An opposition ally on Wednesday said proposed powers to make it easier for ministers to deprive British citizens of their citizenship were causing “intense concern” among people with dual nationality.
Lord Richard Rosser made the remarks in a House of Lords debate on the Nationality and Borders Bill, a controversial piece of legislation intended to deter clandestine migration by criminalize the use of illegal means to reach the UK to claim asylum.
The greater power to deprive British citizens of their citizenship became a cause for concern after the government passed the clause under a package of new elements through the House of Commons in late November.
The clause exempts the government from notifying a person stripped of their citizenship if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so on the basis of national security, diplomatic relations or other public interest arguments.
Rosser, a front-row counterpart, said the clause was “hastily” added to the bill “without proper investigation”.
“This bill. . . “giving the Home Office new, comprehensive powers to deprive a person of their British citizenship without any notice,” Rosser told the Lords. “This is not acceptable and raises great concerns among people with dual nationality.”
However, Lord David Wolfson, who led the debate for the government, insisted that the clause would change little to the government’s existing power to deprive people of their citizenship.
The most well-known recent use of force was against Shamima Begum who left London as a teenager in 2015 to join Isis in Syria.
Although international agreements prevent governments from removing a person’s citizenship if such a move would leave them stateless, the British Home Secretary took away Begum’s passport, arguing that the British-born woman was entitled to seek Bangladeshi citizenship.
“This is not a policy change,” Wolfson said of the new clause. “The grounds on which that decision can be made and the statutory right to appeal against it are unchanged.”
“In the shadow of Windrush, warm words from the government about how just and responsibly they will use the power will simply not be enough,” he told his counterparts.
The Home Office argued that it sometimes needed the power to deprive people of British citizenship to protect national security.
It insists that such measures were used to protect the British public against dangerous people, including terrorists, and against people gaining British citizenship through fraud.
The Home Office said in a statement on Wednesday posted on Twitter that it would always seek to inform anyone who deprives it of citizenship, but that the new legislation acknowledged that this was not always possible.
Opponents of the bill, including the Runnymede Trust, a pressure group on race relations issues, argued, however, that the clause creates a two-tier system, with 6 million people with links to another country potentially vulnerable to deprivation of citizenship.