the reduction of statelessness. The Minister made the case that the UNHCR guidelines on statelessness allow a small discretion for the state to withhold conferring citizenship where the nationality of a parent was available to the child immediately, without any legal or administrative hurdles, and could not be refused by the other state concerned. However, the wording of clause 9 goes significantly beyond what is allowed in the guidance. The clause will insert new paragraph 3A into the British Nationality Act 1981, with subsections 1(d) and 2(c) both going beyond what is permissible. The former appears to allow the Secretary of State some evaluative leeway about what is and what is not possible in terms of accessing another nationality. The question is: why not leave that as a pure question of fact? The latter subsection also introduces leeway where neither the convention nor guidance allows for it. Instead, the very limited exception that is allowed is where the other nationality is available to the child immediately, without any administrative impediments, hurdles, fees or similar obstacles, so I fear that the Home Office will end up in court again.

My final and most important point is that this will cause so much more harm than good. There has been no indication at all that the Home Office has undertaken any sort of balancing exercise. Whatever problem the Home Office is trying to fix—essentially, we have had an anecdote—the damage that will be done goes way beyond it. Families will not risk a huge fee if they have all sorts of doubts about what the Secretary of State will do with her discretion. We fear that many more people risk being unreasonably refused registration, prolonging their statelessness. Where is the assessment of the best interests of the children involved? Where is the assessment of the number of stateless kids who may be impacted by the Bill? There really has been a wholly inadequate justification for it.

I have a final plea to the Minister. Even if he will not revisit the need for some sort of response to the type of case that he has identified and spoken about today, will he at least revisit how far the clause is going? As I say, it is our strong view that it might have prevented that anecdotal case from happening, but it will cause all sorts of damage way beyond that. We also think that the wording is inconsistent with the UN guidelines that the Minister has cited. If he still feels compelled to do something, he should at least revisit how the clause has been worded. Otherwise, I think he will very much regret that the outcome will simply be thousands more stateless kids in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

The UK is bound by the 1961 UN convention on the reduction of statelessness, as we have heard. That focuses on protecting the stateless child and preventing childhood statelessness. It requires only that the applicant is stateless, and not that they cannot reasonably acquire another nationality, as it says in the Bill. The UK Government say there is a problem that needs addressing through clause 9 and that would justify departing from the safeguards established by the convention, yet no evidence is offered.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East has just said, he intervened on the Minister to ask for the evidence. The Minister said he had a long speech and would come to that, but he did not do so. He gave one piece of anecdotal evidence. I know that much of the Bill will have been drafted prior to his recently coming into the role, and I appreciate that this must be a baptism of fire for him, but I ask him to look more closely at the Bill. Why introduce it, if there is no evidence that there is an increase in abuse? There is no evidence. If there is no evidence, there is no problem, and if there is no problem, there is no need for clause 9. The UK Government really must not legislate to enable breaches of the commitment in the 1961 convention and the principle of the best interests of the child in UK domestic law.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Llafur, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

I will not repeat the excellent points that have been made by colleagues, and I will try to be brief. My first point is about international law. It seems that most responsible countries strive to reduce the number of stateless children, but the Bill, and specifically clause 9, leaves people in limbo for a much longer period. It feels as though global Britain is acting in a slightly squeamish way about its international responsibilities on this issue and on other areas, so my first question to the Minister is: which other countries use a similar process, given what he has said today about how this is used in examples?

I agree with the comments just made. The Government are presenting a Bill and a clause that are based on hearsay. The Minister is asking us specifically to rely on hearsay and one anecdote. We all remember the former Prime Minister, Mrs May, talking about someone who was not evicted from this country because their human rights had been encroached because they had a cat. It turned out to be totally false; yet that was used by the then Home Secretary at a Conservative party conference to try to make a very similar point.

I would prefer having statistics and not assertions before us in Committee to justify such a huge barrier to families. I gave a figure earlier from Citizens UK that suggested that there are 900 stateless children paying citizenship application fees, so big numbers of people are affected. and it has a big impact on them. This is a new legal hurdle, which for the vast majority of children, according to the Minister, would still lead to an inevitable outcome. Even in the single case that he represented, it seems unlikely that a best interests consideration of the child involved would conclude that their best interests were served by forcing them to undergo an application to an alternative state—a country that they may never have visited.

Then there is the issue of the huge and unjust burden that the clause imposes. It imposes new costs on individuals. It imposes new bureaucracy on the Home Office and, by default, the taxpayer. The process is not free to cover. The Government are inventing yet again another bit that the Home Office has to undertake and that it could well get wrong, leading to further delays within a system that, as we talked about this morning, is already broken. It takes far too long to make even seemingly straightforward decisions, and too often makes mistakes, as I have seen through my constituency casework. Of course, this solely acts as a delay to eventual decisions. It is an extension of the hostile environment that we were told by the Government was being dismantled; yet here we have a very specific clause where a new imposition extends the apparatus of the hostile environment through the Home Office.

That imposition comes back to the fundamental legal question. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate referred to the human rights memorandum, which says that the Home Office has carefully considered the best interests of the child. Let us see that advice, please, Minister. Publish the full advice on the human rights considerations because, as was touched on this morning, in the case of R (Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens and O) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, it was specifically found by the Court of Appeal and the High Court that the Secretary of State had failed to conduct any kind of assessment of the best interests of the children.

It would be an irresponsible Government, an irresponsible Home Office and an irresponsible Minister who risked making the same mistake, at huge human cost to the families and children affected, huge administrative cost to the Department, and huge cost through legal fees and court processes, which reached the same conclusion that the Government failed to do here what they failed to do previously.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

We have had a very wide ranging debate in relation to these matters, with views expressed that are sincerely and strongly felt. I do not doubt that for a moment. Let me be clear that genuinely stateless children will still be able to benefit from the registration provisions. This change is to prevent people from benefiting by choosing not to acquire their own nationality for their child where they are able to do so.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Llafur, Sheffield Central

I thank the Minister for giving way, because it is important that he addresses the question that has been raised successively. The clause goes against the drift of the rest of part 1, which is rectifying anomalies. This potentially creates one, and one that will come to land heavily on the Home Office in the future, as well as those who will be affected by it. It is incumbent on him, before we vote on it, to explain clearly the extent of the problem. He has given only one anecdote as the justification for it. Will he use the opportunity to do that now?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. As Opposition Members will know, the way that I go about my work is to always try to be as constructive and helpful as possible. With that in mind, I will gladly write to the Committee setting out in greater detail our rationale for taking this approach, and as much information as I can to justify it.

As I say, there is a fairness issue here that we believe needs to be addressed. The MK case was cited, and it is worth recognising that in his conclusion Judge Ockelton made the comment that it opens an obvious route to abuse. We are satisfied that what we are proposing complies with our obligations under the statelessness conventions, and all our obligations that flow from that. I commend that the clause stand part of the Bill, with the very clear undertaking that I will provide the information that I have promised.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Rhif adran 7 Nationality and Borders Bill — Clause 9 - Citizenship: stateless minors

Ie: 8 MPs

Na: 7 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 7.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Craig Whittaker.)

Adjourned till Thursday 21 October at half-past Eleven o’clock.

Written evidence reported to the House

NBB16 Public Law Project (PLP) and JUSTICE (evidence on the legal aid provisions of the NAB Bill)

NBB17 Public Law Project (PLP) and JUSTICE (draft amendments in respect of the legal aid provisions of the Bill)

NBB18 Public Law Project (PLP) and JUSTICE (evidence on the wider implications of the NAB Bill for access to justice)

NBB19 Modern Slavery Policy Unit of Justice and Care and the Centre for Social Justice

NBB20 Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK

NBB21 Chagossian Voices

NBB22 Reprieve

NBB23 Families Together Coalition

NBB24 Human Trafficking Foundation

NBB25 Helen Bamber Foundation

NBB26 Australia Women in Support of Women on Nauru

NBB27 Asylum Seekers Advocacy Group (ASAG) and Doctors for Justice (D4J), Australia

NBB28 Dr Ryan Essex, University of Greenwich

NBB29 Logistics UK

NBB30 ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking)

NBB31 National Justice Project

NBB32 Associate Professor Maria O’Sullivan, Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law, Monash University, Australia

NBB33 Joint submission from the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), and Amnesty International UK re: (Part 1, Clause 9 “stateless minors”)

NBB34 UNCHR, the UN Refugee Agency

NBB35 Duke Law International Human Rights Clinic

NBB36 Justice and Peace Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

NBB37 Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney

NBB38 Statewatch