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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Perhaps the Minister can provide some clarification. I was trying very hard to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, was saying about this very important issue. The notes on Clause 53, "Deprivation of citizenship", say:
But the notes on Clause 54 say nothing about that. The noble Lord asked where someone goes if their right of abode is removed. Can the Minister clarify that as I cannot quite imagine where they do go?
Lord Judd: The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, with his usual thoroughness, has put the case so well that it is difficult to add anything. I hope that my noble friend will take seriously what is proposed in the amendment and, more importantly, the reasons why the amendment has been tabled.
I declare an interest in that I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The committee was profoundly disturbed by the implications of this part of the proposed legislation. I felt it would be quite wrong not to be presentif I was ableto emphasise how strongly we, in the committee, had felt. It would be tedious to repeat all that is there for everyone to read. I am sure that the Government have studied very closely the rationale and the findings of the committee. Perhaps I can underline why I, as a member of that committee, so strongly supported what we were saying in the committee.
First, on citizenship, I cannot remember a time in my soon-to-be 30 years in Parliament, in one way or another, when we gave so much attention to the importance of citizenship and advancing the whole concept of tests of commitment to citizenship. The important point about commitment is that it is a two-way business, and if we are asking people to take their citizenship as seriously as I believe that they should take it, that puts a balancing responsibility on government to take the principles of citizenship equally seriously. Therefore, it is almost impossible to overstate the significance of removing citizenship. That is the first point that I wanted to make. I am not arguing that in all circumstances citizenship should
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not be removed; but I am arguing that it is not only a serious but a grave matter. It is impossible to underline how important it is, especially if we are serious in what we are saying about what people must undertake as their position to enjoy citizenship.
The second point that I want to make is that all this is discussed in the Terrorism Bill, and the overlapping between the two Bills is very important. I was a bit amazed that this Committee was going on at the same time as we were discussing the Terrorism Bill in the other Chamberthat was an extraordinary piece of parliamentary mismanagement, if I may say so. But in that context, this Bill obviously relates closely to our concerns about terrorism. If we are to win the battle against terrorismand I take second place to nobody in wanting to win that battleI believe that we all really know that, ultimately, victory lies in hearts and minds. We have to win over people to a position in which they want to identify with the existing order and are not easy prey for those who want to recruit them to extreme action. That means that in our administration of the law we must painstakingly demonstrate the rationale, the significance, the objectivity and the transparency of what we are doing, as far as we possibly can. We all understand the difficulties, but we must do that as far as we possibly can.
From what we said in the Select Committee it is quite clear that we do not believe that the Bill, as drafted, meets that requirement. Precision is also terribly important in that context. Generalised principles are not enough; we need to be very clear so that all can understand what is meantnot just so that Ministers can understand what is meant, but so that the ordinary youngster in an ethnic community, under tremendous pressure and turmoil, has a chance instinctively to understand precisely what the provisions of the law are on these matters. That is another reason for our concern.
I, for one, took great heart when I read what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said about the remarks of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I hoped that it meant that our arguments were registering. Because I have great respect andas I hope I am allowed to say in parliamentary proceedingsgreat affection for some of those involved, I hoped that we would hear something that began to meet our anxieties, as I have described them. I have not yet heard that, but it is not too late, and I hope that we will before we finally decide to make up our minds on the final form of the Bill. I hope that we find that the Government have understood why the Joint Committee on Human Rights took the position that it did and have decided to introduce precision and greater transparency to meet those arguments.
Lord Hylton: I am very happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd, because it seems to me that these clauses are far too widely drafted. For that reason, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for bringing forward these amendments.
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The worst offenders are probably Clauses 53 and 54. I say that because they provide no judicial procedure for the removal of citizens. It is appalling that the Secretary of State should be enabled to be prosecutor, judge and jury in such cases. Then we come to the phrase,
To my mind, that is a completely subjective criterion, given that there is no indication in the Bill of the tests that would be applied to determine it. These are very important amendments and I urge the Government to have second thoughts about them.
Baroness Turner of Camden: I should like to add my voice to those of noble Lords who have already spoken on this matter. It seems to me that this is another part of the Bill where there is an attempt to revise wording that already exists in legislation and to make it much wider and therefore much more capable of interpretation in a way that a number of us would feel was contrary to civil rights. We have to be very careful about that.
I welcome the contribution of my noble friend Lord Judd, who was of course a member of the important Joint Committee on Human Rights. As he rightly said, there have been very strong criticisms of this section of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will take very seriously the issues that have been raised by all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate today on this section of the Bill.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I agree with all noble Lords who have spoken about the importance that we should attach to citizenship. It is granted to people, as opposed to them having it as a right of birth. We should not give it lightly but certainly nor should we take it away lightly.
I accept and understand the concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, whose deliberations I read with great care and on which sit very eminent members of your Lordships' House and another place. I know that the committee also has the benefit of great advice, and I think that I shall be appearing before it before too longhence my being extraordinarily nice about it. I also recognise the strength of feeling of noble Lords on all sides of the Committee on these issues.
Part of the rationale behind this aspect of the legislation concerns issues that followed the terrorist attacks in London this summer. Noble Lords have pointed to the Home Secretary's list of behaviours, which he said would form the basis of the use of his discretionary powers to deport and exclude from the United Kingdom those whose presence here was deemed not to be conducive to the public good. We have already discussed at Second Reading and elsewhere the particular behaviours that were named and the fact that, although important, they are not to be seen to be exclusive.
When my right honourable friend the Secretary of State considered this matter, he also felt that it was important to have similar powers to withhold and remove British nationality and right of abode where an individual was found to be engaged in such activities.
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As my noble friend Lord Judd saidI think that it is a sentiment shared by Members of the Committeeit is fundamentally wrong for those who engage in such activities and who have rights of residence elsewhere to be allowed to acquire and shelter behind their British citizenship, and the right of residence that goes with it, to avoid the consequences that might otherwise befall them. It is not about saying "never"; it is about setting out the circumstances. Speaking personally, I am affronted that Abu Hamza has British citizenshipI wish that he did not. I think that all noble Lords would agree with me.
Clause 53 replaces an existing criterion for deprivation of nationalitythat of having done something "seriously prejudicial"with the broader criterion that the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is conducive to the public good to deprive a person of his or her British nationality. In so doing, we recognise that, ultimately, the courts will interpret "conducive"; that we must be mindful of the Human Rights Act and obey it; that there will be a right of appeal; and that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State must behave reasonably. As noble Lords have said, Clause 54 applies the same test to right of abode.
The question that goes to the nub of the matter is: are there circumstances where the higher test has not been used, but where this test could be used? It is a power to be used not often, but extremely sparingly. But there are indeed circumstances and cases where this test would enable us to deal with individuals. There are cases with which we wish to deal pending this legislation where the higher test might result in an appeal going either way. Examples might include war criminals and human traffickers, although I do not know whether the examples fit the cases, so I would not want noble Lords to interpret them as doing so. So I say in defence of the clause that there are indeed casesthey are not hypothetical or theoreticalwhere this test will be of value to the Government in dealing with serious and important problems that currently exist. I have indicated what those kinds of problems might be.
Noble Lords are rightly concerned that the test is broad. That is why we have sought to be as clear as possible about the areas of concern. I hope that the normal ways in which courts operate, with rights of appeal and so on, will go some way to satisfying the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that a decision could never be made on the whim of the Home Secretary, but that it would be subject to being tested in the courts, and rightly so, for that is an important part of the way in which we operate justice in this country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, asked what would happen to people whose right of abode we removed, because we have made it clear that we would not make anyone stateless. People have a right of abode because they are citizens of a Commonwealth country other than the UK, so they have somewhere else to go. They are given right of abode because they
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are citizens elsewhere. They automatically have somewhere else where they could go. I hope that that is clear to the noble Baroness.
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