Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill moves to House of Lords


The Citizenship (Armed Forces) Bill completed its final stages in the House of Commons after receiving cross-party support on 17 January 2014.

This private member's bill, introduced by Conservative MP Jonathan Lord, would remedy a "discrepancy" in the law that means it can take longer for some members of the armed forces to become British citizens.

Currently those applying for UK citizenship must be in the UK on the first day of their five year qualifying period for naturalisation.

The bill would amend the Section 61 of the 1981 British Nationality Act so that foreign and Commonwealth members of the UK armed forces wishing to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen are not at a disadvantage because they were serving abroad at the start of the qualifying period

The bill would affect an estimated 200-300 serving and ex-service personnel.

"Small bill, big heart"

Opening the third reading debate Mr Lord said he hoped the bill "enables us to remove a disadvantage currently experienced by our armed forces and ex-forces personnel."

Mr Lord said that while the bill was not "of vast significance" he hoped his fellow MPs would agree that there was "an injustice in the current rules and regulations that needs to be changed."

Responding to these comments the Conservative MP for Gainsborough Sir Edward Leigh said "though it is a small bill it's a bill with a big heart"

"We should take the time in this house to iron out the unfairness which afflicts our armed forces and always to proclaim our support and admiration for what they do" Sir Edward continued.

Speaking for the opposition shadow home office minister Steve Reed said the bill had "the full support" of the Labour party.

However Mr Reed said that Labour regretted that the government had not taken the opportunity to include similar provisions in the Immigration Bill "that would have allowed MPs to table amendments on other categories of people who may deserve special consideration."

Concluding the debate Home Office Minister Mark Harper told the house that the the government supported the bill which he felt "does justice to those who have served this country".

Mr Harper told the house that the bill will effect only new foreign and commonwealth service personnel while those "already on an route to settlement will be able to continue their naturalisation under existing rules"

The bill now passes to the House of Lords, where it will be sponsored by former Defence Minister the Conservative peer Lord Terfgarne.

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