Nationality and Borders Bill: Bishop of Chelmsford questions increase of powers to remove citizenship

On 27th January 2022, the House of Lords debated the Nationality and Borders Bill in committee. The Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in the debate, raising the issue of increased powers to remove citizenship within the bill, and whether these increases were necessary:

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have already spoken. It is heartening to hear voices from across the Committee raising concerns about the proposed powers in Clause 9. My contribution will be very short.

I can well imagine variants on our current conversation happening time and again, ever since the British Nationality Act 1981, which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, brought in deprivation of citizenship. Indeed, a look through Hansard would confirm that.

Since 1981, these deprivation powers have been amended and extended, including in 2003, 2006, 2014 and 2018. Each time, the rationale provided by the Government is the same: that these are relatively minor tweaks made for pragmatic reasons, with the security of the nation in mind, and that these powers will be used only in extreme circumstances, with great caution and restraint on the part of the Government. Yet it seems that these powers are never quite enough.

The argument that they would be used in only the most extreme cases seems somewhat at odds with the 104 cases reported in 2017, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. At some point, it must surely become necessary for us to say that the Secretary of State has more than sufficient powers, given the gravity of what it means to be stripping citizenship away from people. Instead, it seems we are being asked to allow for the goalposts to be moved yet again—for the third time in less than a decade.

I will listen with care to the Minister’s response, but the accompanying factsheets of this Bill and the answers from Ministers to date do not seem to provide the necessary substantial evidence that there is a widespread problem which needs fixing; nor do they yet provide the reassurance that such new powers are proportionate or necessary, given the significant concerns that they cause among many, particularly minority groups. I hope that the Minister can reassure us with some clear evidence of the number of cases we are talking about and why it is that current powers are inadequate.


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