Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 28th Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage & Report stage: Part 1

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, add hugely important safeguards to Clause 9, but subsections (5) to (7), which are set out on page 12 at lines 13 to 19, would remain in place and appear to make lawful what is clearly unlawful. The secret power to deprive citizenship without notice and/or appeal threatens our cherished British values of fair play and the rule of law. It would also risk unduly affecting ethnic minority communities. Subsections (5) to (7) seek to instruct the courts to treat past unlawful deprivations as if they were lawful, even where the courts have found that these actions failed to comply with statute at the time when they were made.

Parliament, it seems to me, is being asked to condone a disregard for the law by those Ministers who took away British national citizenship when it was illegal to do so. If these provisions remain in the Bill, a series of unlawful deprivation orders made against young women from minority ethnic communities will not be subject to any scrutiny whatever. This cannot be right.

It seems clear from what has been said so far on this clause that the most profound concerns still relate to Clause 9 as a whole and—although the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, alters the whole tenor of the Bill and grateful thanks are due to the Minister for enabling this—the concerns remain. These clauses would create a secret power. Clause 9 goes well beyond cases where the Government cannot provide notice. According to the Policy Exchange think tank, at no point in the last century has it been thought that national security called for depriving British citizens of their citizenship without notice. We cannot see the case for this now, at a time when our closest allies, such as the US, are warning that depriving individuals of citizenship is not an effective way to fight terrorism.

The main issue in this group of amendments is whether Clause 9 should remain part of the Bill. My suggestion is that it should be removed to create certainty and clarity. It seems to me that the optimal solution would be to remove this clause altogether, not only because, as it stands, it is contrary to British law and indeed to parts of the UN refugee convention, but because this clause—as well as new subsections (5) to (7) proposed by the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson—seem to enable further restrictive orders, something that we as a scrutinising Chamber should avoid at all costs. Therefore, while I will of course support the noble Lord’s amendment, I will also seek to move my amendment, which would leave Clause 9 out.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and I agree with what she said and that, although the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, have made Clause 9 less bad, it is still a bad clause that should disappear from the Bill. When introducing this group, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said that these amendments were all about Clause 9. I would rather say that my Amendment 22, to which I will speak, was provoked by Clause 9. One thing revealed in public debate—and there has been an enormous amount of public debate around Clause 9—is the fact that so many people had not realised that what the Minister described earlier as the “warm embrace of citizenship” can be taken away, and that there is profound discrimination in the way that this can happen.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, talked in Committee talked about two-tier citizenship; I talk about it as two classes of citizenship. I regret that I was not able to take part in Committee; I thank my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb for very ably speaking for me. However, there are about 6 million Britons—I declare an interest as I am among them—who, because of another citizenship or their descent from people who came to Britain and chose to be Britons, have second-class citizenship. It can be taken away by the Government and, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, just outlined very clearly, we have seen a very rapid and considerable escalation of the ways in which that power can be, and has been, applied.

My Amendment 22 makes one exception. If someone attains citizenship by means of fraud or misrepresentation, obviously, the power should remain for that citizenship to be taken away, but if that citizenship has been acquired honestly, my amendment says that it cannot be taken away. I suggest to your Lordships’ House that this is the only way that we can ensure that every British citizen is the same class of citizen and treated in the same way. Given that people who have, or have access to, alternative citizenships come from migrant backgrounds, the discrimination in how this is applied is very obvious. I note from having read the Hansard report of Committee very carefully that the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, expressed support for this. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for also expressing support in principle for the idea that there should be only one class of citizenship and the Government should not be able to take it away.

I can imagine the response I might hear from the Minister: what about someone who is a security threat? If we have given millions of people British citizenship, we have benefited from the contributions, of all kinds, that they have made to the UK. Should we be able to say, “This person’s a problem so we’re going to get rid of them”, and make them someone else’s problem? If a person is a security threat to the UK, they might well be a security threat to the country that they hold citizenship for and that we send them to. Why should we be able to dump our problems on someone else?

I find myself torn. I aware of the desire in your Lordships’ House to take away some of the worst elements of the Bill, but I also find myself supported by many people in civil society who say that they want to ensure that there is one class of citizenship. I have said to all the relevant authorities that I will reserve the right to call a vote on this, because I find it a matter of principle on which it is very difficult simply to withdraw the amendment. I would really like to hear everyone’s position on this, particularly the Front-Bench speakers—I hope one of the Lords spiritual might contribute—and everyone’s explanation of whether they believe there should be two classes of British citizenship. Having heard that debate, I will make a decision about whether to push Amendment 22 to a vote.