Amendment 25

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 27th January 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Warsi Baroness Warsi Conservative 4:45 pm, 27th January 2022

My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Moylan and the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, to oppose Clause 9; I have added my name to both. I also lend my support to all other amendments in this group. We should support anything that allows us to think again, row back and reset in an area that has developed in ways that we could not have envisaged, and take any opportunity to put it right.

The consequences of Clause 9 are, once again, incremental changes but with far-reaching consequences. I do not intend to rehearse the arguments I made at Second Reading on the history of the state’s power to strip UK citizens of their citizenship. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Moylan, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, for comprehensively and clearly stating the history of this issue, the background, the policy, the changes and its impact.

Each change has been sold by successive Governments as small, incremental, narrow and necessary. But each change has widened further the net of who, how and why the state can strip our fellow countrymen and women of their right. Clause 9 removes the requirement for the Secretary of State to notify someone when they are being deprived of their citizenship in a broad range of loosely defined circumstances, including when it does not appear to be “reasonably practicable”. I am grateful to my noble friend for her recent correspondence, but I am afraid it provides little justification for this change, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said.

Today I want to make three points. The Government have stripped hundreds of citizens of their citizenship over the last decade. Indeed, as recently as 2017, we heard that over 100 people were stripped of it in one year alone. The requirement for notice was, of course, fulfilled in all those cases. The lack of a Clause 9 power did not prevent the Government acting in hundreds of cases. The case of D4, which has been mentioned by other noble Lords, was what led to this clause at the 11th hour, with little debate in the Commons. To help the Committee understand the rationale behind this clause, can my noble friend start by publishing in a single document the numbers of people deprived, the reasons for the deprivation and the ethnicities of those deprived from, say, 1981 to 2010 and 2010 to date?

Secondly, I want to talk about stripping someone of their citizenship. It strips them of their right to live in their country and of their home, their job and their right to family. It often deprives them of the only place they know and forces them to find another place in the world that may or may not accept them—often a place with which they have little if any connection and where their life may be at risk.

Clause 9 seeks to do this without even notifying the person of such a radically life-altering decision. This in reality removes the person’s right to challenge the decision, the basis of it, the accuracy of the facts on which it was based or, indeed, even whether the person stripped is the right person. My noble friend’s explanation in her letter, I am afraid, goes no further in giving any reassurance that appeal rights will be preserved with Clause 9. As the Constitution Committee said in its report on the Bill:

The House may conclude that this clause is unacceptable and should be removed from the Bill.”

Thirdly, I want to move to a fundamental principle that we are equal before the law, entitled to equal protection and equal treatment. I think the whole Committee can agree on that. In this country, we legislate for what is a crime and publish the law, including sentencing guidelines. If we break the law, we know the consequences that will follow—and follow equally for all citizens. Yet it seems that these fundamental principles are now being eroded.

So perhaps I may ask my noble friend: if an act, a crime, carries the penalty and sentence of citizenship being stripped, should it apply to anyone convicted of that crime? Do my noble friends on the Front Bench agree that sentencing should be linked to crime, not where your grandparents or great-grandparents were born, and that a sentence should not change based on heritage or race? If my noble friends agree with that principle, they will think again and, I hope, before Report they will strike Clause 9 from the Bill, because to do anything else would mean that we further the appalling situation in which we find ourselves now in Britain that seeks to sentence predominately a minority black and brown community differently from the majority white community. Yes, that is hard to listen to, but it should disgust and disturb us in this House.

Being a citizen of this country means that, when you commit a crime, you are arrested, tried and convicted by our laws and our courts. I therefore disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. I accept that it is hard for him to revisit his time, but it is punishment and cannot be protection, as he says it is. If the laws, as he says, were brought in as a response to the challenge of terrorism and an international terrorist franchise, surely that required an international response. So how will dumping our citizens who have shown support for that international franchise in another country—likely with less resources—protect us? I would argue that it makes us all less safe.

Finally, this clause has had a chilling effect in our country. It has provoked debates in homes in settled, established communities such as mine and those of other noble Lords. I want to mention a very personal story. When I was growing up, there were two things I remember acutely. The first was a Hitachi case containing everyone’s papers, passports and naturalisation certificates. When anything happened in our home, for example if we moved, that Hitachi case was rescued first, because the fear was real that, without that case, we might be asked to leave.

The story that I heard from my parents was this. My dad is an optimistic guy who always thought that he would build a house in the north of Pakistan in the way that many of us dream of having a villa in the south of Spain. But my mum, like many women, was more realistic and cynical. She worried that one day we would be asked to leave and go back home. I did not envisage that here I would be at 50, not quite dreaming my dad’s dream but definitely worrying my mum’s worry.

So I say to my noble friend that opposition to this clause is widespread. Most of our inboxes are full of briefings and correspondence. The clause is broadly opposed in this Committee. Today we have seen the House at its best; across it and across political divides we have had noble Lords raising their concerns. So I hope that my noble friend will think again before Report.