Schedule 3 - Repeals

Part of Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 25th October 2005.

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Photo of Neil Gerrard Neil Gerrard Labour, Walthamstow 9:45 am, 25th October 2005

I hear what you say, Sir Nicholas, and I shall not take long, as I do not want to repeat what has been said.

The hon. Member for Woking was complimentary about me earlier. I shall have to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan), the Government Whip, to ignore that. I wish that he would not say such things; it does me no good.

We had a long debate in 2002 about the power to deprive people of citizenship. The reasons for wishing to deprive someone of citizenship are often linked with the desire to remove that person from the UK. We are all aware of cases in which tabloid newspapers have demanded the removal of individuals whom they considered to be stirring up problems.

There are changes in the wording, such as that from ''seriously prejudicial to vital interests'' to ''conducive to the public good''. To an extent, we have to view them in relation to the powers of the Terrorism Bill, consideration of which has yet to be concluded. The   list of unacceptable behaviour was produced in a letter sent out by the Home Secretary in August, which mentioned unacceptable behaviour by non-UK citizens. I assume that we should read across from that to what is intended here. It does not cover terrorism alone. One of the items in the list was serious criminal activity, or provoking others to commit serious criminal acts. We are not talking about powers that might be used only in relation to terrorism—they could, for example, be used against somebody who is involved in serious drug dealing. I would be interested to know how many times the powers have been used since 2002. The point that was made then is still valid now: such powers are not used simply to export problems for somebody else to deal with.

On the point about dual nationals, I have previously asked the Minister how many people it will affect. A number of countries do not allow dual nationality, so a person who takes up British citizenship and who was previously a citizen of one of those countries has to give up his original nationality. The number of individuals affected will be limited by the number of countries that apply that restriction.

One issue arises from all the new clauses, and I should be interested in the Minister's comments. What will be the impact on the dependants of somebody whose citizenship or right of abode is removed? There does not appear to be anything about that in the new clauses. Can he confirm that that is the case?

New clause 5 appears to affect a relatively small number of people, because it concerns those who acquired the right of abode through the ancestry route. That number will not grow; in fact, it will diminish because nobody now acquires the right of abode in that way.

I do not consider that new clause 6 is a problem. It brings into line registration and naturalisation. The test of good character has applied to naturalisation for a long time and we have plenty of experience with it. Nor will it be unique—registration cases might tend to involve children more often than naturalisation cases, but I am sure that there will be naturalisation cases involving relatively young people. The question of how to apply the test of good character to somebody young is not new or complicated—unless one believes in original sin. However, I do not think that that is likely to be used as a test in such cases. Some important issues have been raised, which I will not repeat, about retrospectivity and the levels of test that will be applied. I trust that the Minister will address those issues in his response.