Joint Committee On Human Rights Seventeenth Report

5. Memorandum from Ann Dummett

1  The chief threat to human rights in the Bill appear to me to arise from the character it shares with all the immigration legislation of the twentieth century: it is an enabling Bill. Many of its provisions are vague and general, allowing for subsequent, more precise provisions contained in statutory instruments and Rules. The nature of these precise provisions is to be to a very large extent discretionary. They will receive no adequate Parliamentary scrutiny, and experience shows that objections that may be made to them by lawyers, voluntary associations and others will have little or no effect. Moreover they will come into force rapidly once they have been promulgated. Therefore, scrutiny of the present Bill should concentrate on its enabling provisions, and attempts should be made to tighten up its language, and so limit the expansion of its scope.

2.  Section 40 (3) and (6) on Deprivation of Citizenship (Clause 4) is an example in point. Certain persons may be deprived of citizenship if the Secretary of State thinks (my emphasis) that registration or naturalisation was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact. He may think what he pleases, but surely some evidence, some objective criterion, should be invoked in so serious a matter as deprivation of citizenship? Section 40 (A) (2) rules out an appeal if the Secretary of State certifies that some deprivations are taken wholly or partly in reliance upon information which in his opinion should not be made public on grounds relating to the interests of national security, the interests of the relationship between the united Kingdom and another country of another matter of a political kind. What is a political kind.

3.  I apologise for my failure to go systematically through the Bill to list such points: ... But such points need to be listed. During the House of Lords debates on the British Nationality Bill 1981, Lord Gifford tabled successfully a series of amendments to clauses wherever the words "if the Secretary of State thinks fit" occurred. Discretion was thereby limited.

4.  Others will no doubt have commented on many of the clauses. Experience suggests, again, that Home Office lawyers are very adept at fulfilling the letter, if not the spirit, of agreements by which the UK is bound. It is all the more important that human rights obligations be made specific in this legislation wherever possible and not left to the subjective interpretations of the Home Office.

13 May 2002

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