My Lords, I want to say just a few words because I have listened very carefully, looked at all these amendments and heard some extremely good speeches from colleagues on all sides of the House. However, I am a former Immigration Minister and, looking back at legislation that I was involved in in the 1990s, there were certain Bills in which clauses came forward, we looked at amendments and, frankly, we concluded that, however good the amendments were, the clauses were unamendable and should be removed when they were not effective and where it had been clearly shown that they would have had bad effects.
I am grateful to those who have moved or spoken to their amendments, but I can think of few proposals that can offend as widely and as profoundly as the removal of people’s citizenship. Clause 9, sadly—to me, anyway, as a lawyer—is an affront to our common law, to international legal standards and understandings, and to our various human rights commitments. Critically, it could have appalling consequences for those affected.
As I stated at Second Reading, stripping people of their citizenship—secretly and unilaterally, on vaguely defined grounds such as “in the public interest”—exposes us to actions that fall short of our normal democratic standards, both at home and abroad. It also predicates many legal proceedings.
We all know that the first rule of government is to protect our citizens. I took that very seriously then, as I do know. Clause 9 would place already vulnerable people at greater risk. There are plenty of examples of this. A person may be deported to a country where capital punishment is practised, or where other inhumanities might present themselves. This proposal could hardly be described as protective, as it would open us up to accusations of double standards, which would undermine our efforts to speak out against issues such as the death penalty or cruel and inhumane practices elsewhere.
The UK has a very good and proud record of calling out injustice when it applies to other countries that show a lack of respect for human rights and international standards. At times—not often, but occasionally—we are also good at sporting spurious justifications to mask unsavoury policies. I fear that this clause would grant the UK the same sort of cover and ability to employ the same sorts of excuses to enforce policies that are otherwise indefensible and might be misused.
Citizenship is a valuable status and a clear constitutional right. The issue of revocation is, therefore, to be taken seriously. Any attempt by the state to withdraw an individual’s citizenship must have a clear and robust basis in law. It must assert the primacy of due process, including the right of appeal. Above all, it must be transparent, where the basic rights of notification of action to a subject are followed.
I fear that Clause 9 will create a process that is arbitrary and fundamentally unjust. That is why it should not be supported. I hope that my noble friend can rectify the situation before Report. I listened particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. He was quite correct; it is very difficult to see that any form of amendment could put this clause right.