Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Murphy of Torfaen during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 4th Apr 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Murphy of Torfaen
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, my Motion B1 also falls in this group. I start by saying how welcome the safeguarding concessions that have been or will be incorporated into the Bill are. But there is still unfinished business. Very simply, my Motion seeks to delete the retained subsections (5) to (7) on the grounds that these clauses maintain a legal fiction that deprivation orders issued without notice continue to be valid, despite court rulings to the contrary. It is accepted by the courts that it is unjust to strip a person of his or her citizenship and all the associated rights without ever providing notice. Retaining subsections (5) to (7) seeks to overturn that ruling by legislative fiat. Instead of invalidating previous deprivation orders that were made unlawfully, the Government appear to wish to apply retrospectively these earlier orders.

The Minister, who was kind enough to write to me at an earlier stage of the Bill, justified these orders by pointing out that the proper functioning of the immigration system cannot be hijacked because an individual chooses to remove himself or herself from contact—or where to make contact might reveal sensitive intelligence. The Minister said that we cannot be in a position where we can never deprive someone of citizenship simply because it is impractical. Since then, the Government have accepted in principle amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which the Government assert achieve the right balance between safeguards and security.

I respectfully suggest that this is not what my amendment is about; rather, it is about holding to decisions and actions on orders to deprive citizenship without notice that have subsequently been declared unlawful. Thus the safeguards now included, or to be included, in the Bill will not affect deprivation orders made before commencement. This appears to be unjust. It is also puzzling. If the Government accept that safeguards are necessary, why not apply them to all deprivation orders? Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 sets out individuals’ statutory right to be notified when being deprived of citizenship. The Government’s disregard for this right led to legal rulings, including from the Court of Appeal. Therefore, the retention of subsections (5) to (7), which we are discussing today, could be seen as bringing the rule of law into question. It most certainly creates two tiers of citizens subject to deprivation orders: those who benefit from the so-called Anderson safeguards and those who do not—namely, those still under pre-commencement orders.

I am not arguing, and have never argued, against deprivation orders, which may be acutely necessary. Process is the issue. Excluding the subsections in my amendments would not deny the Government the right to reconsider their earlier decisions together, in some cases, with the benefit of new evidence, particularly that which involves evidence of human trafficking, and to remake deprivation orders where necessary.

Removal of subsections (5) to (7) would immediately achieve two desirable and extremely important outcomes: it would bring the Government into conformity with the rule of law and it would extend proper safeguards to those who continue to be at risk from previous unlawful actions.

Lord Murphy of Torfaen Portrait Lord Murphy of Torfaen (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall speak to my Motion T1, which refers to the electronic travel authorisations to which the Minister referred. The amendment would make anyone who was legally resident in the Republic of Ireland able to travel to Northern Ireland without such an ETA. This issue was discussed both in Committee and on Report. The House agreed with those of us who argued that this was wrong, but of course the House of Commons has not. The arguments remain the same. I was hopeful that the Minister, who I am sure will have spoken to her colleagues at the Northern Ireland Office, would make some concessions on this matter. However, the dead hand of the Home Office is there again.

This troubles me for a number of reasons. First, it jeopardises strand 2 of the Good Friday agreement, which refers to north/south co-operation between the two parts of the island, which was vital when the agreement was negotiated. It affects tourism, as the Minister referred to. She said that tourism was a good thing. We all agree with that, as do all the stakeholders, but the Government have to do something to ensure that it remains a good thing. If we charge €14 for an ETA—with the bulk of American tourists, for example, coming from Dublin to go to the north of Ireland to enjoy the great pleasures of tourism there—that is going to be a question of jeopardy as well.

In addition to that, and perhaps more significantly for those who live in both the north and the south of the island, there is the issue of health. Many people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic travel the border to go to the best place for the particular ailment or disease from which they are suffering. Particularly up in the north-west of Ireland, the co-operation between the two Governments is immense. I would be troubled if someone who was not necessarily an Irish or British citizen but was legally resident in the Republic was not able to take advantage of those co-operation decisions by both Governments.

The other issue here is work. It is quite possible that someone could work in the Republic and live in the north, or vice versa, who was not an Irish or British citizen but was legally in the Republic because of their membership of the European Union .

Secondly, there is an issue with regard to the spirit of the Good Friday agreement, which in my view has been jeopardised by this government decision. The border is different in Ireland; it is not like any other border in the European Union. Although I do not normally read tweets, I read one the other day from the noble Lord, Lord Frost, who had got worked up about this issue and was talking about the fact that the Irish Government did not seem to think this was an international border between two countries. What does he think we were doing for year after year when we negotiated the Good Friday agreement and the St Andrews agreement? We were dealing with the border as part of the peace process. There are 300 crossings along that border with no apparatus to check people, yet now we get a completely different way in which people must apply to the bureaucrats in order to cross it.

The border is a great symbol on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, which is why the border being put down east/west has caused such a fuss. But the reason why this proposal by the Government is simply daft is that it is unenforceable. The Minister has told us what the Marshalled List states and says the reason why these ETAs are essential is to stop people of interest or people who are risky, whether they be spies, terrorists, criminals or other ne’er-do-wells, from crossing the border. Does she really think that those people are likely to pay €14, fill in an ETA form and then cross the border? Of course not. It is nonsense because it cannot be enforced. If the border had apparatus at all 300 crossings then that might be possible, but it does not.

Some of your Lordships who are as old as me will remember Gilbert Harding. He once had to fill in a form to apply for a visa to go to America, and on the visa form was the question: “Is it your intention to undermine the Government of the United States?” His answer was “Sole purpose of my journey”. That is in a way similar to this. At the end of the day, it is unenforceable, impractical and unnecessary, and it jeopardises the relationship between two countries. Ireland and the United Kingdom are the joint guarantors in international law with regard to the Good Friday agreement. The noble Baroness knows that the Irish Government are very upset about this for all sorts of reasons; there have been discussions between Ministers even at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, set up by the Good Friday agreement. Is it really worth jeopardising our relationship—which has been bad enough as it is over the last number of years—with this petty and silly proposal by the Government? I would like the Government to change their mind, but I am not hopeful.