Amendment 25

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 27th January 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Mobarik Baroness Mobarik Conservative 4:30 pm, 27th January 2022

My Lords, first, I apologise for being unable to speak at Second Reading. I have put my name to Amendment 27 in the name of my noble friend Lord Moylan, who laid it out so well.

Clause 9 has shone a spotlight on legislation concerning the deprivation of citizenship—legislation that has essentially been in existence since 1918, as has been pointed out. However, the degree of power that this legislation wields has evolved over decades, most notably in 2002, 2006 and 2015. The current attempt to deprive a British person of their citizenship without even informing them in advance takes these powers to a wholly unacceptable and sinister level; powers that we would not expect in a modern democracy and, as has been said, more akin to archaic banishment laws.

As my noble friend Lord Moylan stated, this amendment would allow us to row back from the damaging legislation of recent years to the British Nationality Act 1981. It is by no means perfect, as it has certain aspects that one could question, but it is perhaps the most pragmatic and acceptable legislation that we have currently. At the very least, this amendment would go a long way to providing some degree of security to the many people who feel that they are vulnerable under the current legislation, and certainly the proposed legislation. Such legislation has crept in, often as a knee-jerk response to a single event or individual.

The Minister may argue that what I say is an over- reaction and that these powers would be used only in exceptional circumstances. But if Clause 9 is enacted into law, there is a very real danger of its misuse. The open- ended term

“conducive to the public good” flashes red. If citizenship is revoked without notice—perhaps while someone is abroad, with the Home Secretary considering them unreachable—it is highly unlikely that that person would have any recourse to appeal by the time they found out their predicament. On a more basic level, you cannot appeal a decision of which you are unaware.

As a person cannot be made stateless according to international conventions, by default this clause has a disproportionate impact on people from ethnic- minority backgrounds who have a connection to the Commonwealth or a country where they are entitled to dual nationality. It also has an impact on people from Europe, and it impacts Jewish communities who are entitled to citizenship in Israel.

There are already examples of wrongful revocation of someone’s citizenship, in effect destroying years of their life, as in the case of the British man known as E3. He was stripped of his citizenship while in Bangladesh and stranded there for five years. He only recently had his citizenship reinstated, with no explanation by the Home Office as to its actions, no shred of evidence against him and eventually no charge. There needs to be greater transparency as to how this power is used, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, pointed out. Surely we cannot have a society made up of degrees of citizenship, where some are full citizens while others are half-citizens and some are perhaps a bit more than half-citizens.

Being British should not mean that people are expected to deny their ethnicity or renounce their religion, their culture, the country of their birth or that which gives them their identity. We should all be able to celebrate every aspect of who we are and still be a citizen of the state able to vote, work, contribute, raise our families and live in freedom and free from prejudice. I understand that this is not what is being disputed, but there are many people in our country right now—good, law-abiding, loyal citizens—who feel threatened, let down and even scared because they feel that they are the target of this legislation due to their ethnic heritage. There is real disquiet among minority-ethnic communities about the impact of this proposed legislation. Certainly, it does not give confidence or engender loyalty and a sense of belonging, which is what I hope the Home Office would wish to see from all those who live here.

Today, expulsion is for extreme crimes. Tomorrow, it may be for wrongfully accused postmasters or for those exercising the right to peaceful protest on some issue. After all, expulsion may be deemed to be

“conducive to the public good”.

On a personal level, I feel utterly disappointed. If your Lordships will permit me to digress, I do so by way of illustrating how others like me feel. I came to this country as a child of six in the 1960s and was subsequently naturalised—yes, I am associated with that dubious term. My late father served in what was then the British Indian Army during the Second World War. He came from Pakistan. His loyalty to the UK throughout his life was without question and his contribution notable, both in wealth creation and in public service. He was a first-generation immigrant familiar with the language and culture of his country of birth.

We now have a significant population of second, third and even fourth-generation people from the Commonwealth who know no other country than the UK. They have local accents, and they are relaxed with local cultural norms. They feel themselves to be 100% British. They are, nevertheless, in a category of those who have links to another country: that of their parents’ or grandparents’ birth. Therefore, they are potentially vulnerable to having their citizenship revoked and—if Clause 9 is enacted into law—perhaps without even the courtesy of being informed beforehand.

I believe that there is a wider debate to be had over whether citizenship deprivation as a whole is in the interests of our country. I support Amendment 32 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, in this regard.

I understand that the broad objective of this legislation is aimed at only a handful of extremists and criminals, but legislation has to be more wind-tight and watertight. What is essentially at stake here is the principle of the rights of all citizens. Are we really going to let a handful of criminals dictate our very values of fairness, justice and equality? I hope that we would trust in our justice system, one that is the envy of the world, and not perhaps a whim and a flick of an administrator’s pen.

As a six year-old newcomer, unfamiliar with the language or customs of this country, I was acutely conscious of any prejudice or discrimination, however subtle. Human beings are good at detecting such subtleties. Unlike my carefree school friends, I grew up very mindful of immigration legislation whenever it was being debated. I was also conscious of the attempts by our various Governments to address inequalities and to establish good race relations. Having recently served in the European Parliament, I can say that I am proud that the UK has done more in the area of equality, inclusion and diversity than any other country in Europe.

We have so much to be proud of as a nation, so let us not bring into law such a blatantly illiberal and divisive piece of legislation. It is not in accordance with our values and will not serve us well. I agree with the conclusion of the Constitution Committee that Clause 9 must be removed from the Bill.