You may by now have seen references to a new proposed law that threatens to strip the citizenship of upwards of six million Britons without notice.
You may also have seen counter-claims asserting that the law – contained in clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which has its second reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday – is a minor technicality that does not significantly alter the status quo. Home Office minister Kevin Foster even accused MPs protesting the clause in the Commons of “scaremongering”.
Clause 9 removes a provision in the underlying 1981 law on citizenship deprivation which compels government to give notice to a person it wishes to deprive of citizenship, if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or if giving such notice poses a national security threat, is contrary to our diplomatic interests, or is “otherwise in the public interest”.
From just £3 per week
The government is right in saying the underlying power to take away citizenship is not new. But concerns over clause 9 are legitimate, and calling them scaremongering is deceitful.
While the basic power to take away someone’s citizenship has existed in law for a very long time, the scope of that power has grown massively over the past 40 years.
In the British Nationality Act 1981, it was a power against naturalised citizens, if it wouldn’t make them stateless and if they had committed treason or received a sentence of imprisonment of at least a year. In 2002, that became a power against all citizens, if it wouldn’t make them stateless, and they posed a national security threat. In 2006, that became a power against all citizens, if it wouldn’t make them stateless, and where it was merely ‘conducive to the public good’ to take their citizenship away.