On 28th February 2022, the House of Lords debated the Nationality and Borders Bill in the first day of the report stage. The Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Baroness D’Souza to remove clause 9 from the bill. Clause 9 would have, in limited cases, removed the existing requirement for the government to provide notification prior to removal of citizenship:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: Thank you. My Lords, I am grateful for the suggestion that the House might like to hear from the Lords spiritual. I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, which proposes that Clause 9 should not stand part of the Bill. We debated this at some length in Committee. It is somewhat disappointing that the Government have not taken the opportunity to reconsider more fully. I will not delay the House by repeating the arguments, but I will briefly speak about trust.
The Government seem genuinely confused by the level of opposition that the clause has triggered, but this should not have been surprising because I am afraid that it is symptomatic of a serious breakdown in trust between the Home Office and society groups, particularly minority ethnic groups, as we have heard. The response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review promised a new culture in the Home Office—one that was more compassionate, that saw faces behind the cases and would rebuild and enhance
“public trust and confidence in the Home Office”.
The Bill as a whole does not do much to create the impression that this new culture has been embedded. Trust is hard to build and very easy to lose. On the issue of deprivation of citizenship and the treatment of minorities, trust is sufficiently low that any new changes to these powers must surely come with a compelling and overwhelming demonstration of a serious and widespread problem that needs to be solved.
I remain unconvinced that the Government have demonstrated that there is a sufficiently major problem that existing powers do not address. I am quite convinced that the impact this clause will have—indeed, already has had in continuing to undermine trust between the Home Office and civil society—is serious enough that the Bill would be greatly improved by Clause 9 being removed in its entirety. Having said that, I have heard the words of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. He provided a compelling and informed case for his saving amendments. I will listen with interest to the Minister’s response.
Extracts from the speeches that followed:
Lord Paddick (LD): However, were the House to divide on taking Clause 9 out of the Bill, we would, along with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, support that Division. At the end of the day, the Government should be taking ownership of the actions of British citizens, including terrorists overseas, ensuring, wherever possible, that they are extradited to the UK to stand trial, rather than depriving them of British citizenship, preventing them returning to the UK, and making them some other country’s problem, whether with notice or not. However, while therefore agreeing with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, has said, we are unable to go so far as to support her amendment, as there could be exceptional cases where, as a last resort, citizenship should be removed.
Lord Rosser (Lab): It is unlawful to deprive someone of their citizenship and leave them stateless. Even so, the Home Office is still on record that British citizenship
“is a privilege, not a right”.
Yet without citizenship people do not have rights, and we are talking about significant rights. It has been estimated that nearly 6 million people in England and Wales could be affected, and that under this proposal two in five British citizens from an ethnic minority background are eligible to be deprived of their citizenship without being told, since they have, or may have, other citizenships available to them—I think that was the basis of the comment about two classes of citizenship—compared with one in 20 characterised as white. That is a sobering consideration for the Government, or should be, when looking at the merits or demerits of Clause 9, not least in the light of how the Secretary of State and the Home Office in the D4 case interpreted and implemented the requirement to give prior notice under the law as it exists at present. What would be tried if Clause 9, even as amended by the amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, gave the power not to have to give prior notice?
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford raised the issue of trust, or rather the lack of it, among society groups. The Government ought to reflect very carefully on that in considering whether Clause 9, even as amended, should remain in the Bill. I have to say that as far as we are concerned the case has not been made for Clause 9, even as amended, to remain in the Bill, and we shall certainly be looking for an opportunity to vote against it.
Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con, Home Office): The House will recall that we debated this matter at length in Committee. I say now, as I said then, that inaccurate and irresponsible media reporting continues to fuel fear and concern about how Clause 9 is to operate. I will repeat what I said then, starting with my noble friend Lady Verma: the deprivation power itself is not altered. Clause 9 does not alter the reasons why a person is to be deprived of British citizenship and we are not stripping millions of their citizenship.
To answer the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and others, Clause 9 does not target dual nationals, those from ethnic minorities or particular faiths, or indeed women and girls; there is no secret decision-making, and law-abiding people have nothing to fear from Clause 9. It is simply about the mechanics of how a deprivation decision are conveyed to the individual concerned.
To answer the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, the deprivation power is compliant with the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the 2014 power has never been used. To answer the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, Lord Rosser and Lord Paddick, deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm. It is not for minor offences. Deprivation on fraud grounds is for those who obtain their citizenship fraudulently and therefore were never entitled to it in the first place. Decisions are made following careful consideration of advice from officials and, in respect of conducive deprivations, lawyers, and in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, as I said. To answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, two in five UK citizens are not high-harm individuals.
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