Amendment 25

Part of Nationality and Borders Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 27th January 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Chakrabarti Baroness Chakrabarti Labour 5:15 pm, 27th January 2022

My Lords, I have listened to this debate with enormous care. I have conflicting feelings about it. I do not know whether I am prouder of the quality, logic and humanity of so many of the speeches, particularly from the Benches opposite, or whether the more compelling emotion I feel is anger that the speeches even had to be made. Unsurprisingly, I will speak against Clause 9 standing part of the Bill and in favour of the various amendments attempting to dilute its pernicious effect—and even more in favour of the proposed new clauses that attempt to go further.

I almost feel as if I and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, have listened to two completely different debates. The absolute tour de force by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, and other speeches on these new clauses were not wide of the mark, because they quite rightly acknowledged that Clause 9 deals just with notice. They conceded that point, but talked about the rot that goes further back in terms of two-tier citizenship and the more precarious version of citizenship that some people are coming to experience because of the increasing use of powers of deprivation, and because these will inevitably have to be used more against some groups within the citizenry than others.

Why is that inevitable? It is inevitable because some citizens, more than others, can be imputed to have links with other countries whether or not they really do, they would ever apply for citizenship elsewhere and that would even be granted. We have seen people deprived of citizenship on very spurious bases. That is, of course, because the United Kingdom has obligations not to make its citizens stateless, and therefore the vulnerable people are those who are thought, imagined or imputed to potentially be able to apply for citizenship elsewhere. That is why these powerful speeches were not hyperbolic or wide of the mark. They were right in law, right in history and right in terms of the experience that some of us have as British citizens in this country.

I am one of them. I have the privilege to have been born a British citizen. By definition, being here means that I have lived a very fortunate life. My parents came to this country in the late 1950s as lawful migrants at the invitation of Mr Macmillan. That did not prevent them being beaten up while I was in the pram by racist skinheads who had been encouraged by the rhetoric of Enoch Powell. That is my lived experience, and it is not hyperbolic or irrelevant.

Legislation is part of the national conversation, and my learned friend Dominic Grieve—who I sincerely hope will one day be in this place, because he would be a fantastic asset to this Committee of your Lordships’ House—is right to ventilate the possibility of legislation being part of dog-whistle rhetoric. I am really sorry to have to say this, because I feel very bipartisan about this, not least because of some of those fantastic speeches from the Benches opposite, but Clause 9 is part of the culture war currently being waged in this country. It makes people like me, personally, feel very vulnerable.

I too have had death threats periodically in my career, without the benefit of ministerial security. I tend not to bang on about this too much, but I know that these kinds of threats—whether they come on social media or in the post—come in waves and cycles that are affected by the national discourse, not just speeches and rhetoric but pending legislation. It was the anxiety about those times past that led my parents to want to register before the 1981 Act came to be. I sense, in the correspondence that I am getting from people in minority communities in particular—and the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, set out the various communities that are particularly affected—that they are now feeling the way my parents felt in the 1970s, thanks to Enoch Powell. That is totally unacceptable, and that is one of the reasons why Clause 9 is unacceptable.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, was quite right to say that due process is effectively impossible if you have not had notice. It is not a complicated point to grasp. Somebody might be telling lies about Joseph K, or probably Joseph Khan. If he does not even have notice of the deprivation, how effective is any right of appeal? It is an utter nonsense.

I have mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, probably to his eternal embarrassment. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, was so right to point out the comparison with the very few other jurisdictions that take draconian powers to take citizenship away and to say that even in Australia and New Zealand, the powers are much more restricted and there are safeguards, which are totally absent here.

With the greatest of respect to my noble friend Lord Blunkett, with whom I did not always agree during the war on terror, just because you intend something to be protective and not punitive, that does not mean it is not punitive in effect. Some of us remember the Belmarsh case in which probably the greatest jurist of recent times in this country, Lord Bingham, gave the leading speech. Just because the Government of the day said, “This is not imprisonment; this is just immigration detention, pending removal”, it did not wash then and does not wash now. We have gone further down that road.

It has always been possible to discriminate between citizens and non-citizens in relation to their rights. This is understood, but if you are now able so readily to take citizenship away, what is the value of that citizenship? What you do, increasingly, is to use administrative powers to sidestep the rule of law and criminal due process in particular. Noble Lords in this Committee were so right to say that the way we address threats from dangerous, criminal people, including terrorists, is that we track them down, charge them, put them on trial, convict them and then incarcerate them. That is right not just in principle but in security terms.

I ask the Committee to think about Clause 9, the amendments and the wider discourse about deprivation of citizenship in two ways. One way to look at it is in terms of what we are saying to citizens about the bond that the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, described. What are we saying to them about the value of being part of this British family—how important and sacred it is, and how it is a two-way street with rights and responsibilities? What are we saying if this can be taken from them so easily, not by a court but by the Home Secretary of the day? How are we making people feel about their belonging in this country? If I feel the anxiety that I have over the last couple of hours, how do we think that people with far fewer privileges than me feel as minority communities in this country?

The second thing I ask the Committee to consider is not just citizenship here but the UK’s place in the world, as a responsible citizen on the world stage. If every grown-up, mature and responsible democracy in the world chooses to deal with threats to its security by depriving bad people of their citizenship, and other countries follow our lead, what will the consequences be for global security? If every mature democracy gets to just take citizenship away from bad people, whoever they are—terrorists, murderers or paedophiles—where will we be then? We will be dumping our citizens like toxic waste in international waters. How will that make Britain or the world a safer place?