Government plans which would allow ministers to strip Britons of their citizenship without due process – even where doing so would make them stateless – were tonight defeated in the House of Lords.
The measures, contained in clause 64 of the Immigration Bill, would have allowed the Home Secretary to deprive any naturalised Britons – i.e. any of the estimated 3-4 million not born in the country – of their citizenship, without having to first go through any legal process.
It would also enable her to do so even if it would leave the person concerned without any nationality.
The measure, which had been brought forward by Theresa May at the last minute of the Bill’s progress through the Commons, was tonight removed from the Bill in favour of an amendment which requires it to be further considered by a joint committee of the Commons and Lords.
The amendment was backed by a former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Brown, former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, leading QC Lord Pannick and Labour front-bencher Baroness Smith. It passed by 242 votes to 180.
In a previous debate, Lord Macdonald had warned that the Home Secretary’s proposal “associates the United Kingdom with a policy beloved of the world’s worst regimes during the 20th century.”
Commenting, Clare Algar, Executive Director of legal charity Reprieve said: “It is good news that these dangerous proposals have been staved off – for now at least.
Making people stateless in this way was rightly described by the US Supreme Court 50 years ago as a ‘punishment more primitive than torture.’ It is staggering that Theresa May thought it one that should be imposed on British citizens, without even so much as a trial.
“We have already seen examples in the past where those who have lost their British citizenship have subsequently been ‘rendered’ or killed by drone strikes. There is a real concern that these plans are part of the UK’s contribution to the ill-conceived ‘War on Terror.’”
The full text of the amendment – number 56 – can be found here:
Lord Macdonald’s comments were made in the House of Lords on 17 March: