My Lords, it is important to situate Clause 9 within the breadth of our immigration law as it stands. For obvious reasons, deprivation powers available to a Secretary of State to strip a person of their British citizenship were historically very tightly drawn indeed. In 2003, 2006, 2014 and 2018, these powers were significantly expanded. They may now be exercised in relation to any British citizen who is a dual national—including British citizens from birth—where the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.
If we want to grasp how broad a power that is and how broad are its implications, we need only recall what the Supreme Court said in the Begum case last year—that this includes a situation where the person does not even know that they are a dual national and where they have little or no connection with the country of their second nationality.
The power can also be exercised in relation to naturalised British citizens even where they are not dual nationals if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the conducive to the public good test is passed because the person has acted in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK. If the Secretary of State has a reasonable belief that the person is able to become a national of another country and that belief turns out to be unfounded, the individual will become stateless.
The leading immigration law silk, Raza Husain, has said:
“This progressive extension over the last two decades has meant that it is no longer necessary to demonstrate that someone is a terrorist or a traitor before stripping them of British citizenship. Individuals may be deprived of citizenship on general public interest grounds of the sort usually invoked to justify deportation, rather than on the basis of their severing the bonds of allegiance that are the hallmark of nationality.”
It is no doubt because of the lowering of these procedural safeguards that the exercise of deprivation of citizenship is now relatively common. In the period from 1973 to 2002, there were no deprivation orders at all. I am told that, since 2011, the power has been used in at least 441 cases, with 104 in 2017 alone. Of course, Clause 9 has the potential very significantly to increase the use of this power. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, has spoken very compellingly about the disproportionate impact that this will inevitably have on non-white British citizens.
In 1958, the great United States Chief Justice Earl Warren, who—we might remind ourselves—was a Republican put on the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, said that the loss of nationality amounts to
“the total destruction of the individual’s status in organized society … the expatriate has lost the right to have rights.”
There he was citing the well-known formulation of Hannah Arendt. Deprivation of citizenship is such a far-reaching and draconian power that it must be accompanied by proper procedural safeguards. Clause 9 goes in precisely the opposite direction, removing the most basic safeguard—it is really just at the Home Secretary’s discretion even to tell the individual that their citizenship is lost to them. I agree that, in some circumstances or contexts, or for some reasons, this may be necessary and notice cannot be given to an individual. We can all, I suppose, imagine situations in which that might have to occur. But to permit the Home Secretary to take this drastic course, simply on the basis of a determination by them that this is in the public interest, is a procedural safeguard so weak as to be completely insupportable.