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.