New Clause 2 - Acquisition by registration: Descendants of those born on British Indian Ocean Territory

Nationality and Borders Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:04 pm on 7 December 2021.

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Votes in this debate

  • Division number 134
    A majority of MPs voted not to give descendants of those born on British Indian Ocean Territory before 8 November 1965 the right to become a British Overseas Territories citizen and a British citizen, with no application fees.

‘(1) The British Nationality Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 17H (as inserted by section 7) insert—

“17I Acquisition by registration: Descendants of those born on British Indian Ocean Territory

(1) A person is entitled to be registered as a British Overseas Territories citizen on an application made under this section if they are a direct descendant of a person (“P”) who was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of P’s birth in the British Indian Ocean Territory or, prior to 8 November 1965, in those islands designated as the British Indian Ocean Territory on that date.

(2) A person who is being registered as a British Overseas Territories citizen under this section is also entitled to be registered as a British citizen.

(3) No charge or fee shall be imposed for registration under this section.”’—(Henry Smith.)

This new clause would allow anyone who is descended from a person born before 1983 on the British Indian Ocean Territory to register as a British Overseas Territories citizen. They may also register as a British citizen at the same time. Both applications would be free of charge.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 2:16, 7 December 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 4—Former British-Hong Kong service personnel: right of abode—

‘(1) The Immigration Act 1971 is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of section 2(1) insert—

“(c) that person is a former member of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps or the Hong Kong Royal Naval service, or

(d) that person is the spouse or dependent of a former member of the Hong Kong Military Service Corps or the Hong Kong Royal Naval service.”’

This new clause would mean that all former British-Hong Kong service personnel, plus their spouses and dependents, would have right of abode in the UK.

New clause 5—British National (Overseas) visas: eligibility—

‘(1) Within two months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must amend the Immigration Rules to ensure that all persons meeting the condition set out in subsection (2) are eligible to apply for the British National (Overseas) visa.

(2) The condition referred to in subsection (1) is that the person has at least one parent who is a British national (overseas).’

This new clause would enable any persons from Hong Kong who have at least one parent who is a British national (overseas) to apply for the British National (Overseas) visa.

New clause 7—Exception to the requirement to pay fees in connection with immigration or nationality—

‘(1) In relation to an applicant meeting the criteria set out in subsection (2) of this section, the Secretary of State must by regulations provide for an exception to any requirement to pay fees set out in a fees order under section 68 (fees) of the Immigration Act 2014.

(2) The criteria referred to in subsection (1) are that the applicant has—

(a) lawfully resided in the UK for a minimum period of five years, and

(b) lawfully worked in a clinical capacity for the National Health Service anywhere in the United Kingdom for an unbroken period of three years provided that, if the applicant leaves the employment of the National Health Service in any part of the United Kingdom within the three years following a successful application in respect of which the applicant was exempted from paying fees, those fees become payable on termination of employment in the National Health Service.’

This new clause exempts clinical NHS workers from the fees associated with immigration and nationality, provided that they have lived lawfully in the UK for at least five years, worked in the NHS for at least three years, and continue to work in the NHS for a further three years after being granted the fee exemption.

New clause 8—Children registering as British citizens: fees—

‘(1) Within two months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must amend the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Regulations 2018.

(2) The amendments referred to in subsection (1) must include—

(a) provision to ensure that the fees charged for applications for registration as a British citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981 or the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997, where the person in respect of whom the application is made is a child at the time the application is made, do not exceed the cost to the Home Office of processing the application;

(b) provision to ensure that no fees are charged for applications for registration as a British Citizen under the British Nationality Act 1981 or the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997 where the person in respect of whom the application is made—

(i) is a child being looked after by a local authority at the time the application is made; or

(ii) was looked after by a local authority when they were a child, and at the time the application is made is either—

(A) under the age of 21; or

(B) under the age of 25 and in full-time education.

(3) Within six months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out the effect of such fees on the human rights of the children applying for registration as British citizens under the British Nationality Act 1981 and the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1997.’

In respect of children registering as British citizens, this new clause would prevent the Home Office from charging a fee which exceeds the cost of processing the application. It would also abolish such fees altogether for looked-after children until they reach the age of 21 (or 25 if in full-time education), and would require the Government to produce a report setting out the effect of such fees on children’s human rights.

New clause 22—Requirement for the Secretary of State to waive the full capacity requirement—

‘(1) In section 44A of the British Nationality Act 1981, for “may” substitute “should”.’

This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to require the Secretary of State to waive the requirement for a person to have full capacity if it is in that person‘s best interests to do so.

New clause 25—Birthright commitment under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, produce a report setting out how the UK Government will give statutory effect to the recognition set out in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998 of the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may choose.

(2) The Secretary of State must lay the report before each House of Parliament.’

New clause 33—Acquisition of British citizenship by birth or adoption: comprehensive sickness insurance—

‘(1) The British Nationality Act 1981 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection 1(3A) insert—

(a) a person born in the United Kingdom after commencement who is not a British citizen is entitled, on application, to register as a British citizen if the person’s father or mother would have been settled in the United Kingdom at the time of the person’s birth, if Assumption A had applied.

(b) assumption A is that, in assessing whether the person’s father or mother met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, this is to be regarded as having been satisfied whenever they

(i) had access to the NHS in practice; or

(ii) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.

(c) registration under this subsection shall be free of charge.”

(3) After section 50A insert—

“50B Exceptions

(a) is not to be treated as having been in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws during a period of time that has been counted as part of a continuous qualifying period in a grant of leave to that person under Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules, and

(b) is not to be treated as not being of good character on account of a failure to hold comprehensive sickness insurance during some period of residence in the UK.”

(4) The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 is amended as follows.

(5) After section 15, insert—

“15A Comprehensive sickness insurance

(1) For the purposes of any decision taken by a public authority under this Part after commencement of this section, a person is to be treated as having met a requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance, whenever they—

(a) had access to the NHS in practice; or

(b) held a comprehensive sickness insurance policy.

(2) This section shall in particular apply to any decisions taken under residence scheme immigration rules.”’

This new clause provides that a person seeking to acquire permanent residence documents, naturalisation or citizenship need not have had comprehensive sickness insurance prior to applying for citizenship.

New clause 34—Registration as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen: Fees—

‘(1) No person may be charged a fee to be registered as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen that is higher than the cost to the Secretary of State of exercising the function of registration.

(2) No child may be charged a fee to be registered as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen if that child is being looked after by a local authority.

(3) No child may be charged a fee to be registered as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen that the child or the child’s parent, guardian or carer is unable to afford.

(4) The Secretary of State must take steps to raise awareness of rights under the British Nationality Act 1981 to be registered as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen among people possessing those rights.’

This new clause would ensure that fees for registering as a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen do not exceed cost price. It would also ensure that children being looked after by a local authority are not liable for such fees, and that no child is charged an unaffordable fee. Lastly, it would require the Government to raise awareness of rights to registration.

Amendment 108, in clause 3, page 8, line 33, leave out subsection (4).

This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to remove the good character requirement for a person applying for British overseas territories citizenship who has previously been discriminated against where this could perpetuate that discrimination.

Amendment 12, page 11, line 35, leave out clause 9.

This amendment would remove clause 9, which would enable the Home Secretary to deprive UK nationals of citizenship without notice.

Government amendments 17 and 18.

Amendment 2, page 12, line 33, leave out clause 10.

This amendment would remove clause 10, which restricts entitlement to British citizenship for children born stateless in the UK.

Amendment 111, in clause 10, page 13, line 23, after “birth”, insert

“without any legal or administrative barriers”.

This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure that, in compliance with Article 1 of the 1961 UN Statelessness Convention, British citizenship is only withheld from a stateless child born in the UK where the nationality of a parent is available to the child immediately, without any legal or administrative hurdles.

Amendment 110, in clause 10, page 13, line 27, at end insert—

“(d) in all the circumstances, it would be in the best interests of the child for it to acquire the nationality in question.”

This would give effect to the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights to ensure that the best interests of the child are central to decision-making in deciding whether to grant or decline an application for British citizenship by a stateless child who was born in the UK.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

The Chagos islanders have suffered over half a century of consistent injustices. They were forcibly exiled from their homeland, the Chagos islands—Diego Garcia and outer islands such as Peros Banhos—by the Harold Wilson Administration in the late 1960s to make way for a military base, and they were typically relocated against their will in Mauritius, but also in the Seychelles and other locations.

There are many aspects of the injustices suffered by the Chagos islanders on which I and many other hon. and right hon. Members across the House have campaigned, such as a right of resettlement, a right to compensation—a package has still not been fully realised to any extent at all—and a right to self-determination. It is London, Washington, the UN in New York or Port Louis that is seeking to decide their future sovereign status.

However, there is another injustice that has been suffered by descendants of Chagos islanders: the denial of their moral rights to British overseas territory citizenship. It is no fault of the grandchildren and other descendants of the Chagos islanders that their forebears were forcibly removed from their homeland and essentially dumped in other parts of the Indian ocean, but it has meant that they have lost their rights to British overseas territory citizenship. Had those individuals been born in other overseas territories, such as Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands or Bermuda, they would have a right to British overseas territory citizenship. This is causing great hardship for many families, and dividing many communities as a result.

Those who were born on the Chagos islands and the direct children of those born on the Chagos islands do have a right to British overseas territory citizenship and therefore British citizenship. They are able to settle in this country, and are productive members of our wider society. I am grateful that many have decided to live in my Crawley constituency. However, many grandchildren and other descendants of those islanders are technically seen as foreign nationals, and have to go through an expensive and rigorous visa process to be here, and then apply for indefinite leave to remain. That results in families with different nationality status and immigration status, often in the same household. Some are able to work and to access public funds and public services. Others are unable to, which creates issues in terms of housing overcrowding.

As I said, this community has suffered a series of injustices. It is the sort of thing you would expect to read in the history books of colonialism of several hundred years ago. We are not talking about many people either. We have just heard a lot about 20,000 Afghans evacuated from that country with the fall of Kabul. We have heard a lot about over 3 million BNO—British national overseas—citizens in Hong Kong with a potential right to settle in this country as a result of the increasing Chinese erosion of democracy there. With the Chagos Islanders, only numbers in the hundreds to low thousands would be eligible.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: it is not about the numbers; it is about the principle and about living up to our historical obligations. I have seen a number of initiatives of this sort. I will be happy to support this new clause. It remains to be seen what the response will be from the Treasury Bench. Will he join me in putting the message across to the Ministers and officials responsible that this will never just go away? If not today, then sooner or later, these injustices will have to be addressed.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support, and I agree with every word he said.

We have had over half a century of appalling injustice, in many different regards, for this community. It is now time that this House rights the wrongs that they have suffered. In allowing British overseas territories citizenship for the descendants of the Chagos Islanders, we can go a long way towards doing that. Chagos islanders were forcibly removed from their homeland not by this House but by an Order in Council. This issue has never had the proper scrutiny of this elected House, which can now play its part in righting a significant historical injustice. I therefore call on Members from across the House to support new clause 2.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

It is a pleasure to follow the excellent speech by Henry Smith in proposing new clause 2. I pay tribute to his commitment to this cause, which has been a long-standing one for him and his constituents. I wish to put on record the Opposition’s support for the new clause, which seeks to rectify the long-standing injustice in British nationality law that affects a relatively small number of people—Chagossian people, descendants of the Chagos islanders, who were forcibly removed from the British Indian Ocean Territory in the 1960s. The fact that British citizenship does not automatically pass to second and third generation Chagossians despite some of them migrating to the UK with their British parents as very young children is nothing short of a scandal. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support new clause 2.

Whereas the hon. Member for Crawley is seeking to rectify an injustice, the Nationality and Borders Bill does the opposite and seeks to create chaos and injustice. I will focus my comments on part 1. Clause 9 provides the Government with dangerous and unprecedented powers to deprive UK nationals of citizenship, without warning. We are wholeheartedly opposed to this. Through clause 9, the Government seek to amend the long-standing position under the British Nationality Act 1981 that an individual must be notified if they are to be deprived of their nationality. It exempts the Government from giving notice of a decision to deprive a person of citizenship if authorities do not have the subject’s contact details or if it is not “reasonably practical” to do so. The Government’s proposal also allows such secret deprivations to take place solely on the basis that the Home Office deems it “in the public interest” or in the interest of “foreign relations”. Effectively, this means that the Home Secretary can strip someone of their citizenship without informing them because it would be internationally embarrassing for her to do so. This abhorrent proposal therefore enables the Government to remove basic fairness, on top of an already dangerous power.

Like many measures in the Bill, there is no practical reason for this change. Present rules already allow for citizenship deprivation letters to be delivered to an individual’s last known address. The real purpose of this rule appears to be to introduce measures that remove the right to appeal. These measures make lawful previously unlawful citizenship stripping. They ask Parliament to pretend that an unlawful decision was lawful all along. It is shameful and Orwellian in equal measure.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could cast his mind back to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, where, for the first time, people who had acquired British citizenship through birth were made subject to citizenship deprivation powers. So what he has just commented on was brought in and voted through by a Labour Government. Could he address that point?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

As I mentioned, any reasons to strip people of citizenship are given on notice, but this deprives people of the right to—

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North

Do you agree with the principle?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

I do not agree with the principle of it: it should be done on notice.

Clause 9 means that individuals will not be able to challenge deprivation of their nationality as they will not be aware or told that they are no longer British citizens, and the time limit for appeal may run out before the individual becomes aware that their rights have been stripped. As Reprieve has pointed out, under these proposals, a person accused of speeding would be afforded more rights than someone at risk of being deprived of their British nationality.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I very much agree with the point that my hon. Friend is making. Is he aware of the very widespread alarm that clause 9 is creating up and down the country?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

My right hon. Friend is exactly right.

In recent years, the Government have unlawfully failed to satisfy the simplest of obligations in relation to citizenship deprivation: providing notice to people that they are seeking to deprive them of their rights. Having been found to have unlawfully stripped people of citizenship without telling them, the Home Secretary now seeks to undo these unlawful actions.

Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough

Can I just ask the hon. Gentleman very simply: does he agree with the principle of citizenship revocation? Forget the issue of duty of notice—does he agree with the principle of it?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

The British Nationality Act has been in law for the last 40 years and that provides the power to strip people of citizenship. What we are talking about here is doing it without notice.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Labour, Batley and Spen

Does my hon. Friend agree that to deprive a person of their citizenship without warning or explanation would be a flagrant breach of natural justice and that to do so as an alternative to submitting that person to due process under the law risks undermining our national security, rather than enhancing it?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. She is exactly right. How can it be right that somebody is able to be stripped of their citizenship without knowing about it? That is clearly a breach of natural justice.

Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Labour, Leeds Central

My hon. Friend has made a very important point about people not knowing that they have been deprived of their citizenship and how that might affect their ability to appeal. Clause 9 says that someone subject to these new rules

“may appeal against the decision to the First-tier Tribunal.”

However, as I understand it, rule 8 of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission gives individuals 28 days to appeal deprivation of citizenship if they are outside the United Kingdom. Does not he agree that the Minister, in responding today, has to give absolute clarity that that 28-day period will be extended?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. How can someone know when the 28 days are going to run if they have not received notice of the decision to strip them of their citizenship? It is basic.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Future of Work)

Does my hon. Friend agree that at the heart of this matter is the complete stripping away of due process? A person does not have to be given notice, or a reason why they are being stripped of their nationality. This has a disproportionate impact on our black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs) 2:30, 7 December 2021

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. This measure will clearly affect people who have other citizenships available to them, because it is unlawful to deprive someone of citizenship and leave them stateless. Clause 9 is about people’s citizenship, identity and, ultimately, rights; without citizenship, people do not have rights, and that leaves them without an identity or a sense of belonging.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

I will give way one last time, but I need to make progress; otherwise, there will be very little time for anyone else to speak.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I am grateful to the hon. Member. He is a reasonable man, so I am sure that he will agree that when it comes to sensitive issues, such as the very small number of people whose nationality may be revoked by the Home Secretary, as has been possible for the past 100 years, it is incredibly important that they are not the subject of rather embarrassing scaremongering, such as that being done by Imran Hussain. Will Bambos Charalambous confirm at the Dispatch Box his clear understanding that when someone has a single nationality, they cannot have their nationality revoked and be sent abroad, as the hon. Member for Bradford East has implied?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

Many people have dual nationality in the UK, and those are the people who are in fear of the measure being introduced. I will now make progress.

The clause not only represents a total disregard for justice and the rule of law, but also says to certain British citizens that despite their being born and raised in the UK, their rights will always be precarious and subject to change, because, in the words of the Home Office,

“British citizenship is a privilege, not a right.”

The consequences of that are drastic. It is a threat to all, but particularly to those from ethnic minority backgrounds. According to analysis by the New Statesman, nearly 6 million people in England and Wales could be affected, and under this proposal, two in five people from an ethnic minority background are eligible to be deprived of their citizenship without being told.

Have the Government learned nothing from the Windrush scandal? They are repeating the same mistakes time and again. How can we trust the Government and the Home Office? How can we trust them with the measures proposed in clause 9? Simply put, we cannot, and I therefore commend Mr Davis on bringing forward amendment 12, which would remove clause 9 from the Bill. We support that amendment in the name of fairness and in order to uphold the rule of law.

Another aspect of part 1 that we are concerned about is statelessness and, in particular, clause 10, which is intended to disentitle stateless children in the UK from their statutory right to British citizenship. I thank my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman for tabling amendment 111, which would give effect to the recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which published an excellent report on the Bill earlier this month. I wish to put on record my thanks, and I am sure the whole House’s thanks, for the enormous contribution she has made as a parliamentarian to preserving rights and demanding equality. She will be sorely missed when she steps down at the next election.

Clause 10 proposes amending and restricting a vital safeguard in British nationality law that prevents and reduces childhood statelessness. Under our international obligations, we have safeguards that mean that a child who was born in the UK and has always been stateless can acquire British citizenship after five years of residing here. The Government’s proposals to restrict and amend that obligation are an affront to children. They will impose the most profound of exclusions on children: the denial of any citizenship, and particularly citizenship of the place where they were born and live—the only place they know. This exclusion and alienation, when inflicted on a child in their formative years, will be highly damaging to their personal development and their feelings of security and belonging. The Government consistently failed, on Second Reading and in Committee, to explain what assessment has been made of the impact of this proposal on statelessness. That is unacceptable.

We Opposition Members therefore welcome amendment 111, and support its intention of ensuring that the Government act in compliance with article 1 of the 1961 UN statelessness convention. It would amend clause 10 so that British citizenship was withheld from a stateless child born in the UK only when a parent’s nationality was available to the child immediately, without any legal or administrative hurdles. This is a necessary amendment, as the Government have failed to protect the existing safeguards, which are in line with international law, in this Bill; on the contrary, they have introduced cruel and unworkable proposals that will only exacerbate the challenges for children and young people in the UK.

New clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy, is on an issue that follows on from that of child statelessness. We support that new clause, which concerns the fee—£1,012 for a child—that people must pay to exercise their right to be registered as a British citizen. Like hon. and right hon. Members across this House, I have raised many cases on behalf of constituents navigating this inefficient, ineffective and expensive system. The fees imposed by the Home Office deny people their rights. Application fees are one barrier, and Home Office delays and inefficiencies are another. If we look at the figures, we see that the unfairness is extremely stark—even to the former Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who rightly described the registration fees for children as

“a huge amount of money to ask children to pay”.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

I have heard that when the Bill was being prepared, the Children’s Commissioner was not consulted at all about its implications for the status of children. Can that possibly be right? Can my hon. Friend enlighten the House on that point?

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am not aware that the Children’s Commissioner was consulted, but I am sure the Minister will clarify whether they were.

The fee for a child to register as a British citizen stands at £1,012. The Home Office confirms that the cost of registration is only £372. The remaining £640 is, therefore, money made after delivery of the service. Home Office registration fees do not reflect the cost of registration. On the Government’s watch, people are being prevented from accessing the immigration system, and that leads to exclusion and isolation for the children and young people who are denied citizenship due to the barriers in their way.

Citizenship should not be about cost; it should be about contributing to our communities and inclusivity, but under the current system, it is about cost. By design, it is about astronomical application fees. Rather than fixing these problems through this legislation, which, despite its draconian measures, provides a unique opportunity to right this wrong, the Government concern themselves with outlandish and unworkable policies. I strongly urge Members from all parts of the House to carefully consider new clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham. It would deliver fairness where the Government have failed to, and it has our full support.

Finally, I wish to speak about another issue that has broad cross-party support—a further important and unique opportunity to right wrongs. New clause 5, in the name of Damian Green and others, relates to the British national overseas visa scheme. As we know, the BNO scheme was, in theory, designed to offer a path to citizenship for Hongkongers, but in practice the scheme is not working as well as it could. Indeed, there are worrying and significant loopholes in it that mean individuals and groups of individuals are being left in limbo. That is particularly true for younger Hongkongers who have fled the country over fear of repercussions, as those born after 1997 do not hold BNO passports, and are therefore unable to settle in the UK via the BNO route. The result of this loophole in the BNO scheme is that young people who have fled police brutality find themselves fighting for their rights within the sclerotic and inefficient UK asylum system, having been arbitrarily excluded from the scheme because of their age.

Hongkongers born after 1997 do not hold a BNO passport. Those documents were issued to citizens following the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997, so those aged under 24 cannot benefit from the BNO scheme. Home Office figures show that there were 124 asylum claims from Hong Kong nationals in the year to June 2021, compared with 21 the year before and just nine in the year to June 2019. This is a growing problem, and it cannot be swept under the rug. For those stuck in the system, there is, in the words of Hong Kong Watch, an “agonising wait”. That should not exist, and could be fixed in the BNO scheme. Again, the Opposition proposed that in Committee, and naturally we fully support new clause 5. There are deep and historical ties between the UK and Hong Kong. The Government must not waiver in their commitment to people whose way of life has been put at risk. By accepting new clause 5, they could take a significant and immediate step towards that, with the Opposition’s support.

The Government’s decision to offer the Hong Kong BNO scheme is a welcome expression of the UK’s historical relationship with the citizens of Hong Kong. Individuals and families arriving from Hong Kong will enrich the UK’s cultural life and contribute to our economy. However, without amendment, the scheme is in danger of being just more warm words. As I have said on other amendments and new clauses, despite our deep concerns about the Bill’s draconian, dog-whistle politics when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers, it provides an opportunity to right wrongs in our system. I will leave my comments there, as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Perhaps I should give a little bit of guidance. There are two groups of amendments this afternoon. If colleagues wish to speak to the second group of amendments, they should wait until we get to that group. Obviously, many colleagues will want to speak in various parts of the debate, so it might be wise for colleagues to prioritise the groups that they wish to speak to. I shall prioritise those who have tabled amendments in this first group. I call David Davis.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I ask a question with respect to your ruling? I take it that I will be able to speak to my amendments in the second group in debate on that group, and that I do not have to address them now. Is that correct?

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I am sure that very careful consideration will be given to the tabled amendments, but some people may not get in on both groups. If there are votes on the first group, that will eat into the time for the second group.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

Thank you for that, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was not looking for a promise.

Before I talk about my amendment, for which I have a one-minute speech, let me address questions that my hon. Friends on the Government Benches asked the Opposition spokesman. He was asked whether he agrees with the idea of withdrawing citizenship, full stop. My answer is that the British Nationality Act 1981 gives too much power to the Home Secretary—[Interruption.] I will answer, if I am not interrupted. It gives too much power, without sufficient early judicial intervention. It allows for a right of appeal, but it does not require the right of application to court first, and given that we are talking about something as serious as citizenship, it should.

We should not give the state the power to take every right away from erstwhile citizens of the country. That is not just my view; it also happens to be that of our biggest ally. In my time in this House, I have only once had a visit, as it were, from the State Department of the United States, and that was on this policy. In some people’s view, we are leaving our “human detritus” out in the conflict zones of the middle east. Most of our allies, having started with that policy, have withdrawn it and are taking back their people to put them on trial in their own country. From a security point of view, this policy does not stand up in the view of our allies.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield

My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly strong point. Does he think it is quite inappropriate for one of the leading nations at the United Nations, with the privilege of a veto, not to accept its international responsibilities, when all other members of the permanent five do?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

I do think that, but I was focusing on the security element, and I do not think that the security argument stands up.

Amendment 12, in my name, would remove clause 9 from the Bill. That would not take away the Home Secretary’s right of rejecting citizenship, but it would take away her right to do so without notification. Of course, that matters. I go back to judicial rights. Say that someone does not know that they have had their citizenship withdrawn. They cannot appeal the matter for as long as they do not know, and that might be a long time.

Clause 9(2) says that the requirement to notify

“does not apply if it appears to the Secretary of State that”— and there is a series of conditions, one of which is that notice should not be given if that is

“in the interests of the relationship between the United Kingdom and another country”.

I cannot think of a weaker reason to withhold the rights of one of our citizens than to favour our diplomatic relations with another country. I do not think we are on the same page on that.

On the right of citizenship in this country, I think A. J. P. Taylor said that Palmerston’s 1850 “Civis Romanus sum” speech on the Don Pacifico affair was the greatest speech in Parliament. In that speech, Palmerston talked about the rights of a British citizen. In those days, of course, that meant rights to be protected around the world, rather like American citizens are now. It does not mean that any more, but it does mean rights under a democracy, which are: rights to access to a Member of Parliament who can stand up for you; rights to freedom under the law; and rights to the judiciary, the courts—I know that this is unfashionable—and the operation of British justice. That is one of the most valued things in the world, and that is what we are defending in contests in the middle east and elsewhere. It is entirely inappropriate that we should make it one of our strategies to be able to take away citizenship from people who have often lived here since they were one or two years old. Often, if they are sent to the other country—a country that they have never been to and where they no longer speak the language—they will face summary execution. At least one case therein applies. Where stands our belief against capital punishment, which most people in this House espouse?

This is an uncivilised, legally disputable removal of the rights of people. They may not be good people; if so, we should put them in front of our courts and punish them. That is how British justice should work. That is how British democracy should work. That is what we should do today.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means) 2:45, 7 December 2021

I remind hon. Members that being fairly brief in remarks, as done admirably by David Davis, will allow more people to get in. I call the SNP spokesperson, Anne McLaughlin.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

Even though the Scottish National party has fundamental disagreements with most of this horrific Bill, that is not the case for part 1, where we are in agreement with much of it. We support the efforts to correct some historical injustices of UK nationality law and bringing British citizenship and British overseas territories citizenship law back into line. It should have happened a long time ago, but we support that it is happening now. We pay tribute to the campaign groups that have continued to make the case over several years, including the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, and Amnesty International. However, there are a number of issues that I want to raise and I will start with the SNP’s new clauses.

New clause 34 would ensure that the Government do not profit from people registering as British citizens or British overseas citizens. Hon. Members might be interested to know that, in 2018, the Home Office made profits of £500 million by charging £500 million more than it cost to process applications. The cost to the Home Office of the registration process is about £372 a person, but to the person applying, it is a minimum of £1,100 for children and £1,200 for an adult. Why? More importantly, why does that matter? How does that affect someone’s life?

I would like to share a story that I told in Committee of someone who has become part of my family and the devastating impact that the extortionate fees had on his family life. Cambull—that is not his real name—came from Sudan. The village where he grew up was razed to the ground, everybody fled, and he did not know where the rest of his family were. He assumed that his brothers, sister, mother and father had died, but he did not know for sure. He kept hearing rumours over the years. He came here as an asylum seeker and got his refugee status. He worked in security on minimum wage, zero-hours contracts, but he had a diligent approach to his job and built a life for himself. But the need to know for sure what had happened to his family members was always in the back of his mind. Any of us would share that need.

The Red Cross got some information for Cambull. There was a possibility that some of his family had survived, but nothing was certain. He needed to go back to find out if that was the case. To do that, he needed the protection of a British passport and British citizenship, so he set about applying. Because he was on the minimum wage, it took him years to save up the fees. I realise there are many in here who cannot imagine that, and I make no criticism of them—I am not being facetious—for never having experienced poverty. I would like nobody to experience it, but I would urge Conservative Members to trust me when I say that it took him years to save up the £1,200, and he could not have saved any harder. Had he been charged what it actually cost the Home Office, he would have got to Sudan a whole lot sooner. I know that nobody in this Chamber would have wanted what happened to him to have happened—I am coming to that—but I want to explain the impact of these extortionate fees in the hope that the Government can be persuaded to reduce them.

It took Cambull a long time, but he did finally get back to Sudan, with his British passport, to see what had become of his family, and he discovered that his mum had, in fact, survived the brutal attacks. She later became ill, and was ill for many years, but she lived longer than anyone expected because she had clung on hoping she would see his face one more time. She died two months before he got there. As I have said, I am not for a second suggesting that anybody here or anybody drafting the legislation would not care about what happened to Cambull, but if he had been able to apply for his citizenship when he became eligible—in other words, if he had been able to afford the cost because it was the actual cost, rather than the cost plus profit—he could have been reunited with his mum before she passed away, and it would have meant so much to both of them. There are so many Cambulls out there and others with different stories.

I want to express my party’s support for new clause 8 in the name of Bell Ribeiro-Addy. I will leave her to make what I know will be very good arguments about the even more offensive practice of making profit from children’s applications. One of those arguments is of course that the courts have already ruled against it, but that does not seem to make a difference to this Government these days.

Finally, on awareness raising in relation to new clause 34, several organisations, including Amnesty, have expressed concern about the lack of it. They have asked for assurances that where an individual application is successful, the Government will take positive action to ensure that other potential applicants are made aware of their equal or similar right to register at discretion. This means that where an example is identified, as the Bill says, of

“unfairness,…an act or omission of a public authority, or…exceptional circumstances”,

on which it is right or necessary to exercise the discretion, there should be publicity and awareness raising. We talked about that in Committee, but those organisations want to know that it will happen, and that members of the public who could use the legislation to the same positive effect will have access—easy access—to such information. I would also like an assurance from the Minister that awareness raising will apply equally to British citizenship and British overseas territories citizenship.

On new clause 33, EU citizens have been living in the UK without knowing that, for some, there is an obscure requirement to hold a form of private health insurance. With free access at the point of need to our unique NHS, of which we are all proud, the EU rules on the need for comprehensive sickness insurance were not really written with the UK’s unusual situation in mind. New clause 33 is necessary because, for many, this requirement has only become apparent when applying for citizenship or when applying for British passports for their children born in the UK, and it is now presenting significant hurdles to obtaining citizenship. It could easily be rectified by this new clause, which would allow an applicant the right of free access to the NHS to satisfy the requirement that an individual should hold CSI.

The Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Tom Pursglove—made sympathetic noises on this in Committee, so if he will not accept this new clause, will he at least tighten up the guidance so that nobody has to take the risk of shelling out over £1,200 to apply, only to lose it when the decision maker takes the view on CSI that the Minister seemed to be suggesting he would not want them to take?

We support many of the amendments and new clauses, but I will mention just a couple in particular. Amendment 2 in the name of Mr Carmichael would leave out clause 10 on statelessness. Clause 10 requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that a child was unable to acquire another nationality before being permitted to register as a British citizen. This creates an additional and unjustified hurdle to stateless children’s registration as British citizens. Rather than ease the process and reform the current system to help children attain citizenship, the Government are intent on putting up more barriers and making it more difficult for children under 18 to be registered. Why? Because they have a handful of anecdotal examples of parents who appear to be using the system, as far as they are concerned, to jump the queue.

In fact, I remember only one such anecdote in Committee. However, I do remember hon. Members on the Committee asking repeatedly for evidence, and the Minister stated repeatedly that evidence would be forthcoming. I remember that Bambos Charalambous asked, I asked several times, Neil Coyle asked and my hon. Friend Stuart C. McDonald asked. When I looked at the record, I counted at least 10 times that we asked for something more than anecdotes, and we were told that the evidence would be forthcoming, but it just has not been, so perhaps the Minister is going to surprise us and give us the evidence now.

The impact of the anecdotes—or the one anecdote I remember being given—was that a child who has done nothing wrong may end up registered as British five years before they otherwise might be. That hardly seems grounds for introducing this restrictive clause. The impact of statelessness on children can be dreadful. It is a terrible thing for a child to feel that they do not belong during their formative years.

I come now to amendment 12 in name of Mr Davis. We are very much opposed to clause 9, which, as we have heard, grants the Home Secretary the power to strip UK nationals of their citizenship in secret and without advance warning. This is deeply concerning, and it sends completely the wrong message. Since this has become public knowledge, I have had a number of people phoning me about it in an absolute panic.

Photo of Steven Bonnar Steven Bonnar Shadow SNP Spokesperson (DEFRA Team Member)

Does my hon. Friend agree with me that it is not only us and Mr Davis who share these concerns? A petition that was started on by my constituent Mr Kashif Iqbal has now got over 150,000 signatures calling for the removal of clause 9 to ensure that British citizenship cannot be stripped from our constituents in this manner.

Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I am coming to the end, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I pay tribute to Mr Iqbal, my hon. Friend’s constituent, because that is what we want. We want public pressure, and in Committee I felt that we were not being listened to at all. Of course, we did not win any of the battles in Committee and we are probably not going to win any of the battles here, but we will try, and public pressure is what will make this Government change their mind.

As I have said, we do support many of the amendments—for example, new clause 2 on Chagos islanders, and I pay tribute to Henry Smith for his tenacity on that. We support new clauses 4 and 5 on Hong Kong citizens, new clause 7 on health care workers—it seems a bit of a cheek to be charging people for the privilege of putting themselves at risk fighting the pandemic—and those amendments and new clauses from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. As I say, we support righting the historical wrongs, but our primary concerns are stateless children, stripping away people’s nationality without notice, the CSI requirement for EEA citizens, and the need to end the practice of profiteering from people registering as British citizens—that has to stop.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I remind hon. Members that this debate has to finish at 4.46 pm. Obviously, the Minister will require some time at the end, so if colleagues speak for about five minutes, we might make it.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I wish to speak to new clause 5, and I thank the more than 50 colleagues, representing every party in this House, who have supported it. I also wish to thank Ministers for engaging positively with me on the substance of the amendment.

My new clause aims to provide greater protection for the brave young people in Hong Kong who are fighting oppression. In particular, it gives them a right to settle in the UK, which is very difficult for them at the moment. Why is this needed? I would illustrate that with one case—that of 20-year-old Tony Chung, who has been handed a prison sentence of more than three and a half years. His crime was that what he said on a small student Facebook group when he was 18 years old was deemed to amount to secession and to be in breach of Hong Kong’s national security law. This illustrates how what was once Asia’s freest and most vibrant city is moving towards totalitarianism. Political persecution is growing by the day. Amnesty International calls it a human rights emergency, and I agree. The Hong Kong Government, at the behest of Beijing, are silencing the free press, gagging civil society and smothering all forms of dissent in the city.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

As my right hon. Friend knows, I am a signatory to his new clause. Does he share my concern that 93% of those who have been arrested just for being pro-democracy are young people? We have a unique obligation to protect them and provide them with safe and legal passage. When dealing with the Chinese Communist party that can “disappear” a tennis player, or even sanction Members of Parliament, we must be absolute in the support we give to young Hongkongers.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford 3:00, 7 December 2021

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and she anticipates a point I was about to make. The key point that arises from her remarks is that the British Government have, sensibly and rightly, introduced the British National (Overseas) visa, which allows people in Hong Kong who registered for that scheme before the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 the right to settle in this country. The problem is that many of the dissenters and demonstrators in Hong Kong are under 25, and therefore too young to have qualified under that route as it currently stands. I seek to give under 25-year-olds that route as well.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having tabled this new clause. It speaks of the decency of what we represent here in this House, and I support him in that. Does he agree that right now, many of the individuals he is referring to are desperately looking to us for some hope of freedom? We as this, the mother of all Parliaments, need to offer them the chance of that freedom.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

My right hon. Friend is exactly right. Most of these young people are fighting for the values that we fight for and that this Parliament represents—that I why I am so pleased that Members across the House have supported the new clause. In practical terms, I have thanked Ministers for being positive in their engagement, and I hope to hear more from the Minister when he winds up the debate.

Although the Government are moving in this direction, and their heart is in the right place on this, I fear that at this stage they may not move far enough. In particular, I know the Minister is keen on using the youth mobility scheme, which exists not just for Hong Kong but for many other countries, as a route for young people in Hong Kong to move towards settlement. However, I will enter two quite large caveats about using that scheme.

The first is straightforward practicality, which I can illustrate by the example of a 19-year-old young woman from Hong Kong called Venus—that is not her real name, for obvious reasons. She was involved in many protests, and the university she was at reported those protests to the Hong Kong authorities. She evaded the police for a time, but she soon became aware that they were coming for anyone involved in protests, under the pretext of the national security law. She fled to the UK from Hong Kong the day after, and several of her friends were arrested two weeks later. If she had applied through the youth mobility scheme, it would have taken at least three weeks for her to get out of Hong Kong, which would not have been enough. That is a practical point about using the youth mobility scheme.

My other point is that the youth mobility scheme is reciprocal, requiring both sides to agree. If the Chinese authorities, or the Hong Kong authorities, decided not to participate in a reciprocal scheme, they could close it down tomorrow. What would Ministers do in those circumstances?

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for tabling this new clause. Does he agree that the under-25s from Hong Kong who are seeking asylum and safety in our country not only have to navigate a difficult asylum system, but now also face difficulties with access to healthcare, and also with safety once here?

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Conservative, Ashford

I do not wish to get into wider issues in the immigration system, as at the moment I am most concerned with giving people a route to get to this country apart from the asylum system. We already have a couple of hundred of people in the asylum system, and if Ministers could find, or if we could find, another route, that would take a bit of pressure off the asylum system. I recommend that Ministers look at Canada’s young talent work experience pathway to permanent residence as a suitable exemplar to follow for Hong Kong.

I want to work with Ministers on this, and I believe that they have the best interests of the people in Hong Kong at heart. I hope not to have to move the new clause to a vote this time; I want to give Ministers more time to work out better details of a mobility scheme that is suitable for young people in Hong Kong. As we know, after this week the Bill will go to the Lords, where it will excite detailed interest. By the time their lordships debate it, I hope and expect that Ministers will have sorted out the gaps that remain in their proposals sufficiently, so that a similar new clause is not needed again. If that is not the case, I expect—indeed, I encourage—their lordships, to table a similar new clause and let us have another go. If that has to happen, those of us supporting the new clause will be less accommodating to the Government than I propose to be today. However, I hope it does not come to that. We all have a duty to the brave people fighting for democratic values—our values—in Hong Kong, and by the time this Bill has passed through all its stages, I want to know that we have fulfilled that duty. It is over to the Minister to do the right thing.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. May I clarify that everybody who wants to speak in this debate is now standing? I call Bell Ribeiro-Addy.

Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham

I wish to speak to new clause 8 about child citizenship fees, which I am grateful has been signed by a number of Members. The children in question are not migrants. I repeat that they are not migrants, because every time this issue is raised, there is some suggestion that there is something slightly illegal behind this, which is disgraceful. On the contrary, the large majority are exactly like me and the Prime Minister, and have every right to British citizenship. This Government, and all successive Governments, accept that, but the issue is that they are being priced out.

We in this country charge British children—children!—up to 10 times more to claim their citizenship rights than their counterparts in Spain, France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. The fee is the most expensive in Europe. If the £35 fee introduced back in 1983 had risen in line with inflation, it would be only £120 today. Instead, we charge £1,012—a fee that has doubled in the past decade, and which the Government have the ability to increase at will. It is a fee that far too many cannot afford, and a fee the level of which neither I nor the Prime Minister had to pay.

Why do I keep mentioning myself and the Prime Minister? It is because the circumstances of our births are no different to those of the children in question today. Indeed, many Members across the House were not born here or were born to migrants, and none of us faced such barriers to claiming our citizenship. No one questions our rights, and our British citizenship gives us the right to sit as Members of this House. I repeatedly mention myself and the Prime Minister because I believe that neither of us should be in a position to make things difficult for those children born after us. I certainly did not come to this House to do that.

Like the Windrush generation, through no fault of their own, and often with no idea of what is to come, these children go on to face real difficulties with everyday life and with things that we take for granted, such as travelling, getting a job, renting a home or going to university without being asked to pay international fees. That is in the country they were born in or have lived in their whole lives. Make that make sense.

Citizens UK, Amnesty International, and the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens, which has led on this campaign, have estimated that between 85,000 and 215,000 children with a legal entitlement to British citizenship have ended up undocumented due to the extortionate registration fee. Imagine how many children have never had the opportunity to reach their full potential because they spent the end of their childhood, and the beginning of their adulthood, fighting to prove that they have rights in their own country, or fighting to prove that they belong in the only place they have ever called home. It is exactly what happened with the Windrush generation.

We must understand that the harm of being denied citizenship rights in the only country you know cannot be overstated. It is not just about societal barriers; it is the psychological impact of being constantly treated like a second-class citizen. Why do I continually compare them to the Windrush generation? That is because, just like the Windrush generation, a piece of legislation or policy that attempted to dissuade migrants and make the environment more hostile for them is impacting on a group of people who have every right to be here. Just like the Windrush generation, this policy disproportionately affects those of black, Asian, and minority ethnic heritage.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Does my hon. Friend agree that to make children bear the burden of this Government’s hostile environment policy must be wrong?

Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend, and I am sure she will agree with me that, clearly, no lessons have been learned.

New clause 8 does not even ask the Government to scrap the fee, which is my personal preference; it just asks them to reduce it to cost and examine its impact on the rights of children. The new clause does, however, ask for the fee to be scrapped for children in care, for the obvious reason that children in care are the responsibility of the state. As we approach Christmas and we are thinking about families and home, with all the disadvantages that children in care face, the Government seem all too at ease with telling these children that they have no country to call home unless their local authority is willing to pay for it.

I spoke to children who were Lambeth care leavers and they told me horrific tales of threats of deportation to countries they have never been to because they cannot prove their link to their citizenship due to issues with their relations with their parents. Our cash-strapped local authorities cannot afford to keep paying these fees, and they are not border guards or immigration specialists who understand exactly what is happening.

Anne McLaughlin is absolutely right that there are parts of the citizenship section of the Bill that we appreciate, and things have been corrected. I spoke to the Immigration Minister earlier this week, and I was grateful for his time—I promised I would say something nice, and I did. If we are correcting all these other things, why would we not correct this policy now? We know exactly what the issue is. We know that the courts ruled, the Government appealed, and the courts ruled again that these fees are not in the best interests of children. This Bill is so horrible in so many other areas; is there not just one thing that we can all agree on? Just like with the Windrush scandal, why do the Government want to be dragged screaming into submission on something that they know is absolutely right?

I am glad to be standing here today, because I get to keep the promise that I made just before my election to a group of students from St Gabriel’s College who, along with Lambeth Citizens, explained to me their plight as children who were suffering in this way. I am proud to be a governor at their school, because they are what I call citizens. They are affected by this issue. Some of them have moved on, but they continue to fight for others in their place. I promised that I would stand up in the House and try to show that these young people are valued by their country—because this is their country. I hope that, when new clause 8—hopefully—goes to a vote, every other Member of this House will walk through the Lobby with me and show those young people that they have every single right to be here, that we will not continue to price them out, and that they should be able to access every single right, just like myself and the Prime Minister have been able to do.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Co Chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly

I rise to speak to new clause 4, which would secure the right of abode of the brave and loyal servicemen who served Queen and country in the British military, in the Hong Kong Military Service Corps and the Hong Kong royal naval service corps, until 1997. They were servants of the Crown and I believe they should be treated equally to all those who have served in Her Majesty’s armed forces.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

I am a co-signatory to new clause 4, and I congratulate the hon. Member on bringing it to the House. Does he agree that this is a unique group of individuals because of that service, and therefore that they should be considered favourably by the Government?

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Co Chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly

They most certainly should, and it should not have taken all this time for the Government to accept the need to deal with this matter. This is a left-behind group of ex-servicemen, and they really do need to be given the right of abode here in the United Kingdom.

Only 159 of the 654 British Hong Kong servicemen who applied under the 1990 to 1997 British nationality selection scheme prior to the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China were offered full UK passports for service to the Crown. I believe that those who applied for UK passports and were denied them have been discriminated against, and it is time that was rectified. They should have been treated equally to the 159 and given British citizenship for their armed forces Crown service.

The campaign for the right of abode of former British Hong Kong servicemen has established the number of servicemen still seeking recognition from the Government at around 301, with immediate family growing the group to around 1,000. That is a very low number of people when compared with the 3 million citizens affected by the changes made last year to introduce the BNO passport, which was such a welcome support for the people of Hong Kong.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Am I right in thinking that these very patriotic individuals are seeking the right to come here if they need to in case of future discrimination? They are not necessarily all likely to have to take up that right.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Co Chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly 3:15, 7 December 2021

My right hon. Friend makes a superb point, and he is of course completely correct. These ex-servicemen in Hong Kong are not demanding the right to come here straightaway, but they want that option should there ever be a need for them to leave Hong Kong—if they felt unsafe or their families were under threat. Surely, in such a situation, Her Majesty’s Government should support those who have served Her Majesty’s armed forces.

Photo of Nadia Whittome Nadia Whittome Labour, Nottingham East

I thank the hon. Member and Damian Green for tabling this important amendment. Does the hon. Member agree that, while the amendment is welcome and it would be an improvement on the current situation, it would still mean that young people born after 1997 were relying on the BNO status of their parents, and that that would disproportionately impact poorer Hongkongers and people whose families moved after 1997?

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

On new clause 4, is it not the case for this very explicit group of people, who have given loyalty and service to this country in standing for freedom, liberty and the rule of law, that it would be deeply ironic and unjust if we were to leave them to the vagaries of a regime that has turned out to be entirely opposite freedom, liberty and the rule of law? That is why we owe them this duty of care, if they choose to take it up.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Co Chair, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and I agree wholeheartedly. This is about giving people who have loyally served the Crown and defended freedom and liberty in Hong Kong the option, if they so choose, to live in the United Kingdom and be treated as equals. That is surely something we should now accept. This measure is long overdue, and I hope that the Minister will respond accordingly.

I know that Mr Speaker himself shares my interest in resolving this long-standing issue. Prior to his elevation to the Chair, I worked on this issue with him for over a decade. I have worked with a number of Ministers—Home Secretaries and Ministers of State—including my friend James Brokenshire, the late Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. We have worked together to try to resolve this matter and right this wrong that has been done to these servicemen, but I say with deep regret that, so far, no concrete steps have been taken by this or previous Governments to resolve this matter.

An appropriate solution must include a mechanism to grant every single one of these servicemen immediate settled status in the UK if and when they decide that they would like to take up that option. Furthermore, it should not create another group of left-behind servicemen by requiring an arbitrary period of service for people to be eligible for the right of settlement or by putting an age limit on the immediate family members they can bring to the United Kingdom. Only legislation that includes all those measures will be sufficient to finally correct the anomaly that has led to these fine servicemen being left behind. My new clause 4 would secure those objectives and finally give these servants of the Crown the right to be treated as fully British, which is no less than they deserve.

I ask the Government to support my new clause or to produce an appropriate and legally acceptable way to support these veterans and give them the status they are entitled to, dealing with this matter once and for all. With that in mind, I thank the Minister for reaching out to me about suggesting an alternative solution that may be possible. However, let me be clear: I require guarantees that will not be watered down. If the Minister does not feel able to support my new clause, I expect him to provide a fair and just solution that gives these brave and patriotic Hongkongers the outcome they deserve. I ask him to use this opportunity to provide the assurances I seek.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Can I once again urge colleagues to stick to the five minutes that we talked about? We are going to have to impose a time limit shortly if we are going to get everybody in.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

We have a fair old mixter-maxter of different amendments, new clauses and other provisions, and as I try to find a common theme, I find this: policy decisions that we make as a country and that we make in this place sooner or later have domestic policy implications. It does not matter how hard we try to ignore them, as we have with the rights of the Chagos islanders, or how hard we resist the logic of our decisions, as we have in the case of the Hongkongers until recent years—eventually they all require to be dealt with.

I want first to deal briefly with amendment 2, in my name, which would remove clause 10 from the Bill, and with amendment 12, in the name of Mr Davis, which would remove clause 9. Clause 10 restricts the rights of children who would be born in this country but who would otherwise be stateless. The point about clause 9, which the right hon. Gentleman made very well, is not only that the removal of citizenship is obnoxious but that removal without notice is supremely dangerous. It is perfectly legitimate for Government Back Benchers to point out that the genesis of removal is to be found in the 2002 Act—[Interruption.] I see them nodding. However, I would gently counsel them that finding a way of making a measure introduced by David Blunkett, as Home Secretary, even more illiberal and draconian is not necessarily something about which anybody should be particularly proud.

It is the removal without notice that is particularly objectionable. As Sir Iain Duncan Smith said, one of the things we are dealing with here is the basic British sense of decency. We should not be using citizenship as some sort of tool for further punishment; there are plenty of other ways in which people who have done wrong can be punished. However, we do not use fundamental concepts of domestic and international law, such as citizenship, as a tool to do that.

The hon. Members for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) and for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) have tabled various provisions on the financial barriers that have been put in place. I was happy to sign the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Streatham, and I very much support those tabled by the Scottish National party.

It seems to me from my casework as a constituency Member that the immigration system is already so complex that it is virtually impenetrable to those who are not in some way legally qualified—and, as far as I can see, to many who are. It should not therefore be administered in such a way that it is open to the Government to make a profit from these cases. There are already sufficient financial barriers in place for those who wish to have, and need to have, citizenship, and we should not be putting a further financial barrier in their way.

There is a whole range of different matters before the House this afternoon, which illustrates to me the fact that this Bill is far from properly scrutinised. We are taking it at a canter this afternoon. There may well be reasons for that in the minds of the Government’s business managers, but, as is the case with trying to wish away the consequences of our foreign policy decisions, they will not carry any water when the Bill gets to the other place, and I fear that, even though the Government will probably get their way in virtually everything today, we will not have heard the last of this Bill yet.

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. After the next speaker, I will impose a time limit of four minutes.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Independent, Delyn

I rise to speak to new clause 7, which is in my name, and has been kindly supported by Members from eight different parties, including immigration and NHS subject experts, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I would like to declare an interest: my partner is an NHS clinician from overseas, but this new clause would not benefit him as he already has his permanent residency status confirmed.

In this country, we typically use the word “hero” far too casually; it is lavished on our celebrities and sports stars, but, while I am sure they are very deserving, this pandemic has shown us who this country’s true heroes are—our NHS workforce. While the entire NHS has played a vital role, our thanks and gratitude should perhaps go in particular to our NHS clinical workers who have come from other countries. They are individuals who have travelled huge distances to be here, often separated from their families, putting their own lives at risk to help save our lives. Regardless of their or our citizenship, the duty and responsibility to care and contribute to the wellbeing of others always comes first with them.

Although I welcome the many steps that the Government have taken already for foreign NHS workers, we need to go further, and I ask the Minister to give this some serious consideration for support this afternoon. With fees for indefinite leave to remain at almost £2,400 and citizenship applications at another £1,330, the total cost of naturalisation is almost £4,000—one of the highest fees of its type in the world, and that is after a minimum of five years, in which there will also have been an initial visa cost, another high fee to be renewed every third anniversary. The process of becoming a citizen for our NHS workers is a costly and challenging one.

Let us take as an example the case of Carrie. It is a real-life case, but I have used a different name. Carrie moved to the UK in 2016, leaving behind a husband and a four-year old child back home in south Asia. It took another year for her husband and daughter to join her because of the costs involved in dependants’ visas. They could only get to be together as a family once more by taking a loan, which she has to pay for over three years.

Three years after she arrived—so with still one more year of loan payments to go—she had to get another loan and compound her cash flow problems because she was due for visa renewal, and so had a load more fees. This year, Carrie is entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain, with loans still ongoing from previous renewals, and the ILR is more expensive again. What does she do? What options are available to Carrie? Her only choice is to apply for another loan, even bigger than before, to have the right to occupy a space in the UK and call it home. She pays her taxes every month, and has done so for five years—and oh, by the way, she is an intensive care unit nurse. She has spent the past five years, especially the past 18 months, saving lives. She should not be in debt; we should be in her debt.

I feel that it is our duty to create a new route to permanent residency for NHS workers, one that will not leave them in debt, poverty, or in constant worry about funding their next application, and that is by abolishing the costs associated with applying for indefinite leave to remain for NHS clinical workers.

I am proud that our NHS attracts such global talent and recruits from around the world, and, frankly, we would not be able to run it without them. As of last year, more than 160,000 NHS staff stated that they were of a non-British nationality, from more than 200 different countries. Residency should not be about cost; it should be about inclusion, about our communities and about contribution. Arguably, by saving our lives and keeping us safe, our NHS workers have given the biggest contribution of all.

Despite being such valued members of the communities in which they live and work, without ILR and citizenship, individuals cannot be fully part of them. Without ILR, they face barriers to home ownership, difficulty obtaining a mortgage and challenges in the job market and in higher education—there are so many different aspects. Scrapping the fees would not only make ILR more affordable and a viable option for foreign workers in our NHS, but create a more diverse and, crucially, more integrated society. Why is that important? A few weeks ago, I had a message from my partner, who was distressed at having met a new patient that morning who said, “I hope you’re not from Myanmar.” We have a long way still to go with integration and acceptance.

People from other countries who have worked in the NHS during the pandemic and throughout their lives deserve to be able to call the UK home, and actually feel like it is. It is time to abolish the fees for indefinite leave to remain for those who do clinical work in our NHS, so that those who spend time helping and treating us in our time of need can finally feel like they belong and are welcomed here with open arms.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:30, 7 December 2021

I want first to acknowledge my support for new clause 8, which my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy tabled, and to congratulate her on a very powerful speech on ending the shame of profiteering from child citizenship fees. I also support the arguments made by my hon. Friend Bambos Charalambous.

I will make my short contribution mainly about amendment 12, which is in the name of Mr Davis and to which I have added my name. It seeks the removal of clause 9—tabled by the Home Secretary—which would deprive UK nationals of citizenship without notice. That is an extraordinary proposal, which has caused shockwaves across communities. In particular, in Feltham and Heston, it has really affected the south Asian community. I am grateful to all who have written in to me and signed the petition, which has almost 150,000 signatures. I also thank the immigration solicitor, Mr Harjap Bhangal, for his work and awareness raising of this issue.

I was born in Britain in Hammersmith in west London, and I grew up in Hounslow. It appears that, under the law, as drafted, I could theoretically be deprived of my citizenship with no notice, and potentially without appeal, because my parents were born in another country, even though they became British nationals and served their community with distinction. Perhaps the Minister will be able to say in his closing remarks whether that could ever happen to anyone. It appears that this proposal is the thin end of an appalling wedge. Members of my extended family were also among those who were expelled from Uganda in mass expulsions of the Indian community. I am sure that the Minister will understand why this has caused such concern.

The Home Secretary’s clause would amend the British Nationality Act 1981, which requires the Secretary of State to give a person written notice of their deprivation order, the reasons for the order and their right of appeal. In clause 9(2), proposed new section 40(5A) of that Act specifies circumstances in which the Secretary of State would be able to deprive a person of their citizenship without notice. That includes when

“the Secretary of State does not have the information needed to…give notice” or

“it would…not be reasonably practicable to give notice” for any other reason, or if giving notice would not be

“in the interests of national security”,

in the interests of relations with another country or “otherwise in the public interest”.

Perhaps someone can tell me what “relations with another country” means. If, in theory, a foreign Government with whom the Government are negotiating a trade deal say that they want British citizenship revoked from a group of people they would like to see returned back to their country of origin as a condition, possibly for political reasons, in theory, the Home Secretary could do so without saying why. This is a matter not of what this is likely to be about, but of what becomes possible. There is no practical reason for this change. The present rules governing notice allow for citizenship deprivation letters to be delivered to the individual’s last known address.

I cannot support the Home Secretary’s clause, which has breathed huge distrust and insecurity into the lives of millions of peaceful, law-abiding people. Having this power, without needing to give explanation, could affect not just those people but their children and grandchildren. I urge all hon. Members to support amendment 12 today.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Today’s debate covers many different aspects. I certainly hope that the Government will consider new clause 4 carefully, but I want to focus on new clause 9 and the impact that the change in notification of revocation of nationality has had.

I say straightaway to Bell Ribeiro-Addy, who is not in her place at the moment, that when she describes the Bill as “hostile” and “horrible”, she should consider very carefully, as we all should, the impact on the lives of so many people of those who are killed by terrorists. Whether they are in Manchester, in London Bridge or anywhere else, the important thing about those ghastly incidents is that they affect those from every background, of every faith, of every race and of every colour. Clause 9 is not—

Photo of Sam Tarry Sam Tarry Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am not sure whether I heard the hon. Member properly. We are talking today about people dying because of this Government’s policies—because they are so desperate that they are fleeing war-torn countries—and he wants us to think about terrorists. I think that that is quite appalling. I would really like him to withdraw that comment.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

With the greatest respect, what I am talking about is a specific aspect of the revocation of nationality for appalling behaviour against the interests of the country to which we all belong and of which we are all nationals—a very specific point—so I will not follow the hon. Member into that debate, I am afraid.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

To clarify, in reference to the very eloquent speech of my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Richard Graham drew an association between terrorism and the fees for children seeking to get nationality here. That is what has just happened. I think he should revoke those comments.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s comments. I specifically quoted two words that the hon. Member for Streatham used in relation to the clause—she spoke about this “horrible” Bill and this “hostile” Bill. Olivia Blake will recognise that the clause has been used by Opposition Members, notably Imran Hussain, to stir up concerns—which, bluntly speaking, I regard as scaremongering—among members of different ethnic communities in our country. To my way of thinking, that is deeply inappropriate.

What we are talking about is the notification of revocation of British nationality to a tiny, tiny number of people who have chosen to behave in a way that is totally against the interests of our country and who have allied themselves with the enemies of this country. All the clause will do is allow for the absence of physical notification where those individuals are either unreachable or in a war zone. So far, so good.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I am listening carefully to the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but will he take it from me that the alarm about the clause is not because of any stirring from the Opposition, but because of the reality of its content and the Government’s track record?

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Over the past 10 or 11 years, I have agreed with the right hon. Gentleman many times on many issues, particularly work and pensions. On this particular point, I am sorry, but I think he is being a little disingenuous about how some of his colleagues are using it to stir up concerns when actually we need to be together as a nation. Where I agree with him is that there is real work for the Government to do—as the Minister knows, because he kindly gave me time on the point yesterday—to communicate much more effectively with Britons across this country about the facts of the legislation, which draw on a right that has been there for the Government for 100 years, since the first world war. Most people—most of our constituents—have no idea about that.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I have given way quite a lot. Can I make some progress? I am just conscious that a lot of people want to speak. If the hon. Lady will forgive me, let me make some progress and let us see where we are.

The really important points are as follows. How many people have actually had their UK nationality revoked in such a context? On which crimes does the 100-year clause have an impact? Is there a right of appeal to a legal tribunal? There is. Will anyone have their single nationality revoked, completely obliviously to where their parents or grandparents might have come from originally? The answer to that, to my strong understanding, is almost certainly no in 99.999% of cases.

In the remaining time, may I press my hon. Friend the Minister for clarification, not just for Members but for those in the nation at large, to reassure them about the nature of the atrocities that need to be committed for this clause to be applied, and the fact that it absolutely does not target anyone of any origin whatsoever? Indeed, if it did, my wife, who was Kenyan when I married her, would certainly be affected. There are millions of people who potentially might be affected, and that is why reassurance is required to make clear that this is purely about a very simple business of notification when a person is unreachable or in a war zone.

On that note, I will give way to the hon. Member for Streatham.

Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham

I am very glad that the hon. Member has given way. I was not present when he referred to my speech, but I want to ask him if he really understands what the issues are. The Government, as he rightly said, already have the ability to reduce people’s citizenship, so why do they want to make it even easier, and why do they want to remove all checks and balances? This is where the concern arises. After what has happened to the Windrush generation, and after what has happened to the young people who—

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I am afraid that we have run out of time. The allotted time allows two interventions, and we have had those, so I am afraid that that is it.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. I have just welcomed Little Amal to Parliament Square. Little Amal is the 3.5-metre puppet which has travelled 8,000 km across the world to raise the plight of refugees and support them. However, I did not rise to speak about refugees. I want to speak about clause 9, which has been mentioned several times during the debate.

I know that these powers to strip people of their citizenship are not new powers. I do not need a lecture about what has happened in the past, and which Government introduced it. What worries me is that the legislation that is being introduced now is making the powers more draconian. Since 2019, we have seen the Government justify the deprivation of citizenship of people who do not possess dual nationality, who were born in this country, and who have not set foot in the country to which they are being returned. The Secretary of State simply referred to “reasonable grounds to believe” that an individual would be eligible for foreign citizenship; that was not even confirmed.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend is describing exactly what could have happened to me when I was born. It is likely that if this Bill had been law in the early 1970s, I would have been stripped of my citizenship as a young child. [Interruption.]

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. [Interruption.] Let me just say that, being a middle child, I am not intimidated by the braying from the other side of the House, so I will continue to advance my arguments.

Clause 9 states that the Government do not need to notify someone who has been stripped of citizenship. Is there data from the Home Office which says that the Government cannot enact this law because they have had so many problems reaching people to notify them that they have been stripped of their citizenship? Is there a genuine blockage, or is this being done because it means more power and more severity?

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

No, I will not give way.

Is this also being done because it means that the appeals process and the decisions that are made will receive less scrutiny? The Government need to think long and hard about all that.

I am also concerned about the extent to which the Government are beginning to increase the frequency of their use of this policy. Between 2006 and 2018, 175 people lost their citizenship on national security grounds, but 104 of those instances occurred in just one year, 2017. If the Government feel that they have to use these powers more and more frequently, that is a worrying trend. Of course dangerous criminals should be locked up and serve their sentences, but if a criminal has been born and raised here and has been radicalised in this country, why do we think it is the responsibility of another country to try that person? That cannot be right.

I know that this will provoke some reaction from the Government Benches, but the truth is that it is nearly always non-white people whose citizenship is being revoked. Before there is any more braying, let me read out the statistics. According to the New Statesman’s analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics, two in every five people from non-white ethnic minorities in the UK are likely to be eligible for deprivation of citizenship. This compares with one in 20 characterised as white. We cannot argue about the statistics.

In 2016, in the most awful moment of my career, my friend Jo Cox was murdered by a far right extremist and terrorist. He was tried in this country and locked up in this country. If his skin colour were any different, he should not be sent to another country. The following year, in 2017, Darren Osborne drove a van into a group of Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park. Rightly, he was tried and given a sentence in this country. It was not proposed that those convicted terrorists or criminals should have their citizenship revoked. Why is that? Is it because of the colour of their skin? I say this because I genuinely feel—

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Yes, I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, who made a wonderful speech.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. She is making some interesting points, but it is really important for us all to understand that this is not some sort of act of racism. Anna Chapman was a Russian spy with dual nationality and she had her nationality revoked. So I urge the hon. Lady to do the right thing by her old friend Jo Cox and to do the things that bring us together. This is about the good of the nation. It has nothing to do with colour or race.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. What I would say to everyone is that I am not trying here to flame tensions or to play politics. I am genuinely saying that ethnic minorities in this country are in fear of this clause. It has created widespread fear in communities. If we start treating non-white criminals and terrorists as though they are the responsibility of another country and not our responsibility, we will send a signal to law-abiding non-white British citizens that they are somehow less British in this country. I genuinely ask the Government to consider this.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I have been listening to the hon. Lady and I am very confused. Can she tell me where exactly in the Bill it refers to people’s skin colour or ethnicity? Otherwise, this is pure scaremongering and trying to create division. The Bill does not reference skin colour or ethnicity. A terrorist is a terrorist, and I do not want them in this country, regardless of their skin colour.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I do not feel that I can even respond to the hon. Member’s comments, but I will say that I agree that terrorists are terrorists. Regardless of their skin colour, they should be tried in this country, because they are British terrorists who were born here, radicalised here and committed their crimes because of growing up here. I really think that maybe the hon. Member should go on unconscious bias training, because I am not sure what else to say to him.

Finally, I would say to the Minister that the Government also have to think about whether the powers that they are bringing in are compatible with this country’s international obligations.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is perhaps not the best look to persuade people to trust this Government with their citizenship, when they are shouting down Members who are of an ethnic minority, raising concerns—[Interruption.] And shouting down another one. We are raising genuine concerns on behalf of our constituents and their families.

Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I was born and raised in this country. I do not even need to mention the colour of my skin. I am here representing people who are genuinely worried about the powers in the Bill and how their lives will be impacted as we move forward. I would just say, without taking up too much time, that people in this House should consider that the powers we have in this House will have a severe impact on people who are non-white, are law-abiding British citizens, make up the fabric of our community, do everything right and now feel that they are being penalised.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I know that emotions are running high on both sides, but Members on both sides should try to take the heat out of this. I have heard shouting on both sides and it is really not helping the debate.

Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough

I rise to speak to amendment 12 to clause 9. Peterborough is a city of an estimated 20,000 Muslims and a city full of people who can trace their ancestry to scores of different countries around the world. Many are dual nationals. They are my friends, my colleagues and my supporters. I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims—something I do with pride.

Last week, I held a surgery at the Khadijah mosque and met my local branch of the Conservative Muslim Forum. A common experience within British Muslim households and families are stories from first-generation migrants—grandparents and great-grandparents—telling younger family members that there may come a time when they will be asked to leave. Despite our shared values, this insecurity is understandable and genuinely felt. The UK was a very different country in the 1970s, when racism and far-right marches were common and Idi Amin had just thrown the Asians out of Uganda. Even today, Islamophobia and racism are all too common.

Some 93% of Muslims say they feel strongly that they belong to Britain. That not only applies to Muslims; it applies to other communities, too. There is nothing—nothing—in this Bill that should make families more insecure, and those who push this perception on social media and in this House spread fear and anxiety. They should understand the consequences of their actions.

For over a century, Home Secretaries have had the ability to remove British citizenship in exceptional circumstances, provided it does not leave a person stateless. There must be a significant risk of harm to the public, such as terrorism, and there is a right to appeal. This Bill makes no changes to these existing powers. There is a legitimate debate to be had about whether it is right for the Home Secretary to have this power and whether she should be able to strip, albeit in limited circumstances, dual nationals of their citizenship. That argument was raised by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis.

But that is not what this Bill is about. Clause 9 alters the requirement for the Home Secretary to serve notice on a person in cases where this would be impracticable, such as if they are in hiding or in the middle of a warzone. To present this as a threat to people living in my city is scaremongering, which is shameful. Nobody in Peterborough is affected by this minor change to the law, and no constituent should feel concerned about their citizenship.

Let me tell the House what Labour activists and Labour councillors are saying in my constituency. Councillor Amjad Iqbal, a legal practitioner—not a lawyer—messaged constituents saying:

“As your councillor I am very concerned at some of the policies this government is sharing behind closed doors. As ethnic minority individuals I wish to share this with you and please sign and send to Paul Bristow the MP whose Government is responsible for this fiasco.”

Behind closed doors? We are debating it in the House of Commons.

Another councillor, Councillor Qayyum, said ward residents

“have been told that their Nationality cannot be revoked by an MP who has written to them on official letterhead paper. This is untrue.”

I cannot revoke anyone’s citizenship. To send out that message to people in my constituency is shameful. This misinformation has consequences for some of the most vulnerable people in my city.

One of the kindest, most loving families in my constituency—a family I helped with a schooling issue—came to me after being told by an activist that I want to see them deported and deprived of their citizenship. This is despicable. I know why Members opposite and the Labour party do this—it is because they have nothing left to say.

Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Future of Work)

I also rise to speak in support of amendment 12.

Citizenship is a fundamental right that speaks to our very sense of belonging and identity, which is why it is enshrined not just in law but in the UN charter, the universal declaration of human rights and the 1954 convention relating to the status of stateless persons.

Under this Home Secretary, the Government have failed to treat citizenship with the reverence and respect it deserves. By removing the requirement to give notice, she has done away with due process and has expanded her already draconian powers that allow her to deprive anyone of British citizenship, provided she believes it is in the interest of the public good.

Reference has been made to powers that, according to the analysis of the Office for National Statistics, could affect 6 million people, many from a Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Jamaican or Nigerian background. Let me be absolutely clear: that is the group of people the Bill will disproportionately impact, which is why this House must vote the clause down today.

Over the past fortnight since I originally raised this issue, I have had people telling me, much like some of the arguments we have heard from the Government Benches, “As long as you don’t break the law, you have nothing to fear from the Home Office.” I absolutely disagree: working-class people from a black, from an Asian or from any ethnic minority background have everything to fear from this Home Office. Let us not forget that it is this Tory Home Office that presided over the mass deportations in the Windrush scandal; that it is this Home Office that continues to prosecute a hostile environment against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; and that it is this Home Office that uses Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” not as a warning, but as a guidebook. I therefore have no confidence, and neither do my constituents, that, based on its record, the Home Office will not further expand the scope of its powers to deprive someone of British citizenship on more spurious grounds.

The powers that the Home Secretary has even now to deprive someone of British citizenship already create two tiers in society based on foreign ancestry, but removing the requirement to provide notice takes things even further. An individual stripped of citizenship will not be told or given reasons and will therefore have no real right of appeal—and all this can happen even as they are being deported. Frankly, such a move should send shivers down the spine of anyone interested in upholding liberty and due process. I simply ask those who want to accuse me of sensationalising the situation to come walk for a day, for a year, for a lifetime in the shoes of someone the Home Office has decreed to be a second-class citizen, and then tell me that they honestly believe that these are not the real fears of those from ethnic minority backgrounds in our own country today.

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

I wish to focus on clause 9 but will refer to amendment 12.

Clause 9 amends the deprivation of citizenship powers in the British Nationality Act 1981. Currently, as Members have highlighted, section 40(5) of that Act requires the Secretary of State to give a person written notice of a deprivation order, the reasons for it and the person’s right of appeal. The power to deprive an individual of their citizenship has been available for more than a century, since the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, and is currently also contained in the 1981 Act. Home Office powers to strip British nationals of their citizenship were introduced after the 2005 London bombings and broadened in 2014.

As we have heard, there has been some criticism of the clause in the House and outside the House. For example, the Runnymede Trust states that citizenship is not a privilege and that the Bill is

“a threat to ethnic minority Britons”.

I wholly disagree. Citizenship of any country is a privilege, not a right. We are all privileged to be British citizens. It is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

The 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 integral to the national security of this country that if an affected person cannot be contacted, or if knowledge of their whereabouts derives from sensitive intelligence sources, we can act in the best interests of this country and our citizens.

Removing someone’s British citizenship is a last resort against the most dangerous people who pose a risk to society, or those whose conduct involves very high levels of harm. It is rare and always come with a right to appeal. Deprivation of citizenship on fraud grounds is for those who obtained their citizenship fraudulently and so were never entitled to it in the first place.

The Bill does not change any existing rights, or the circumstances in which a person can be deprived of their citizenship. Decisions are made following the careful consideration of advice from officials and lawyers, and always in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually. With regard to seeking to deprive an individual of their British citizenship on the basis that that is conducive to the public good, the law requires that this action should proceed only if the individual will not be left stateless.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:00, 7 December 2021

The hon. Member is describing a textbook example of how the Home Office is supposed to work, but in the experience of many of my constituents, time and again its decisions are riddled with errors, mistakes and misjudgments all the way through, from top to bottom; and the Minister knows this well. Given that the Home Office makes so many mistakes, does the hon. Member agree that it needs to be a lot more careful with the people it is dealing with?

Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye

I agree, in that I, too, have constituents who have been waiting for five years for their asylum status to be decided. I am sure that the Minister agrees that the Home Office officials who deal with people need to have proper and efficient processes in place.

More generally, although human migration has been going on for millennia, we face increasing global challenges caused by a range of complex climate, economic, social and political factors. Uncontrolled mass migration has caused a swing to nationalism in some European countries, and we must not let that happen here. This country has always welcomed immigrants; we have lived together in a tolerant society that welcomes immigrants. The developed world, including our allies in Europe, needs to take better measures to control migration, but also to help people thrive in their homeland, rather than facing the indignity and lack of worth that they face in Europe, where people are exploited or detained in facilities. No man, no woman, no Government, nor any faith should be upholding this new form of slavery.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Justice)

I rise in support of amendment 12, which was tabled by Mr Davis. Before I speak to the amendment, let me put on record my complete and absolute opposition to this Bill in its entirety.

This Bill is a sham. This Home Secretary is intent on extending her predecessor’s hostile environment policies to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers feel unwelcome and unwanted in the UK. The legislation is not only atrocious, but poorly written, as is demonstrated by the fact that the Government tabled 80 amendments to their own Bill after it had undergone line-by-line scrutiny in Committee.

Let me turn to clause 9, which amendment 12 seeks to remove. The inclusion of this clause, which allows the Home Secretary to deprive a person of their British citizenship without any warning, is deeply worrying. In the last couple of weeks, more than 60 of my constituents have contacted me to say that they are concerned about the clause. The Government declare that citizenship is a privilege, not a right. They have got it backwards; citizenship is a right, not a privilege, and this clause represents a fundamental breach of the rule of law.

I secured my British citizenship in the ’80s, after nearly two decades in this country. It is people like me and those with migrant heritage who have the most to fear from this clause and this Government. Black, Asian and minority ethnic people—whether they are migrants or not—are frightened of what this Government could do to them, particularly in the wake of the Windrush scandal. Depriving someone of their citizenship is a serious undertaking; it should be subject to appropriate safeguards, which must include giving individuals notice. For this reason, I support amendment 12, which would remove the clause from the Bill.

I want to finish with the words of one of my constituents, who said:

“As an aunt to five children of mixed heritage, as someone with a sister-in-law who is Moroccan, as someone with friends who were not born in Britain, and as a human being who exists in this world, I believe this bill is inhuman, unconscionable, and evil in its intent.”

Several hon. Members:


Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I will reduce the time limit to just three minutes, because I want to try to get as many people in as I possibly can, and I will ask the Minister to respond to the debate no later than 4.30 pm.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. The residents of Rother Valley warmly welcome the Bill. I will speak against new clause 12 and in favour of clause 9. I have been very disappointed with the tone of the debate, especially with regard to the poor victims of the Windrush scandal, which was an absolute tragedy for this country. Opposition Members are somehow equating this Bill with Windrush. This Bill is designed to strip citizenship from dual citizens who are a threat to this country—terrorists, hardened criminals and those people we do not want in this country and should not be part of this country. For Opposition Members to equate those sorts of reprobates with Windrush is deeply insulting and deeply troubling. It is no more than scaremongering and trying to wind people up.

The Bill is not about taking citizenship without notice; that will not happen unless it is not “reasonably practical” to give that notice. I want to hear from Opposition Members on how we could go to, say, an ISIS fighter in Syria and hand them a notice saying, “You’re being deprived of your citizenship”, or to some terrorist in Chechnya saying, “Excuse me, Mr Terrorist, please stop shooting people—I’ve been sent here by the Government to give you a notice.” That would be ludicrous and would put UK Government officials in danger.

The question for this House is whose side we are on. Are we on the side of the rule of law, British citizens and British officials, or do we want to send British officials into harm’s way—to the ISIS suicide bombers of Iraq and Syria to give them a piece of paper? I say no. [Interruption.] I hear chuntering from a sedentary position. I am happy to take interventions from Opposition Members if they wish to challenge this, but none is forthcoming, because they know that this is the truth. They know that this Bill—

Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham

The hon. Member says that officials cannot go to some places to inform people about their citizenship. How did they notify Shamima Begum, I might ask, that she no longer had her British citizenship? There are clearly ways to do it. Opposition Members’ objection is that there are already mechanisms in law that allow the Government to deprive people of their citizenship. Why do they want to make that easier? Look at everything that has happened with immigration over the past number of years. That is why people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are afraid—because every time the Government change legislation, things are worse for people from those communities.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I thank the hon. Lady for that point, although I am a bit confused about it. Shamima Begum could be deprived of her citizenship first because she was found, as she was in a refugee camp, and secondly because she was a terrorist—and I say, good. It is good that her citizenship was taken away. Long may we continue taking citizenship away from terrorists.

Frankly, if people have done nothing wrong and are not terrorists or a threat to this country, they have nothing to fear. That is the message to put out there. This is about such a small minority of cases. Some would argue that we should take this measure against more of these terrorists and reprobates. I would definitely support that. This Bill is not about targeting minorities; it is about bad people. I am confused about whose side Labour Members are on. Are they on the side of upstanding, law-abiding British people, or the side of people who want to do harm to the country—to blow people up, cause damage and put us in harm’s way? I am very confused by their point of view.

Photo of Sam Tarry Sam Tarry Shadow Minister (Transport)

Thousands of constituents in Ilford South are certainly not terrorists. What happens if they decide to go on a protest about their rights, or against something that the Government are doing to them? Would they then be deemed a terrorist, and at what point? Remember that some of the laws that the Government are looking to bring forward over the next couple of weeks extend the circumstances in which people can be accused of being terrorists. If someone is a climate activist, are they now a terrorist? What about someone who is campaigning because their family are Bangladeshis who are drowning in Bangladesh due to this Government’s inaction on climate change? Can it then be said, “You’re a terrorist—you’re going to have your citizenship removed”? The problem is that people in Ilford South do not trust this Government to take care of minority communities because their track record is so dreadful.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. We cannot have interventions that last longer than the speech that is being given.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I thank Sam Tarry. That seems to be Labour Members’ argument. They are creating a Windrush of victims, and talking about activists as terrorists. They are not actually on the side of British people, or on the side of victims or activists. They would rather put up these straw men and say, “Ah, but what happens if the evil hand of Government does this or that?” It is complete rubbish. This Bill is designed to allow us to take control of our borders and of who lives in this country. The people of Rother Valley fundamentally want good people in this country, and people who actually know what is going on. There is an appeals process and, as we have established, a tribunal. The Bill is not about arbitrarily taking away citizenship; it is about helping and looking after our country.

Labour is making a desperate bid to stir up, dare I say it, racial tension—and it is racial tension. As the grandson and son of immigrants, I find that deeply upsetting. It is encouraging division in our country when we need to come together to defeat the terrorists and the bad people. The Bill gives the Government no more power than they had before, except for when it comes to notification. I would say that that protects British officials from going into war zones to give notification. We are not talking about depriving people of citizenship in this way when we can trace them; we are not talking about people in the United Kingdom with a postcode, who we can go to, speak to, and deal with. We are talking about those we cannot get access to. I do not see why Labour is supporting those people who want to do harm to this country. It is telling that in order to, frankly, scam votes out of people, it is trying to appeal to the lowest base.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

I have given way twice, and have already gained a couple more minutes, so I will not give way on this point.

I will briefly speak to new clause 4, which my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell spoke in favour of. It is superb, and I hope that the Government have listened. Those Hongkongers who have given military or police service should be at the front of the queue, and the Government should look to my hon. Friend’s new clause and support it, because it is exactly what the Bill is about: looking after the good people, protecting those who have done good things and given service to our country, and keeping out the bad ones. That is why I support it.

Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

I was proud to add my name to new clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy, on the abolition of the excessive fees that children are being charged, and I hope that the Government accept it. Overall, this Bill is deeply flawed, driven by ideology and destined to have lasting catastrophic consequences. If it is intended to make our system of citizenship and asylum fairer and more humane, it does the opposite. If it is intended to smash the evil gangs who trade in human lives, it does the opposite. If it is intended to end the heart-rending tragedy of people dying in the icy waters of the English channel, it does the opposite. If it is intended to make our borders secure and make us safer, it does the exact opposite. Yet the Government plough on with their hostile environment, without thought for the devastating impact it may have.

Ministers have been warned by experts and academics that the Bill undermines the UK’s commitment to the 1951 Geneva refugee convention and much more besides. Given the weight of evidence against the Government’s approach, one might wonder why they persist. Why, indeed? The removal of ethnic minorities from these islands has been a long-standing fascist demand. On the streets where I grew up, it was translated into something more straightforward and visceral. Chalked up on walls or shouted through letterboxes was, “Send them back.” Now this Government are hanging the sword of Damocles over our head. If someone does something wrong, or something perceived to be wrong by the nation of their ancestral heritage, they could be stripped of their citizenship and ordered to “go back home.” This right-wing rhetoric has returned in the Nationality and Borders Bill that is in front of the House this afternoon.

Let us be blunt, Mr Deputy Speaker: the Bill will not affect your good self, because of the colour of your skin, but it will impact people like me, because of the colour of our skin and our ancestral heritage. What is even more galling is that the Prime Minister is getting someone with brown skin to do his dirty work with a Bill that could have disastrous consequences for black and brown people. No wonder there are accusations of tokenism from within the Asian, African and Caribbean British communities. What is the point of having black and brown people as Cabinet Ministers sitting on the Conservative Front Bench if they are going to directly act against the interests of black and brown people, just so that they can hold ministerial office?

When the military Government of Myanmar disempowered ethnic groups by removing their citizenship, many of us shuddered with horror, but people are now frightened that the Home Secretary can remove their citizenship at a stroke, retrospectively and without any notice.

Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North 4:15, 7 December 2021

It is better to move on from such an appalling speech.

Amendment 12, tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis, which would remove clause 9, is a quite straightforward legal matter. However, as I have listened to the debate, I have thought on occasion that hon. Members have been debating a clause that does not exist or is not in the Bill. As I said in my intervention on Bambos Charalambous, the Labour Government, through the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002—as well as through further legislation in 2016—codified and ensured that a Home Secretary of whatever political party had the power to exclude or take away somebody’s citizenship in certain circumstances. If there was an objection to that principle, an amendment should have been tabled. Anyone in the House had the opportunity to do that. However, the only amendment tabled on this measure concerns the notice period—that is it. Let us therefore have a debate on the notice period. If the Labour party opposes in principle what the previous Labour Government did in 2002 and 2016, I am certain that its Front-Bench team would have tabled an amendment.

Let us get to the notice period and what we are arguing about, on which important issues were raised. Hilary Benn made a point that I hope the Minister will address. If an order is made without notice, does the appeal process start when the order is made or when the order is received, as is currently the norm and the law?

I could read out some of the scaremongering and appalling things said about the Bill, but I do not want to go down into that. My hon. Friend Paul Bristow gave a magnificent speech on that. I find it surprising, because if this or any other Government wanted to do things of which they are being accused, they could do them now. What does it matter whether people have notice or not? There was the genuinely unbelievable suggestion that the Bill could be used to address climate change activists. The Opposition are genuinely scraping the barrel when it comes down to that level. I am here to tell my constituents that that is scaremongering. There is a requirement for exceptional circumstances in clause 9, which are there to protect them, and no one has anything to fear from the clause at all.

Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

I am deeply concerned by and opposed to the great majority of the proposals in this inherently authoritarian Bill. Much of it appears to be written to satisfy front-page tabloid headlines rather than to fix the broken asylum system. It amounts to a fundamental rejection of our international obligations under the 1951 UN convention relating to the status of refugees and does nothing to resolve these complex issues at all. Even the Government’s own impact assessment suggests that measures in the Bill could lead to an increase in unsafe journeys across the channel rather than a reduction in them. The Bill originally tried to criminalise not only asylum seekers but those who try to help and rescue them. I cannot recall a more immoral and wicked piece of UK legislation.

I am disturbed by clauses 9 and 10, which enable a Home Secretary to deprive UK nationals of citizenship without notice and restrict stateless children’s access to British citizenship. As a British citizen with dual nationality, I personally feel the ice-cold chill of those proposals. It looks and feels like a ramping up of the hostile environment. I will not support a set of clauses that create a hierarchy of British citizenship. The Government are trying to reframe citizenship as a privilege, not the right that it is. The message this sends is that certain citizens, despite being born and brought up in the UK and having no other home, remain migrants, so that their citizenship and therefore all their rights are permanently insecure.

This Bill clearly disproportionately targets those of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other racial groups, regardless of their country of birth. The racialised nature of this tiered system is obvious: the citizenship of those like myself, many of my constituents and millions of others of minority and migrant heritage is less secure and less important than those who belong to majority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom. It is a shameful piece of legislation that we should all be concerned about. Much of the Bill appears to be written to satisfy the front pages of tabloids, as I have said. It is not in favour of all the communities such as those of our parents, who came here years and years ago and worked hard to rebuild this country, and they are facing this because of this Tory Government.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

There have been some powerful speeches, and I want in particular to pay tribute to the speech made by my hon. Friend Imran Hussain, whom Conservative Members would have done better to listen to rather than shout at.

I want to address the Government’s clause 9, which proposes removing people’s citizenship without notice and, in effect, removing their rights of appeal. When people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds raise concerns—deep concerns—about this proposal, the response from the Government is, “Trust us”. “Trust us”—the people who deported black citizens in the Windrush generation? “Trust us”—the people who sent “Go home” vans around working-class estates? “Trust us”—the people who authored the hostile environment? “Trust us”—the people who are talking in this legislation about offshore detention centres? “Trust us”—the people who have created an atmosphere in which others are trying to demonise those going into the waters off our country to try to save lives and prevent death? “Trust us”? It is no wonder that the people at the sharp end of this Government’s hostile environment and at the sharp end of this racist legislation do not trust this Government.

It is absolutely appalling that people are being made to feel as if they do not belong in their own country and as if they are somehow second-class citizens. Let me contrast that—[Interruption.] No, they are not being made to feel that because of Members of Parliament raising these concerns. It is because of the legislation—the racist, divisive, scapegoating legislation—that this Government are bringing in.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East

I am not going to give way. The hon. Member talked enough rubbish before.

I want to draw a contrast with a community event that I attended in the most ethnically diverse ward in my constituency, Gipton and Harehills, in Leeds on Friday. Young people were there reading poems about their experiences, and one poem read by a local resident was about how the community has welcomed asylum seekers and welcomed refugees. Rather than using the issue of migration as a weapon of mass distraction to distract people from the responsibility that the Tory Government and their policies have for the misery in their lives, this Government would do better to listen to the message of hope and unity from diverse communities and stop peddling this legislation of division, racism, scapegoating and hate—and I make no apologies for this speech.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Independent, Islington North

I just want to put on record four things. First, this Bill is an appalling piece of legislation. It is designed to appease the most backward elements in our society and it is designed to chase headlines in the popular media. The attacks on refugees and the attacks on people who support refugees are nothing but appalling and disgusting. The idea that this country has always been a welcoming place for refugees is simply not true. Often, it has been very hostile towards refugees. If we were that welcoming, we would not have so many people who have legitimately sought asylum in Britain living in desperate poverty, because the Home Office cannot be bothered to process their applications, and they are living in penury as a result. It would not be criminalising people who are trying to save lives on our shores, or prosecuting people in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, or anything else. We should all be very proud of people who demonstrated in memory of those who died off Calais, including the 250 people who attended a demonstration at the Stade in Hastings a couple of weeks ago.

I wish to refer to three parts of the Bill. I absolutely support new clause 2, tabled by Henry Smith. I have been a member, and in the past chair, of the Chagos Islands (British Indian Ocean Territory) all-party group for many years, and I worked with Olivier Bancoult, and many other Chagos islanders. We did wrong to the Chagos islanders in the 1970s and ’80s when they were driven off their land, and we have done wrong by them many times since then. The reason British nationality was offered was that the late Tam Dalyell and I tabled an amendment to previous legislation, to try to get recognition of the rights of Chagos islanders. Unfortunately, the Foreign Office and the Home Office collectively got it wrong, and the new clause corrects a mistake—let us be generous and call it a mistake—that was made many years ago, and will grant security to Chagos islanders living in this country.

I strongly support new clause 8 tabled by my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy. Nationality fees should be based solely on the cost of processing, not on the Home Office making a vast amount of money out of that. The new clause would help to right what is an intrinsic wrong.

In my remaining 39 seconds, I strongly support amendment 12, tabled by Mr Davis, about the removal of British nationality. Many of us in the House—probably everybody—has at some point been to a citizenship ceremony at our town hall. They are nice; they are moving occasions. But all that could be for naught. The Home Secretary could simply remove the right of citizenship from someone who has gained it in this country or gained it through their heritage. Such a removal requires the agreement of another country, but people will not get that, and we will end up with stateless people as a result.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

I wish to support new clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy. The “Barriers to Britishness” report was published a year ago this month, and in his foreword, Alberto Costa pointed out that the cost of citizenship in the UK is the highest in the western world, and that

“the combined cost of applying to become a citizen in Australia, Canada, the USA and France still does not add up to the cost of a single application in Britain. The fee of £1,330 is almost four times the cost to the Home Office of processing an application.”

This is a hostile environment for hard-working, law-abiding migrant families, and that is why clause 9 provokes such anxiety.

I know many families on the so-called 10-year route to indefinite leave, which means that two and a half years’ leave to remain at a time needs to be obtained four times, before they can apply for indefinite leave. They pay extortionate fees every time. Sometimes people lose their jobs because they do not have leave to remain between one two-and-a-half-year period ending and the Home Office getting round to granting the next. No recourse to public funds applies throughout that 10-year period—that is the subject of a different amendment that we will debate later.

At the Liaison Committee last year I told the Prime Minister about a family I know. Both parents work, the mother as a teaching assistant and the father in a big international company. The mother’s job continued after lockdown, but the father was laid off. Lockdown happened in one of the gaps between two-and-a-half-year periods, and the father’s employer did not know whether it was allowed to furlough him under the new scheme, so it did not. That family had no recourse to public funds, and all they could do was turn to a foodbank to survive. At the Liaison Committee the Prime Minister said that hard-working, law-abiding families in that position should have help of one kind or another. I very much agree with him, but unfortunately they do not, and every two and a half years they have extortionate visa fees. How do people cope with massive fees? For one family I know, we are talking about £14,000 every two and a half years in order to stay in the UK. For 10 years, they get no child benefit, even if the children are British citizens; no universal credit if somebody loses a job; and, prior to the pandemic, no free school meals if the family hit hard times. That is the hostile environment for law-abiding, hard-working migrant families, which is why families are so worried about what is in this Bill.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:30, 7 December 2021

It has certainly been an interesting debate. I thank the shadow Minister, Bambos Charalambous —I think he is moving on to pastures new after this debate—and I welcome the new shadow Minister, Jack Dromey, to his position.

The debate started with at least one positive point from an Opposition Member, when the SNP spokesperson, Anne McLaughlin, referred to some of the changes we are looking to make to correct historical anomalies that have existed for far too long. The reforms we make in the Bill to British nationality law will finally address those anomalies, which will have a positive impact for a significant number of people. The Bill also includes measures for the Home Secretary to grant British citizenship to people who would have become British citizens if not for unfairness and exceptional circumstances beyond their control.

Let me turn to some of the amendments. Government amendments 17 and 18, in relation to deprivation of citizenship, are minor and technical amendments to correct a drafting error in clause 9, so this is an appropriate opportunity to address amendment 12 tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Davis.

We heard some quite strong comments from Opposition Members about amendment 12, but let us really get into what clause 9 does. It amends section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 to allow the requirement to give notice of a decision to deprive a person of their citizenship to be disapplied in certain limited circumstances, such as where there is no way of communicating with the person. For example, as was well pointed out by my hon. Friends on the Conservative Benches, if someone is in a warzone, it is rather impractical to suggest that we should ask them to stop shooting so that we can pop up and serve them a notice. We heard some extraordinary comments from Opposition Members implying that we can simply pop a letter in the post and it will almost certainly get to someone.

To be clear, clause 9 does not change the circumstances under which a person can be deprived of British citizenship, nor does it remove the right of appeal against a decision to deprive a person of their citizenship. Rather, it preserves the right of appeal in cases where specified circumstances mean it is not reasonable to serve a person with a notice of a decision to deprive. The Government’s minor amendments to clause 9 clarify that the statutory right of appeal in deprivation cases is a right to appeal against the deprivation decision itself and not the deprivation order.

As was touched on, deprivation of citizenship is hardly a new concept; it has been in operational practice for many years, including under Labour Governments. The 1981 Act provides a statutory right of appeal against a decision to deprive. Clause 9 preserves that right of appeal in cases where the notice of a decision to deprive has not been served. Once a person makes contact with the Home Office, they are given a copy of the deprivation decision notice. They can then seek to exercise their statutory right to appeal against the decision.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Amendment 12 would remove clause 9 in its entirety, undermining the integrity of the immigration system and this Government’s efforts to keep dangerous people out of this country. To reiterate, there is no change in the scope of who could potentially be deprived, no change in the criteria, and appeal rights are still there.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

It is important that we are completely accurate in what we are saying. It is true that the Bill actually does extend the role of the Home Secretary with regard to notices. Let us be clear: it places in the power of the Home Secretary the decision that they need not give notice if that is

“in the interests of the relationship between the United Kingdom and another country, or,” breathtakingly,

“otherwise in the public interest.”

That confers a huge amount of discretion on the Home Secretary. The Bill takes our concerns about due process to another plane.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am pleased the right hon. Gentleman did not throw a book at the Dispatch Box this time. Let me repeat what I just said: no one extra in scope, no change in criteria, and judicial oversight still there for an appeal. Let us be clear that we cannot simply allow someone who could cause high harm to this country, or who has gained citizenship via fraud, to avoid these provisions simply by hiding away—for example, in one of the repressive regimes that some Opposition Members seem far too supportive of—where we cannot reasonably issue them with a notice. We cannot be in a position where we could never deprive someone of citizenship just because it is not practical to pop a letter in the post to them.

I turn now to new clause 2, which I am afraid would undermine a long-standing principle of British nationality law dating back to 1915, under which nationality or entitlement to nationality is not passed on to the second and subsequent generations born and settled outside the UK and its territories, creating quite a major precedent. However, I do hear the strong point made by my hon. Friend Henry Smith and, to be fair, by Jeremy Corbyn. We will continue to consider what more we could do, particularly given the low uptake of the £40 million Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office fund designed to assist this diaspora community, and we will certainly be keen to look at that and, potentially, at how it could allow those people to settle here in the UK.

My hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell spoke powerfully to new clause 4. The Government remain extremely grateful to former British Hong Kong service personnel. He will be aware that under the British nationality selection scheme a limited number of personnel who were settled in Hong Kong could apply to register as British citizens. Additionally, because they were all adults at the time, all such veterans would have been eligible to acquire BNO status between 1986 and 1987. We therefore believe that most should hold BNO status and be eligible for the BNO route.

Granting the right of abode would set quite a precedent. However, I am pleased to confirm that the Home Secretary has identified an option that will enable our Government to treat this group of personnel in a similar way to other non-UK service personnel who were based in Hong Kong before handover. To be clear, that would be on top of the existing pathways they are already eligible for, including the BNO visa route and any other route. There is considerable work to be done to fully scope the impacts of this policy and the practicalities of its delivery, and I will aim to provide further details to the House as soon as I am able to, with a view to a solution being provided before the end of the next calendar year. I hope that that is of reassurance to my hon. Friend, whose regular challenge to us is that it is not just about having an idea; it is also about having a timeline to deliver it.

My right hon. Friend Damian Green and others spoke powerfully about new clause 5, which raises issues about eligibility for the BNO route and particularly about those who were too young to obtain BNO status before the handover to China and whose BNO parents or grandparents, with whom they form a household, do not wish to apply for that route—effectively, they do not wish to move from Hong Kong. There are issues with the new clause as it is drafted, given that it does not contain an age limit and its scope could extend even to those who have never set foot in Hong Kong. However, we hear the very strong points that have been made, and we very much recognise the importance of our close ties to the people of Hong Kong.

I emphasise that those who are not eligible for the BNO route have a number of other UK immigration routes available to them, not least the very expanded skilled worker route. Individuals from Hong Kong can also apply to come, for example, as a student. As my right hon. Friend referred to, there is the existing youth mobility scheme, which is open to those aged between 18 and 30 and which offers a two-year grant of leave in the UK, with scope to switch, once people are here, to routes that lead to permanent settlement. There are currently 1,000 places available each year, and the scheme is substantially under-subscribed.

We believe that those existing measures allow a lot of people to come, and we expect one or two of the new routes being created next year to also open up a pathway to this age group in Hong Kong, alongside others. However, my right hon. Friend asked me about two specific points. First, if the other side unilaterally enacted its provision, that would not automatically change the immigration rules here in the United Kingdom. That would be something we would have to do to close the route for applications by Hong Kong nationals. I must be clear that if unilateral action happened that further damaged the rights and abilities of people in Hong Kong, the Government would look closely at whether to maintain the scheme, to put something else in its place or to continue to allow it to go forward. I point out that we have a number of successful YMS schemes.

On the timeline for applications, whatever route we put in place—I would not want to disabuse my right hon. Friend—there would be a period of time between applying and getting a decision. In the context of our simplification process and the fact that we have moved to create, in some cases, wholly digital pathways for application to the BNO route by Hong Kong citizens, we are certainly happy to look again at whether some of those principles could be applied to the YMS in Hong Kong.

I noted the comments from Rob Roberts. We very much welcome and value the contribution of overseas workers in the NHS; that is why we introduced the health and care worker visa. However, making changes in one area would potentially require changes in others, including to routes that some other NHS staff are on. I should also point out that new clause 7 itself would see the applicant, if they left NHS employment within three years, having to pay the fee. I can understand why he sought to put his provision into the Bill, but it would be quite a novel approach that would be difficult for the Home Office to operationalise and would inevitably require enforcement. That is why we do not think it is the right approach.

I am grateful for the opportunity to debate children registered as British citizens under new clause 8. However, I must be clear that we are still waiting for the Supreme Court to give its judgment on this issue, and we will then look to respond.

We do not believe we can accept new clause 33, as we believe all applicants for UK nationality should be treated the same in the tests applied, but we are considering how the issue could be picked up as part of our work on simplification—applying it not only to those who hold settled status under the EU settlement scheme, but potentially to ILR holders more broadly. Although we will not accept the new clause today, I hope the hon. Member for Glasgow North East will be pleased to hear that we are looking closely at that work. I emphasise again, as I have said many times before, that no one has been refused British citizenship purely on the basis of the CSI requirement in free movement regulations.

Turning to amendment 2 in the name of Mr Carmichael, which would remove clause 10, unfortunately we are seeing an increasing trend of applications for children whose parents did not take the step of registering their child’s birth with their embassy or high commission, leaving their child without a nationality. Given the request for data, concerns about the use of that route were confirmed by Home Office sampling.

Of more than 200 cases sampled, 96% of parents were Indian or Sri Lankan. Crucially, a child born in the UK to a parent from those countries can only access their citizenship if the parent registers the birth at the relevant high commission. To register the child’s birth they would need to comply with the requirements set. Within the sample, 90% of Indian and Sri Lankan parents had chosen to contact the high commission to obtain letters to show their child was in fact not a citizen, and so clearly had no problem in approaching their authorities. In many cases, the parents had, I think it is safe to say, a chequered immigration record, with only 16% of parents having permission to be in the UK at the time of the child’s birth. In 67% of the cases, the parents had obtained leave to remain in the UK as a result of the child’s applications. That points to why we believe this is a clear concern.

To deal quickly with amendments 110 and 111, amendment 110 would mean in practical terms that parents who had chosen not to register their child’s birth could argue it was not in their child’s best interest to have their nationality. That could raise some obvious issues and concerns and create quite an argument, when in reality that is not something they should be doing—certainly not for an immigration benefit.

Overall, the package of measures in the Bill is fair and proportionate. Again, I say, as many Members have done in their interventions, that the scaremongering about some of the provisions in the Bill and about people who would never be in the scope of the tight criteria for deprivation of citizenship is nothing less than shocking. The criteria applies to those who have committed the worst offences or who are literally overseas committing war crimes. This will never apply in the way that Opposition Members have suggested. I urge the House to reject some of the nonsense that we have heard and vote to support these measures, which will transform our migration system and make sure that we have a nationality system that is fit for purpose.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 134 Nationality and Borders Bill — New Clause 2 — Acquisition by Registration: Descendants of Those Born on British Indian Ocean Territory

A majority of MPs voted not to give descendants of those born on British Indian Ocean Territory before 8 November 1965 the right to become a British Overseas Territories citizen and a British citizen, with no application fees.

Aye: 245 MPs

No: 306 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name


No: A-Z by last name


Absent: 93 MPs

Absent: A-Z by last name

The House divided: Ayes 245, Noes 309.

Question accordingly negatived.

More than two and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).