The House of Commons yesterday (7 May) overturned amendments to the Immigration Bill made by the House of Lords concerning the issue of citizenship-stripping, by a margin of 305 to 239.
The Lords had removed proposals by the Home Secretary which would allow her to deprive naturalised Britons of their citizenship, even if they have not committed any crime and even where doing so would make them stateless. Peers had replaced the proposal with an amendment requiring a committee to be set up to further consider the issue – little time has been devoted to debating the proposals, as they were introduced during the final stages of the Bill’s original passage through the Commons earlier this year. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20477)
The Government had brought forward minor tweaks to the proposal in response to the Lords’ criticisms, but even with these in place the decision to deprive Britons of their citizenship will still be entirely in the hands of the Home Secretary, and it will still be possible to render Britons stateless as a result. As it will only apply to naturalised Britons – people not born as UK citizens – the proposal will create two classes of citizens: those who are vulnerable to having their citizenship arbitrarily removed at any time, without any requirement for a legal process, and those who (through accident of birth) are not.
The Bill will now return to the House of Lords for consideration of the Commons’ changes as Parliamentary ‘ping-pong’ continues.
Commenting, Donald Campbell, Head of Communications at the legal charity Reprieve said: “This is a deeply disappointing result. This proposal would give the Home Secretary powers to make Britons stateless arbitrarily, without needing to go through any legal process. Millions of Britons will be exposed to this power, simply because they were not born as UK citizens – creating a two-tier system of citizenship in this country. The Lords must continue to oppose this dangerous measure, and it has to be hoped that MPs will think again.”