§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, page 1, line 7, to leave out "British subject," and to insert "citizen."
The purpose of this Amendment and the corresponding Amendments to later Clauses which appear in considerable numbers on the Order Paper is to restore the Bill to the form in which it was before it was altered in another place. The Bill as it was originally drafted centred round the conception of citizenship, and the nomenclature now used in the Bill, by substituting "British subject" for "citizen" has blurred this conception and rendered its provisions incomprehensible.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has done his best to carry to their logical conclusion the alterations that were made in another place, which had been left there in a somewhat unfinished condition. I should not like to say that even what he has done would completely fill the picture, but as I shall ask the Committee to reject that way of looking at the Bill, I cannot do more than thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the pains which he has evidently taken to see that as far as possible the Bill, if it could be moulded to his desire, would be reasonably workable.
This matter was fully discussed on Second Reading and the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby summarised his objections to the word "citizen" in four propositions which are to be found in columns 410 and 411 of the 1020 OFFICIAL REPORT for Wednesday last. His first objection was that "citizen" essentially implies the common enjoyment of civic rights and the acceptance of civic responsibilities and is not appropriate for describing the relationship and geographical situation of this country and the Colonies. The second was that citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies suggests assimilation of the Colonies with the United Kingdom. The third was that allegiance to the King in person is the all-important bond in the Colonies, where the bond is not allegiance to a political system. His fourth objection was that the creation of a separate citizenship is an encouragement to differentiation between different classes of British subjects, which is contradictory of our metropolitan tradition of giving hospitality to everyone from every part of the Commonwealth.
I think that the Attorney-General dealt adequately with those objections in the reply he made in the Second Reading Debate, but it would probably be convenient if I stated as briefly as I can, the answer which we make to each of the four objections raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If we take the first objection that citizenship essentially means the common enjoyment of civic rights and the acceptance of civic responsibilities and is not appropriate for describing the relationship and geographical situation of this country and the Colonies, I would say that citizenship is the appropriate term because it is this Parliament at Westminster which is legislating and which can only legislate for the United Kingdom and Colonies, and the area of sovereignty and citizenship are the same.
This country cannot impose a law with regard to nationality upon any other Member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Each of them is a distinct sovereign State for this purpose. We can leglislate only for the United Kingdom and Colonies, and that is what we are doing. We are not using the word in any sense different from that which it has in the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946. All that the Canadian Act does, all that we do at this stage, is to define who are the citizens of the sovereign State in respect of which the appropriate legislature is passing legislation. It would be quite possible for Canada or any other 1021 Commonwealth country to do what we propose to do, that is, to give the same rights to all classes of British subjects and not to confine them to its citizens, but that is a matter for each country to decide for itself. It will not affect in any way the structure of the citizenship law.
What the Canadian Act did was to define which existing British subjects are now Canadians and how, in future, persons will become Canadians. We are doing exactly that in our Bill. We are selecting from the sum of British subjects who are to be our citizens, and we are laying down the conditions as to how persons will become our citizens in future. What rights or obligations those citizens shall have in another country is a matter for the local legislature to decide. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, a person's rights in Edinburgh may be different from his rights in London or in Nigeria. That depends on the local law. We are not by this Measure doing other than establishing the local law for that area over which this Parliament has sovereign jurisdiction.
I come to the second objection, that citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies suggests assimilation of the Colonies with the United Kingdom. There is no question of assimilation. As my right hon. and learned Friend said in his reply the other night, the Colonies are moving towards independence. When any Colony reaches the stage of being a self-governing country, and can enact a citizenship law of its own, it will be added to Clause 1 of the Bill, just as Southern Rhodesia and Ceylon appear in Clause 1.
To take the third objection, that allegiance to the King in person is an all-important bond in the Colonies, this Bill does not alter in the slightest degree the position of various subjects of the King in the Colonies. If they so desire they can go on calling themselves British subjects. Take the last objection, it is not our intention to abandon our metropolitan tradition and the Bill cannot possibly be any encouragement to any person so minded. But the Statute of Westminster is a legislative fact of which this House must take every consideration in its discussion on this matter. Whether we like it or not now, we have said that each of the self-governing Dominions is equal with us in status inside this agreed Commonwealth of Nations.
1022 In my experience, those parents are least successful with growing families who retain too possessive an attitude towards the younger members of the family. I wonder how many families have been wrecked by possessive mothers not realising that the children have grown up. In this matter this country is now, and has been since the passing of the Statute of Westminster, one of the great self-governing parts of this Commonwealth of Nations. We must expect as our fellow nations grow in stature and experience, and as fresh nations come into the self-governing position, that they will expect that the words of our laws shall in fact coincide with the principles which have been enunciated in the Statute of Westminster.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby commented upon the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1946 and referred to the principles enunciated at the Imperial Conferences in 1930 and 1937, of which the principal one was:It is for each member of the Commonwealth to define for itself its own nationals, but so far as possible, these persons should be persons possessing the common status. …The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that the Canadian Act was passed in accordance with these principles. He added:What I am worried about is that the assumption behind the principles which I have quoted from the Imperial Conferences was that British subjecthood was the basic nationality, though members of the Commonwealth could define their own nationals or citizens confining them 'so far as possible' to British subjects …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 404.]I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has understood the change which has in fact been effected by the Canadian Act of 1946. Previous to that Act two countries, Canada in 1921 and South Africa in 1927, have enacted citizenship legislation in accordance with the principles stated at the Imperial Conferences in 1930 and 1937. The legislation passed by Canada in 1921, and by South Africa in 1927 was based on the principle that Dominion nationality is a sub-division of British nationality, a small circle within a larger. In 1947 Canada departed from this principle. She repealed her statute corresponding to our Act of 1914, and thereby abolished the larger circle. Instead she created a new 1023 species of Canadian citizens and gave them the generic term, "British subjects." Canadian citizenship is no longer a small circle within the larger. It is a separate entity.
The purpose of this Bill is to conform to this new conception of each part of the Commonwealth, including this country, having a separate citizenship, with the sum of the citizens making up the family of British subjects or Commonwealth citizens. That is the understanding we have arrived at with the other countries, and there is no reason to suppose that they do not propose to adhere to this principle in their legislation.
I know that that proposition was challenged on the last occasion and I have, since then, been in communication with the Prime Minster of Australia, who is in this country. He has authorised me to say that in the Bill which is in draft he is in agreement with what we are doing and that his Bill will be on precisely the same lines as this Bill. I hope that will remove the feeling in some quarters that this was a matter that has not in fact been negotiated between the various Governments of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question? He has just informed the House that he has seen the present Prime Minister of Australia. Were the negotiations before the interview which he has had in the last few days?
§ Mr. Ede
Perhaps I may repeat the position, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams). I am anxious there shall be no misunderstanding about what has happened. There was in 1946 a meeting of Prime Ministers in this country, at which this subject was discussed. Agreement was there reached that the various countries of the Commonwealth should proceed with legislation on these lines. The Prime Ministers suggested that there should be a meeting of civil servants from each of the self-governing parts of the British Commonwealth to consider the way in which this conception could be put into legislation. That conference of civil servants met in February, 1947. It reached certain conclusions and recommendations which were sent to each of the Governments concerned. Each of the Governments concerned expressed their 1024 satisfaction with the arrangement that had been made.
The communication which I had recently, and now report to the Committee, is one that took place because of the doubts that were expressed last week. I was not quite sure whether any consultation had been held or whether the views and proposals expressed during 1947 were still the views of the various Dominion Governments. I was trying to inform the Committee that the one Prime Minister with whom we could get into direct touch, still adheres to the views expressed by his Government, and that legislation in his Parliament is being prepared on those lines.
I hope that the Committee will realise that we are dealing here with a subject of the utmost importance. I hope that nothing I have said in the course of these discussions has indicated that I regard the matter as one of trifling concern. We are dealing with one of the manifestations of growth inside this living democratic organism, the British Commonwealth of Nations. I am sure that we are all exceedingly anxious that the older self-governing Dominions shall be entitled to feel that in our eyes as well as in their own, they have attained full nationhood. I am sure that we are quite as anxious that those new countries to whom self-government has been recently granted by this country shall also feel that inside this Commonwealth, they are not merely welcome but are recognised as being equal sovereign States with the rest of us, and that we treasure their adherence to this great family of nations.
It is unfortunate, perhaps, that the same words mean such different things to different people and that a phrase that is accepted without demur and even with pride by certain people, should be regarded by other people as having some indication of inferiority. As I said the other day, I do not imagine that any hon. Member of this House has ever had the slightest qualm in describing himself as a British subject. I have noticed sometimes when staying in Wales when looking at the visitors' book in the hotel that a number of people insist upon describing themselves as "Welsh." It has always been a great temptation to me to write "English" 1025 underneath, but I have resisted that so far and I have described myself as "British."
§ Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)
What will the right hon. Gentleman write in the visitors' book in the future? Will he write, "Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies"?
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman is not for a moment implying that there is anything degrading in describing oneself as "Welsh"?
§ Mr. Ede
No. I have pointed out that even the original British, as I understand they are, appear somehow or other not to like to describe themselves as that now. There are people inside this Commonwealth of Nations to whom the words "British subject" do not have quite the connotation that they have with us. Therefore, we have found it necessary in this Measure to make arrangements whereby they can describe themselves by a term to which they not merely have no objection but which they welcome. In order to be able to do that it is necessary that the people for whom this House legislates should accept inside the Commonwealth the position of citizenship of a particular unit of the Commonwealth. Therefore, we have decided as a result of these deliberations and conferences that the appropriate term for the people for whom this House legislates is that in the first place of "citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies."
I do not share the view expressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in some way or other the geographical sundering of the people included in this title invalidates it. I believe that the people who in the old days were described as Roman citizens in fact belonged to cities that were severed by seas in the days when sea probably divided people more than it does now. Saul of Tarsus was proud to be a Roman citizen but, as far as I know—[Interruption.] The senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) will have an opportunity later. I think that at times Saul of Tarsus was severed from Rome certainly by as much distance in time as many people who will be included in this category. It is a great recognition on our part of the responsibility we feel for the 1026 care, the nurture and the advancement of colonial peoples that we should include them in the same citizenship with ourselves. I cannot myself think that there will be other than acceptance of that position by these people.
The real effect of the Amendments made in another place was that the people of the United Kingdom and Colonies entered the family of British nationality, as it were, by prescriptive right. Other people entered through the door of the citizenship of one of the Dominions. We cannot have the equality of all the nations in the British Commonwealth of Nations if we adhere to that view. Therefore, what we suggest is that the people of this country and of the Colonies should be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and that, through that gateway, they should enter into British subjecthood or into Commonwealth citizenship, whichever term they may prefer. I assure the Committee that contrary to what was said in certain parts of the House on the last occasion, this matter has been the subject of the most careful consideration by His Majesty's Governments in all parts of His Majesty's self-governing Dominions. I know that the noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) apparently does not think very much of any of the Governments—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I am making a note of what the right hon. Gentleman is saying.
§ Mr. Ede
Of course, it is unfortunate for him that this country has ceased to be the most reactionary of all the parts of the Commonwealth. One can perhaps understand the attitude that he adopted towards these other Governments, but we believe that every one of them is as inspired by a desire for the maintenance of the traditions and the power of the British Commonwealth of Nations as are the people of this country, irrespective of party. With so great a cloud of witnesses in support of our Amendment, which we propose in order to restore the Bill to its original shape, I commend this Amendment, and those that hang upon it, to the Committee.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
The right hon. Gentleman has done me the honour of restating and considering the points which 1027 I ventured to advance on this matter, and I shall try, as fairly and squarely as I can, to meet the points put before the Committee. I should like first to deal with the first basis of this Amendment—the creation of a citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies—and then touch upon its second limb, the assumption of citizenship existing in each of the nine Dominions.
On the first point, I want to answer the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that citizenship should be equated with an area of sovereignty. I suggest that it must always be equated with some homogeneity and some true community of interest and status. The position from which one cannot get away is that the new citizenship creates a legal category for the inhabitants of these islands which does not correspond to any division of the Commonwealth. The new category is only a verbal residue to cover what is left when we have subtracted the citizens of each of the Dominions. It has no further justification in logic or in any other relevant aspect, and it does not describe any sense of community.
May I put it quite simply, and in a way in which I think hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the Committee must look at it if they are to consider the matter in its true perspective? Every citizen of this country, every inhabitant of these islands, has one pride in being British in the ordinary sense. The right hon. Gentleman has dealt with these national refinements, one of which I am very proud to hold, but, broadly, I could speak for myself as a Scot, my hon. Friend as a Welshman and my other hon. Friends from the other island behind me, when I say that we have the first pride in being British in that insular sense. The second pride which I think we all share is in being one of the family of a great Commonwealth and Empire whose solidarity is expressed in the allegiance to the Crown.
These two things are beyond dispute for practically every inhabitant of these islands, but what he has not got—and, with the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, this is the point which he has not met—what the ordinary citizen has not got is a feeling which gives him a special unity with the inhabitants of a Colony and excludes from that special 1028 unity his first cousin in a Dominion, with whom he may have played in his grandfather's house. That is the concept which the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to justify in this special citizenship. It is one which is inclusive of certain British but exclusive of others on what I suggest to the Committee is a completely illogical basis. I still think that the right hon. Gentleman will have to consider that point, because until it is considered we get into a stage of artificiality run mad.
I do not want to recall the unpleasant experiences of nearly 30 years ago and to think of the days when I used to have to pass examinations in Roman history by disputing very deeply the right hon. Gentleman's analogy from Rome, but, as he did make the point, I think it is fair to remind him that that was a creeping assimilation of citizenship which gradually became greater as the Roman territories grew.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may say "No, no, no," even three times as often, but it still will not alter the facts of Roman history, which are that citizenship was first of all confined to the Romans of the Seven Hills, later extended to Latin States, and at a later period to the whole of Italy and then to the islands, and, at a comparatively late stage of Roman history, extended to those settlements in Spain and afterwards to their conquests in the Near East to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman giving his recital of Roman history for the purposes of drawing a comparison between Roman conditions and British conditions?
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. As he at once saw, I was making the contrast. That is a quite different course of historical development from the course of our own Commonwealth and Empire, in which, as was pointed out on the last occasion, we have a process of decentralised trusteeship gradually improving the standard of life in the different parts. I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for 1029 underlining the point I was endeavouring to make, and that is the difference which I will draw. That is my first point—that there can be no justification in making this grouping, which is opposed to the insular group, opposed to the Commonwealth group and has no homogeneity or logical existence in itself.
The second point, which I make in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's reply to me on maintaining the metropolitan tradition, can be put very shortly in these words. It is wrong to invent the machinery of discrimination when we avowedly do not seek to discriminate. The right hon. Gentleman, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman beside him, have both most strongly disavowed any intention to discriminate by inventing this new citizenship. Why, then, I say—and I would suggest that it is a not unreasonable approach to the matter—are they inventing the machinery of discrimination? Up to now, I think the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me, the operative nationality has been British, but now the operative nationality is going to be the colonial citizenship, and the citizen of the Dominion, for example, Canada, becomes under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme a class of British subject with special privileges, namely, whatever the Dominion Government care to give him. In the United Kingdom, there is no point in creating that special citizenship, and so there is no point in this Amendment, unless we are going to give privileges for a special citizenship more novel than those given to other classes of British subjects.
The Attorney-General said in the course of his speech on Second Reading—and he was careful to say "as the law stands at present"—that the Measure did not deprive the Australian, for example, of his existing rights, and he expressed a pious wish, which I heartily endorse, that we shall continue to accord to noncitizens—people who have not this new citizenship—the same rights as citizens. If that is the point of view of right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, why invent the machinery which can be used in order to give special privileges, and to put them in a special position, as the corresponding class is put in a special position, in each of the Dominions? Why should we invent the machinery of discrimination? I say that there is no reason to do so, that we can proceed on the present well tried lines. If it is intended 1030 to mean nothing, as the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General have said—if it is not intended to put the new citizen in any better position, that is an excellent reason for not having that machinery and for not proceeding with this Amendment.
The third point which the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to stress today was that these proposals were not designed and not intended to affect the strength of the fact of allegiance to the Crown, and I think that the Attorney-General said the same on the previous occasion when we debated this Bill. I am sure everyone is glad to hear that confession of intention. But if that be so—and I have just indicated that they do not intend that this new citizenship should give any special rights—why, for no purpose, substitute the new citizenship for allegiance as the basis of nationality as it has existed for this country and the Colonies up to now? I want to make it clear that neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Member for North Leeds (Mr. Peake) has suggested, and none of us on this side of the Committee has for a moment had in mind, that the British Parliament should attempt to lay down the law for any Dominion or for anyone who is not recognised as being within its responsibility. The British Parliament is laying down the law as to what persons in this country are regarded as British subjects. That does not affect the Dominions, because equally any Dominion Parliament may lay down the law as to what persons by its law shall be regarded as British subjects in its country. We do not challenge that right, but just because we do not challenge that right, we say we are equally free to exercise a similar right in regard to our own country, and that is what we are seeking to do.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that there is no virtue whatsoever in having a common practice in this matter throughout the countries of the Commonwealth? Does he think the Commonwealth is unified by having a different system in each country?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I think the hon. Gentleman ought to consider the matter a little more deeply. This was thoroughly discussed in the preliminary stages on the Second Reading. The hon. Gentleman will find that I dealt with that point, and the Home Secretary and I have been 1031 anxious to keep the discussion today to this Clause, as far as possible. As the hon. Gentleman has put the point to me, I do not want to appear to dodge the answer in any way. It is this: I am saying, let us leave to every Dominion the right to decide the criteria for establishing its own citizenship. That is what this Bill does, and the hon. Gentleman cannot get away from that. By this Bill, the Dominions and this country are expressly empowered and are contemplated to take what steps they like for admission to their own citizenship.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If the hon. Gentleman thinks the contrary, he has completely misunderstood the Bill. The hon. Gentleman really must try to grasp that essential matter—that what the Government are putting forward and what he is purporting to support, is that each Dominion and the United Kingdom and the Colonies should establish their own gateway built in a manner which they alone decide, by which the citizen will come into the other stage. It is on that very basis that I am saying that our gateway should be the well-tried gateway of British subjecthood as it has existed. I do not mind whether the hon. Gentleman thinks that a strictly verbal unity is desirable in itself, as he seems to do, but I do not think that, in deference to a strictly verbal unity, we ought to create this artificiality which has no existence in common sense, and which can only, as I say, be a potential agent of discrimination. When I see a potential agent of discrimination, I try to get it out of the way, even if it does for a moment militate against the hon. Gentleman's slightly finnicky and pettifogging desire for correctitude, if he will allow me to say so without offence. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman provoked that outburst, because it has taken some of the time, but still I think he will consider that a lesson to him is one of the highest purposes to which anyone in the Committee can devote his time.
If I may for a moment pass from the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) to my next point, the Home Secretary mentioned that I had said, as I still say, that the introduction of citizenship in this way is contrary to the general flow of what has been a largely bi-partisan Colonial policy. 1032 I think anyone who listened, as I did, to a great deal of the Debate on Colonial Affairs the other day must have been struck, especially in the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and the Under-Secretary who replied, by the great measure of general agreement that there was as to the stream of development. I say—and I put it again to the right hon. Gentleman for serious consideration—that that has been a stream of development based on decentralised trusteeship. I do not want to go into details, because, if the right hon. Gentleman will remember, I did somewhat elaborate this point on the Second Reading, and I am anxious not to take up the time of the Committee. I also say that with the millions of our fellow subjects who have still a considerable way to go, as we all admit—and I say that in no carping spirit, but we know that that is the state of things—the personal loyalty to the Throne is something which we cannot under-estimate and which we ought not to ignore.
So much for the right hon. Gentleman's first group of points, with a little assistance from the hon. Member for Aston. On the next point, the right hon. Gentleman has reinforced his statement on the agreement that he has obtained from the Dominions by an account—of course, by permission—of a discussion with the Prime Minister of Australia whose presence here is such a pleasure to everyone in this Committee. I want the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to appreciate our difficulty, because I think the Attorney-General somewhat misunderstood an approach of mine in the course of my speech on the Second Reading. The last thing I had in mind was that these matters should be judged as if one were dealing with a legal agreement and the only reason I made reference to that—as I did, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall—was for this purpose. If there is no justification on ordinary grounds, the Government might purport to have a justification if they said, "We are bound to the Dominions to introduce this legislation." That was why I drew attention to the very tentative wording of paragraph 6 of the White Paper, which showed quite clearly that we are not bound to anything specific. That was the sense in which I desired to use the argument and 1033 I am sure the Attorney-General will appreciate that.
I would remind the Home Secretary that the way he put it last time was:We have reason to believe that it commands the support and adherence of each of the other Governments of the Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 391.]The Attorney-General said:As I indicated, it is not for me to say whether or not other sovereign legislatures of the Commonwealth will deal with this matter by legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948: Vol. 453, c. 499.]He went on to say:I can say that we have no reason whatever to doubt that legislation will be passed in the other Commonwealth countries and that it will be passed without delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 499.]It seemed fair from that to suppose that the actual form of the legislation had not been a matter of agreement, and I must remind the Home Secretary that we have not heard that there have been communications from the Dominion Governments—I do not think he said so, but if that is the case let him correct me at once—stating that Clause 1 will be passed by them or indicating that the present form of Clause 1 was a condition precedent to legislation.
That is one important point, and the other point is that no one has ever suggested in the Debate, so far as I can find that any Dominion country has objected to our keeping nationality of the United Kingdom and the Colonies on the basis of allegiance. Unless I am wrong on that point, then the other ground for the support of this Amendment disappears and it really comes to this: that the present form of the Bill would not change the position of the Dominions or would not in any way lessen the conception of complete freedom which we all concede is theirs, but it would mean that we should be putting the Bill in a well-tried form and not in a form which may lead to discrimination in the future and which certainly provides the machinery of discrimination. For those reasons I hope the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
I support the Amendment, but I should like to make two small suggestions in addition. I would have put down Amendments to the Amendment, but I think they would have 1034 involved a good many consequential Amendments. If I can persuade my right hon. Friend and the Committee that they are worth considering between now and the Report stage, I will willingly work out the Amendments which would be necessary.
I support the Amendment, as far as it goes, because, as I said on Second Reading, the idea of citizenship sums up the essence of the ties which bind the Commonwealth; the common attitude towards the obligations and responsibilities of citizenship is surely the thing which all members of the Commonwealth have at heart. Where it seems that the Clause as it now stands blurs that idea is the point, which has been made, where we include people of the Colonies as citizens of the United Kingdom. I think many people on both sides of the Committee feel there is too great an appearance of uniformity in that. If we could find a form of words to get round it and yet retain the difference between the genus of British subjects which the Bill tries to establish and the species, we may make it clearer. The wording I should like to suggest is that the first two lines of Clause 1 should read:Every person who under this Act is a citizen of the United Kingdom or of a Colony. …and then read on. It seems to me that although any citizen of a Colony is, of course, a British subject and therefore has rights as a British subject, those rights are in the vast majority of cases fairly theoretical. It is perfectly true that a pagan from Eastern Nigeria, who could not speak any language other than his own and was entirely illiterate, who lands in this country tomorrow, could stand for Parliament and theoretically could be elected, but it is equally obvious that he would, in fact, have to undergo a fairly long course of education before he would be able to discharge the responsibilities of British citizenship. On the other hand, the whole of our policy in all the Colonies is to encourage that very man, in his own surroundings and in his own language, to understand the obligations of citizenship, not of the United Kingdom but of Nigeria, and I should have thought that was an action to expand in the right way the species of citizenship we are establishing by this Bill.
I have been told there are legal objections, but I cannot see what the legal 1035 objections could be. It cannot surely he argued by the Government that to let the people in the Colonies call themselves citizens of the Colony is an encouragement to agitation. It is obviously exactly the reverse. A sense of citizenship is the essence of what we are trying to develop in the Colonies. If it is suggested that because they are dependent on us we must, somehow, find a form of words which implies that dependence, I suggest that the fact that a citizen of Nigeria who is a colonial, must, because he is a colonial, be a British subject, is all that is necessary in law. I suggest therefore that line 8 should read "citizen of the United Kingdom or of a Colony." That is my first suggestion.
The other suggestion I put forward with diffidence, because I know a great deal of thought has already gone into it. It has to do with the use of the word "citizen" in Subsection (2), which says:as a British subject or as a Commonwealth citizen.As was remarked by the Lord Chancellor in another place, the use of the word "citizen" there does blur the genus and the species we are trying to establish in this Bill. We are trying to make citizenship a gateway by which people become British subjects. We now say they are citizens of Australia or Canada and then, if they like to call themselves so, citizens of the Commonwealth, and that does largely detract from the idea of the genus and the species. I wonder if the word "member" would not do the job instead. Supposing it read "or as a member of the Commonwealth" instead of "Commonwealth citizen," would not that convey what we are trying to convey?
It may be argued that it is too wide a word and it may also be argued that members of the Commonwealth are the States themselves. I do not really think there ever would be a case where one was confused in what was meant in talking of member States—after all, there are member States of the United States, member States of the Soviet Union.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
On a point of Order. Are we discussing the Amendment to Clause 1, page 1, line 7, or are we having, under the guise of a Debate of that particular point, a discussion upon the broad differences between the Government and the Opposition covering the 1036 whole Bill? If we are having the latter, it seems to me that what we are now listening to is in Order, and that, indeed, that may be the more convenient way of running the discussion.
§ Mr. Crawley
Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Beaumont, made it clear at the beginning of the Debate that there was to be a general Debate on Clause 1.
§ The Attorney-General
I think that what was suggested was that we should have a general Debate on the first three Subsections of Clause 1 which cover very largely the principle underlying this Bill, and that we should then have a further Debate upon the special position dealt with in Subsection (4). I think that that is what was intended. The position of Eire does give rise to quite special considerations not affecting the matter we have hitherto canvassed.
§ Mr. Crawley
I am suggesting that the term "membership of the Commonwealth" does, in fact, convey just the sort of relationship which our general status as members of the Commonwealth is to aoquire. It has been said that there will be an increasing number of members of the Commonwealth who do not feel themselves to be British and who object to the word "subject." There will be more and more members of the Commonwealth in the future who think of themselves, not as British subjects, but as subjects of the King, and primarily as Indian subjects of the King, or Canadian subjects of the King, and so on. I suggest, therefore, that the word "membership," which does convey an idea of obligation in all sorts of different kinds of association, would be the right word to use, and that it would allow the new ideas which have to be expressed in this Bill to be included in the Bill.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
Having listened very care-full both to the Home Secretary today and to the Attorney-General when he 1037 wound up the Debate on Second Reading, I am still wholly at a loss to understand why the Government are proposing the first Amendment. The argument put forward very frequently today, and put forward frequently in the course of the Debate on Second Reading, is that the Dominions of course must enjoy absolute equality of status. Nobody questions that. That is common ground in every section of the Committee. What the Government have to show is that equality of status must involve identity of name. Even if we assume that there has to be what the Government conveniently call—or what it may be convenient to refer to as—"citizenship" defined for each particular section of the Commonwealth, and that the status of British subject in the Government's view is a secondary consequence—even then there is no reason why each separate Dominion should give the same name under its own local Act for what the Government call the gateway to entry into British subject-hood.
I gave as an example on Second Reading the form that the Act of Parliament in New Zealand, if there is an Act, might conceivably take. It might start off quite easily, without destroying the scheme of the Bill at all, "Every person who under this Act is a British subject of New Zealand—" The Attorney-General was good enough in reply to the Debate on Second Reading to say—and, of course, I accept it from him—that he had no reason to think that the Dominion of New Zealand would do that. But the point I put forward is that it is quite obvious that, if the Dominion of New Zealand elected to do that, it would be clearly acting fully within its rights and it would clearly not destroy the scheme of this Bill in any way.
§ Mr. Hughes
Would it not be nonsense to suggest that a person would be a British subject of New Zealand? British subjects are British subjects, and British subjects are subjects of the King, and the idea of citizenship is an entirely different subject.
§ Mr. Strauss
The hon. and learned Gentleman has fallen into so many muddles 1038 that I think it would be better if he developed his point, if any, when he comes to make his intervention in the Debate, and that I should not detain the Committee unduly long by replying to him. I still put it to the Government, and I would put it to the hon. and learned Member to try to think over, that if New Zealand did elect to start its Measure with the words "Every person who under this Act is a British subject of New Zealand"—New Zealand would be acting completely within its rights, and that an Act so framed would not destroy the scheme underlying this Bill.
What we are now choosing is simply this: what name, under our legislation, and exercising our own rights, we should give to our own citizens. Here, if there were any reasons to call ourselves "citizens," I agree with hon. Members in many parts of the Committee, that it is not in itself in any way a dishonourable title. I only say that we happen to prefer and to be content with the term "British subject." Here I will quote the Attorney-General himself. The Attorney-General, in winding up the Debate on Second Reading, said about the term "British subject":The term 'British subject' is unfortunately not universally accepted, partly for sentimental reasons and partly, I think, owing to logical reasons. That is a pity. For our own part we want nothing better. We are proud to describe ourselves as 'British subjects.' We regard that term as the hallmark, the emblem, the very badge of liberty—and a liberty which we intend to preserve"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 502.]Those are the the Attorney-General's words describing our own satisfaction with the term "British subject." Under this subsection of this Clause of this Bill we are discussing only what we are going to call those who are British subjects of the United Kingdom and Colonies. We are not discussing the title of anyone else. Anybody else can call himself anything he likes. It is quite clear that it does not destroy any scheme whatsoever of the Bill, or anything that has been the subject of negotiations with other Dominions, if we use the title that at present appears in the Bill. As the Attorney-General has said, we are quite content with that title.
I listened in vain during the speech of the Home Secretary today for him to give any reason for proposing this Amendment, having regard to the considerations to which I have just drawn attention. I 1039 was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman because I thought he was very wise to correct the history of the Attorney-General. He attributed the phrase, "civis Romanus sum," rightly to Saul of Tarsus and not, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did on Second Reading, to Cicero. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that Cicero could say "civis Romanus sum." No doubt he could, but history does not record that in fact he did.
§ Mr. Strauss
No doubt the Attorney-General will be very grateful indeed for the help which he has received from a slightly unexpected quarter, and, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to adopt the argument of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes), I personally shall be delighted. Here we have a phrase which is undoubtedly popular here. In the United Kingdom we see nothing wrong with the term "British subject." The Attorney-General—I have quoted his words—sees nothing wrong with it either. The Home Secretary sees nothing wrong with it. It in no way destroys the scheme of the Bill. If we leave this clause in its present form, everything which the Government seek to achieve will be achieved, and we shall have adopted the title which we prefer. The Home Secretary constantly maintained that his case was equality of status between all the Dominions. This we concede to the full, but there is no reason whatsoever why equality of status should mean identity of name.
§ Mr. Ronald Mackay (Hull, North-West)
I do not want to detain the Committee very long on this Amendment, but I wish to take up some of the points made by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), and also the points dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), which, I think, are largely covered by the points made by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby. We must try to find some phrase which correctly describes the position we are facing, for a change in description must take place. The term "British subject," 1040 which applied to all members of the British Commonwealth in years gone by, is no longer a term which can be made to apply in the first instance to all members of the British Commonwealth. The Canadians say "We do not want to be that first; we are Canadian citizens first and British subjects second." The Canadian Act of 1946 did not start that development; it really began with the Act of 1920. We had a conference of experts on this matter in 1947 and previously a Prime Ministers' Conference. They agreed that a new position had to be taken up with regard to the way in which we describe members of the Commonwealth for each of the respective Dominions, including the United Kingdom, as a Dominion, and members of the Commonwealth for the whole area of the Commonwealth. Whereas in days gone by we had one phrase or word for both cases, we are no longer in that position today.
Let me take the three points which the right hon. and learned Member made. It is important that we should try to come to an issue on the points raised. He took up the question that citizenship implies homogeneity and common interests, and he pointed out that in the past we all had a pride in being British and that we are all of one family. That is perfectly true. But now some of the members of the family have decided that they want to specify their identity by the place where they reside and not by the fact of their inheritance. That is why the word "citizen" has come up to be applied. This deals with the question of the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities when he gave the example of New Zealand. One can make the assumptions given in the example, just as one can say that the moon may fall and hit the sun tomorrow, but it is not something that is going to happen. This illustrates the fact and the extent to which in the Commonwealth, if we are to get common legislation then it has to be agreed legislation. I am not dealing with the colonial aspect at this moment, for that is different from the question of the United Kingdom. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that there can be no justification for this grouping of people together because we are not dealing with either an island or a 1041 Commonwealth when we take as our territory the United Kingdom and the Colonies.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
Is the hon. Member passing from the point I made? He may be quite right when he says that the Dominion of New Zealand is not going to do what he said it is not going to do. The point I put was that if it did, it would in no way wreck the scheme laid down by this Bill.
§ Mr. Mackay
So tar as we can determine we know what the Dominion is going to do, for there has been a conference for the purpose of deciding what is to be done in each Dominion. Previously there was a conference which resulted in the British Nationality Act, 1914, which in the main was applied in every Dominion in a way which carried out the arrangements made. If the Dominion of New Zealand used the term "British subject," it would break the whole conception of this Bill completely.
At the moment, we have to decide whether we are to have two phrases to describe the different people of the British Commonwealth of Nations or one. Up to 1935 or 1940, or up to the Statute of Westminster there is no doubt that there was only one. We were all British subjects whether we were born in Australia, Canada or New Zealand. Now there are two levels. On one level there are Canadian citizens, Australian citizens, New Zealand citizens, and citizens of India, of Pakistan and of Ceylon. That is one level, and the sum of this gives us the second level and makes up a British subject. At the moment the people of the United Kingdom are occupying a different position in this new arrangement. The Opposition are trying to get them on a second tier when they have to be on the first tier first, and from the first tier they can pass to the second.
We are in this position: there is an area of 12 parts; eleven break away to call themselves citizens of different kinds and, having done that, we in the United Kingdom are left with a position on the old level. Eleven countries take on the title of citizenship as the first way in which they are to be described, and the people of the United Kingdom are still calling themselves British subjects. But that is now going to be a term which applies to the other eleven on the second level. It 1042 is a wider term than Canadian citizen or New Zealand citizen as the case may be. "British subject" embraces all people in the Commonwealth. It cannot be confined to the people in this island for whom we need a new name. I think that we have to face this position. I accept the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that citizenship implies a certain amount of homogeneity.
§ Mr. John Foster (Northwich)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that under Clause 12 there is a category of willing subjects without citizenship? Is that one tier instead of two?
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mackay
I appreciate that. It is one of the anomalies which this difficult problem of nationality gives rise to, but it does not get away from the fundamental point that 99 per cent. of the United Kingdom has been covered by the new definition.
I want to deal with the question which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to—this problem of homogeneity and the fact that we desire to be British subjects. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to face the fact that now that the Dominions have grown up in the way they have, the conception of citizenship or subjecthood, whatever name is used to describe the nationality of the people of these islands, has to be changed in consequence, and that is the natural result of the fact that we are trying to keep together in our Commonwealth a whole lot of people who are completely separate with individual Governments. The right hon. Gentleman said that there is no need to invent machinery for discrimination when we do not want discrimination. Why have machinery to discriminate at all? Then he said that in the case of Canada there was a legal discrimination because they wanted it and in the case of Australia a legal discrimination because they wanted it. He asked why we should create citizenship of the United Kingdom when we do not want it. I accept the basis of that argument, but we should realise that we are not in a position to do that because the other Dominions do not want us to do that. They do not want us to be only British subjects, but they want to be (a) Canadians first and (b) British subjects after. They ask us to alter our law in order that we should be United Kingdom citizens first and then 1043 British subjects so that all the peoples in the Commonwealth shall all be in the same position.
I hesitate to put this point, because I may overstate it, but hon. Members and people living in this country have to realise that if we are going on with the conception of the Commonwealth as it has developed we have to change our attitude on many of these matters. One may say that it is a "dog in the manger" attitude, but the Dominions want us in this island to be in the same sort of category, definition and position as they are. We cannot be the only people called British subjects because the term is wider than the term "Canadian citizen." We must be a citizen of some kind first.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Will the hon. Member deal with the point—he came to the well but did not drink the water—about homogeneity? Does he really say that an Australian, Canadian, New Zealander, or South African would want us to be placed in this artificial citizenship, which may be discriminatory and has no logical basis?
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
What is the position of the ordinary inhabitant of a colony? What position does he take up, that of a citizen here, or a position vis-à-vis the Dominions?
§ Mr. Mackay
With respect, I will leave that for a moment. I wish to deal with the matter, but I do not want to confuse the issue of homogeneity with the colonies. I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby for having put the point in a categorical and clear way because that is the position I am trying to put to the Committee. People in the Dominions resent people in this country trying to be more British than they are. I think the New Zealander for instance is probably a much more British person than many people in the United Kingdom. In the development of the Commonwealth they wish to be Canadian or Australian citizens. It is fair to say that probably some of the other Dominions have been forced into the position by Canada. Of course India and Pakistan came into being after the conference of experts and it 1044 would be misleading to say that they were pressed into taking this attitude, although it is obvious that it would be one of the ways in which they would be kept in the Commonwealth and this Bill has an important part to play in that process.
The Canadian, having taken the line that he wants to be a Canadian citizen and a British subject, says—perhaps quite unfairly, but this is the sort of anomaly that arises in this flexible organisation where there is no common Parliament—"In this arrangement, if there is to be a Canadian citizen and if we are to be British subjects you must adopt a new name, because you are not the only people who are to be British subjects."
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
Is the hon. Member stating this as a fact? Did it come out of debate on the Canadian Bill?
§ Mr. Mackay
I am not stating it as a matter of fact, but as a matter of argument and a matter of what I think is the opinion of many people in the Dominions who raised this question at the conference of experts. I think it represents the feeling of the Dominions at the conference. It is an enormous pity that we have not the reports which went back to all the Dominions' Parliaments. If we had those reports, we would know much better where we were. We should like to know what resolutions were passed and what individual Governments proposed as Canada was taking up citizenship and there were to be two descriptions. These are things on which we should have information, but on which we have no information. I should not like to mislead the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) into thinking I was stating facts; I am stating things as I see them.
It is asked why we should invent machinery of discrimination in this country and why we should bother to do it. My reply is that the Dominions are asking us to do so and they say, "You have no right to the term 'British subject' on your own. We have a right to use it, but as a secondary description. We do not want you to use it as a primary description, but as a secondary description. The primary description for us is a Canadian subject. You must be a citizen of the United Kingdom. That being so, it is for you as part of the team to come down from the superior position you have 1045 occupied because you have been the country from which British subjects have gone out, and you must realise that there is a need for discrimination. In the future we wish to be on the same level of description or described in both categories as United Kingdom citizens would be."
The right hon. and learned Member argued that it was for the Dominions to say what they liked in their determination of the form they would apply and they had a right to decide for themselves the nature and form of their citizenship. Here again the same sort of problem arises and if the basis of the argument I am putting is accepted it follows that we must change the name given to the people of this country. The question of the colonies is a separate matter. I ask hon. Members to face the fact that we cannot throw off responsibility. If we build up an Empire we have to shoulder responsibilities. I could give a quotation on that subject, either a Latin quotation or a Greek quotation, but I shall not do so, lest I attribute it to the wrong person.
We cannot throw off responsibilities. It may be that in shedding some of our Empire we have done the right thing; I think we have. But the colonial territories are part of the domestic concern of the United Kingdom and they cannot be separated from it. When they become self-governing independent states they can be given a citizenship and a name by which to describe themselves. But, until that happens, they are in the position of being British subjects as much as people ill this country. If because of Commonwealth relationships it is necessary to change the names of British subjects into United Kingdom and British subjects that must in logic apply to Colonial peoples as well. It would not be fair or right to the colonial peoples to give them the right of citizenship qua their own country until we arrive at the time when they are to have full Dominion status. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, dealing with this whole question is his original speech on the Second Reading, said:We stand by the present form, that is 'British subject,' with the addition of the words 'of the United Kingdom and Colonies.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 409.]I appreciate the point that if the expression "United Kingdom British subject" is to be used it will be applied to the Colonies as well as to the United 1046 Kingdom. It is because of the term "citizen" that objection is raised to using that word for the Colonial peoples.
There again, I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is facing the facts, or the changed position in which we find ourselves. I do not think that many hon. Members are facing the fact that the Dominions are taking the attitude which they are taking, and that the United Kingdom has to revise her position, to shrink if you like—that is what it is, in a sense—in name which must be used for her own description. We cannot desert or run away from the Colonies when we are adopting our new name or title. They must stay in the same position as the people of this country. For that reason, I ask the Committee to accept the Amendment, which I think is an enormous step forward in the development of the whole Commonwealth.
For ten years I have listened in this country to people who often do not realise what the implications of the term Commonwealth are. Many people have for long given lip service to the idea of the Commonwealth and have talked of the Commonwealth as a great conception, without realising all the implications and the obligations upon the people of this country. We have to recognise the growing pains as well as the changed position of the Dominions. For the first time, the Dominions are saying: "In order that we can have the individual status that we want for ourselves, the old country will have to change hers." That is a concession which is being rightly given, and it will do an enormous amount to cement the bonds of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
I think my hon. Friend said that the Dominions were expecting this country to give up the expression "British subject" and that we must no longer have a monopoly of it. How does he reconcile that statement with subsection (2) of the Clause?
§ Mr. Mackay
I do not think that is so. People in this country do not sufficiently understand that the word "subject" is resented in other parts of the Commonwealth, such as in India and Pakistan. The provisions of the Bill on this point have been put in to overcome that resentment. There are people in the Dominions 1047 who want to be called British subjects as their second description. There are others who do not want to be so called at all, but are quite prepared to be called-Commonwealth subjects. The alternatives are put into the Bill in order to give to the people of the Commonwealth a secondary description which they may care to choose.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I am rather surprised that such a good Commonwealth man as the hon. Member for North-west Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) should have apparently mistaken the important principle of the Statute of Westminster that this House and this Parliament have as much right to legislate for our own people and those dependent upon us as the Parliaments in the Dominions have to legislate for themselves. I cannot think that any people in the Dominions whose right we acknowledge to call themselves, for example, Canadian citizens, in the first place, and Commonwealth citizens or British subjects in the second place, would in any way resent the people of this country calling themselves British subjects and, in the second place, either Commonwealth citizens or British citizens. It does not seem to me to make sense. I hope in all seriousness—because we respect his general knowledge and attitude towards Commonwealth affairs—that the hon. Gentleman will reconsider what he said in the light of those remarks.
On an occasion like this, when the delicate relationships of the Commonwealth are being discussed, it is good for us to attempt to find out what it is that both sides of the Committee are trying to achieve. Obviously we are trying to legislate for our own people and the British Colonies. We declare the right of our Dominions to legislate for their own peoples. About that there is no disagreement on either side of the Committee.
§ The Attorney-General
I would not like it to be thought for a moment that we are doing anything of the kind. That was done a long time ago. Hon. Members opposite do not always recognise it.
§ Mr. Renton
Perhaps the word "declare" was wrong. Implicit in whatever law we may pass on this occasion is an acknowledgement of the rights of the Dominions to legislate for themselves. 1048 In co-operation with the Dominions, now or hereafter according to the result of the Bill, we shall be determining the wider status inclusive of the Dominions, the Colonies and the United Kingdom. As to that wider status there appears to be no dispute. Indeed, it is already in the Bill both as amended in another place and as it will be if the Government Amendments are passed. The double expression of that wider status is in "Commonwealth citizen" and "British subject." There is no dispute about that.
The dispute between the Opposition and the Government on this occasion really narrows down to a question of the expression which is to be used for the description of people who are members of the populations of the United Kingdom and the Colonies. With all respect, I do ask hon. Members opposite to bear in mind that the controversy between us is of that very narrow character, when they are considering the merits of this matter. With regard to which expression should be used, I have carefully read and re-read the speeches of both the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I have listened carefully to the Home Secretary today. I cannot find any positive evidence from either of those speeches that there is an overwhelming desire in this country or in the Colonies for the change which is proposed by the Government. We have not had any evidence from the Government that Governors or Prime Ministers of the partly self-governing Colonies have been consulted and have expressed views about this matter. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends has whispered to me that I am not right about that.
§ The Attorney-General
The hon. Gentleman is certainly wrong. My right hon. Friend said, and I said not once, not twice, but many times, and in fact it has been repeated today, that this matter was the subject of a conference between the Prime Minister and the Commonwealth countries, and that that conference was followed by a conference of their experts, who reported to them on the matter. Indeed, my right hon. Friend went even further today and said that only in the course of the last few days the Prime Minister of Australia had indicated that they were going ahead with legislation on those common lines.
§ Mr. Renton
We may be at cross purposes. I do not dispute that the Dominion Prime Ministers and the Dominion experts have expressed their views in conjunction with the Government. I am saying that we have no positive evidence that the Colonial Governors or Prime Ministers, of places like Kenya, shall we say, were brought into such discussions. If the Attorney-General's expression "Governments of the Commonwealth" includes the Governments of the Colonies, then I must withdraw what I said, but I did not understand it to do so.
§ The Attorney-General
The hon. Member is quite right. It did not include them, and it was not meant to include them. My recollection is—and I have not read my speech since—that I said, and I certainly intended to say what has been said more than once in another place, that every Governor of every Colony had been fully consulted, and all the Governors were unanimously in agreement with the scheme involved in this Bill.
§ Mr. Renton
That is certainly information we need to know, and which I, for one, did not understand from the speeches which have been made. That being so, I must confess that it causes me to some extent to modify the view I am expressing, but, nevertheless, I seriously wonder whether this issue has been put in a very full way to the Governors of the Colonies. It would be interesting to know the terms upon which any question on this matter was framed. It would be interesting to know whether the full implications of their answers were really understood by them, and whether they realised at the time they gave their answers that as a result of any evidence collected from their answers the whole conception of allegiance to the Crown, which is a vital matter in the government of the Colonies and is well understood by the native people, would undergo a superficial change. I think we should know these things, bearing in mind that the controversy between the two sides here is a narrow one, and that it is to a very large extent on this very question.
So far as the people of this country are concerned—and their views are not unimportant in this matter—we should bear in mind that there has never been any opportunity to put the matter to them. I do not recollect this matter being 1050 raised at the last General Election; it is unlikely it would have been raised because the controversy arose over the Canadian Act, 1946. I do not think there has been a very great opportunity since this Bill was first introduced in another place for Members to go round to their constituents and to tell them that the proposition is that they are to be called "citizens" instead of being called "subjects," as they have always been willing to be called, and which the Government realise they are willing to be called. In the absence of strong reasons that the people of this country wish for a change of the kind proposed, I suggest that we should not on this occasion impose this change upon them.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
When I came here this afternoon I was rather hoping that I should be convinced by the Home Secretary as to the rightness of his attitude in this matter, but I regret to say that I am far from convinced. I do not regard this in any sense as a party matter. I do not think anyone would wish to do so, or should do so. We have to look at this thing objectively and form our own opinions on it. Although I am still very ready to be convinced, and I hope the Attorney-General will convince me on certain matters I am going to raise, I have been extremely worried about the form of this Bill and by the Debates which have taken place on it in another place. There are certain question marks in my mind. It has been said that we must legislate, and I think it is said in general that we must legislate because Canada legislated, and that we must legislate according to a certain formula because a rather obscure conference of experts laid down this formula.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay) went a little further just now and suggested that the other Dominions were expecting us to legislate, and to do so exactly on these lines. I cannot accept or swallow all of that. I cannot think that we have to be dictated to by any conference of experts, even if they reached unanimity. I know all the old Dominions and their peoples fairly intimately, and I cannot accept that they or their representatives would say, or are likely to have said to us, that we must accept this two-tiered system. Nor do I think there is any weight in the suggestion that we must get 1051 this thing tidied up and have it according to a neat pattern. We just do not run an empire or international arrangements and agreements in that way, and certainly our attitude to the Empire has, I am glad to say, never been in that form, and I hope it never will be.
The fact is that we were told constantly in another place that we have to get this thing tidied up. If tidying up means forcing a thing to conform to a formula which many of us believe to be extremely unwise, I hope that we shall leave the thing very untidy. It seems strange to me that the Government, having apparently got this scheme from the experts quite a long time ago—the conference was held over a year ago now—should now suddenly bring in this new factor, that is Clause 1 (2) which was introduced only after the Bill had been brought into the House of Lords. It seems extremely strange that into a cut-and-dried scheme agreed to by all parties we should bring in this alternative expression "Commonwealth citizen" to "British subject." If we are looking for a neat and tidy scheme, that certainly makes it extremely untidy.
The Home Secretary talked about having blurred the lines of the agreement, and certainly I think that Subsection blurs the thing very considerably. The scheme was that citizen was the species and subject the genus, and now for the genus we have either subject or citizen. If anything is a blur, that certainly is. Section 26 of the Canadian Citizenship Act, 1945, states:A Canadian citizen is a British subject.Under this new arrangement, they could have said that a Canadian citizen is a Commonwealth citizen, and when New Zealand legislates, it may well be that according to this latest formula, which confuses the whole issue, she will legislate that a New Zealand citizen is a Commonwealth citizen, which not only seems an extraordinary jingle but gets us nowhere. That Subsection has blurred the whole issue. The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) made a valid point when he said we have no guarantee at all that New Zealand will adopt this expression "citizen of New Zealand." We are told it is unlikely not to be the case, but we must envisage the possibility that they will not do that at all, but may use some 1052 other expression in regard to British subjects in New Zealand. If they do that, under the Bill as it now stands, when they come to this country they will not be British subjects at all, and they will not be recognised.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I have no doubt that the Attorney-General will reply to this point later, but my reading of it—and I think it is accurate—is that the person would have to be a "citizen" of New Zealand before he could be accepted here as a British subject. If, instead, he is a "British subject in New Zealand" he would not be recognised as a British subject here. I agree with the -view put forward in certain quarters—