UK Continues to discriminate against children of female British citizens

Posted on December 4, 2010


On the 21st of November 2010 a long over due issue was supposedly addressed. I say addressed because it did not go far enough to give this group despite all the fights and arguments a real sense of equality.

Baroness Neville-Jones announced the following and I really thought this long injustice of being treated differently was finally coming to an end and my struggle over the last 50 years of being denied my nationality on the basis of my descent from a English and British mother would be finally addressed and justice would be done. The following is what was said in the house of Lords on the 17th of November 2010

“The House will, I hope, be pleased to hear that these proposals also introduce a fee exemption where a person makes an application for a nationality registration relying on Section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981. This will align better the position of those applicants born to British mothers with that of applicants born to British fathers. This is a long-standing grievance, which I have shared, and was a matter of great interest to this House. I hope that fulfilment of that commitment made by the previous Government gives satisfaction today.”

However the actual implementation of it still goes on to discriminate this group despite all the efforts of the House of Lords and House of Commons to remedy this long held injustice.

Despite the fact the fees were to be waived it turns out there is still a fee for a citizenship ceremony and even a good character test on those who the law says it has finally given them the right to register as British by entitlement. We are still being discriminated and treated as a separate and distinct group and there we are still not automatically British the same as either the children of British fathers or those born after 1983.

Children born abroad to British mothers did not automatically acquire their mother’s British nationality until 1983. The government only recognised this injustice in February 1979, promising to legislate to abolish it but in the meantime giving British-born women the right to register their minor children born abroad as British Citizens. Children who are older ie born before 1961 have the right of abode if born in a commonwealth country and many live in the UK. Some refused the path of naturalisation out of protest that they were required to take a “life in the UK test” and “test of English” as its a bit rideculous to suppose children of English speaking mothers would be raised speaking some other foreign language other then English. Most of these persons who live in the UK are tax payers and are very integrated in British society through blood and family ties not only through their mothers but also established by themselves. Their children and indeed grand children are all British.

In the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 limited steps were taken to address this, but these provide a means to remedy the situation by registration under what is now s.4C of the British Nationality Act 1981 only for those born on or after 7 February 1961. As a result, sibling groups may be divided. In 2006, a good character test was introduced for many categories of registration, including for children over 10 (see section 58 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, amending the British Nationality Act 1981). The original proposal was that all children, including babies under 12 months old, should be subject to the good character test. The Baroness Ashton of Upholland, who took the Bill through the House of Lords, took heed of the representations of ILPA and others. It was her own proposal that found its way into the law – that children only be subject to the good character test above the age at which they have criminal responsibility in UK law, 10 years old. You will be aware that there has been much criticism of the UK’s age of criminal responsibility for children as too low. Further concerns are caused by its having been imported into nationality law, where it breaks down the distinction between registration by discretion and registration by entitlement.It thus imposes a very harsh sanction, that of inability to become British where otherwise one would have had the right to do so, on those to whom the UK has special obligations and to children. The good character test should not apply in cases where, prior to 2006, people registered by entitlement.

One thing is clear : registration involving a good character test and/or fees, and/or bureaucratic hurdles is not registration by entitlement. In addition high fees have been introduced to discourage registration. These high fees are designed to put off from applying for registration. Registration by entitlement, giving rise to a choate right to nationality, not an inchoate right that depends upon negotiating a good character test, paying fees, and satisfying complex bureaucratic procedures, is the appropriate route those deprived of their rights as nationals without their consent and fundamental to recognising nationality as a matter separate from immigration status. Consideration could usefully be given to creating a single status for British nationals who do not wish to register as British citizens, so that they can continue to enjoy the limited rights (of consular protection) to which their historic connection with the UK has entitled them.
Preferred method: All those who have another form of British nationality be given the right to register as British citizens, free of charge.

This issue has cut right across families and has allowed a variety of different rules applied to every one depending on which generation they belong to and which year and place they were born.

Nothing has been changed and we are still not being treated as equals and the prejudices and attitudes of discrimination still continue despite the removal of the registration fees.