The SCMP today reports the debate we had last week on Hong King British National (Overseas) citizens, but on the front page may have added to the confusion that I know already exists, by suggesting that 3.5 million people might benefit from our amendment to the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. We are talking about the BN(O)s who don't have any other citizenship, so we're not including the ethnic Chinese BN(O)s, who almost in every case became Chinese at the time of the handover.
I'm waiting for the call from Lord Brett's office about the meeting he promised last Wednesday, to discuss all our amendments dealing with citizenship, with the inference that the Government would accept all or some of them. The offer was unfortunately a little ambiguous, so I wrote to the Minister after last Wednesday's sitting in the hope of clearing up any possible misunderstandings beforehand:
From Lord Avebury
March 5, 2009
You very kindly offered to discuss our amendments to Part 2 of the Borders etc Bill, in your reply to the first amendment yesterday, on the Ilois, and we were happy to accept this. However, so that there can be no misunderstanding about the basis of our discussions, I thought it would be as well if I reiterated what I had already said on the floor of the Committee, that we don’t believe that the changes we consider essential can be achieved by the exercise of discretion under S 3(1) of the1981 Act, but only by amendments to primary legislation. This must have been clear to the Government before you made the offer yesterday, particularly from what I said on the second day of Committee, amendment 608, extract attached for ease of reference . So I’m assuming that we will be able to review the various amendments we tabled to Part 2, with the expectation of either getting them approved at Report, or of the Government tabling their own amendments to achieve equivalent results.
I’m sure there is no need to recapitulate all the points made on Part 2, but you will be aware that most of them were tabled on the advice of ILPA, and I attach a copy of a helpful note from their General Secretary Ms Alison Harvey summarising the issues, which we understand has also been copied to your officials.
For good measure I also attach a note on the meeting of the Chagos APPG with Gillian Merron MP, Under-Secretary of State, the timing of which unfortunately clashed with the Chagos amendment. The formation of this Group demonstrates that there is widespread concern about the Government’s obligations to the Chagossians, and the citizenship provisions we proposed in our amendment are better than no bread!
The Lord Brett,
Government Whips Office,
House of Lords,
London SW1A 0PW
C The Lord West of Spithead GCB DSC