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Lord Hylton: Do I deduce from what the Minister said that Commonwealth citizens are being put in a superior situation to that of British citizens?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am not sure that I quite understand what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is getting at with that question. In all cases of deprivation of British citizenship, we would not create a situation where somebody was stateless. Therefore, Clause 53 is relevant to those who are dual nationals. Clause 54 refers to those who have right of abode. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, said that if we removed their right of abode, they would be stateless. They would not be stateless, because the reason that they have right of abode is that they have citizenship elsewhere. As the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, said, they are given right of abode by nature of their status.
Lord Judd: Does the Minister agree that the argument put forward by the Joint Committee was rather important in this respect; that is, that the legislation might well be in difficulty in terms of the convention because it does not apply to everybody equally? She has just underlined that there will be specific categories to which it applies, and specific categories to which it does not. This is the issue which raises complications about our commitments under the convention.
Lord Dholakia: There is confusion in this matter. When one is asked to specify one's nationality, and if one has a British passport, the first thing that one puts is "British subject, citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies". There is a difference between nationality and citizenship. For example, only last month India conferred citizenship provisions on people living abroad, but that citizenship does not grant them all the nationality rights. So if one takes away a person's citizenship in this country, where is that person to go? I do not believe that that question will be answered.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I was trying to explain that either the provisions apply to those who have dual nationalitydual citizenshipwhen, in a sense, that is an equal; or it applies to those who have a right of abode here but who have citizenship of another country.
Lord Dholakia: Nationality, not citizenship.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I said specifically citizenship.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Would the Indian of whom the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, speaks, who has been given citizenship of India, although living abroad, have right of abode in India if he were told that he could not abide here? Is that not an important point?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: Certain people who are citizens of Commonwealth countries have a right
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of abode in the UK. The clause specifically refers to people who are citizens of another country but who are granted, because of different circumstances, right of abode. The clause says that in circumstances in which they have citizenship and right of abode and have citizenship in two countries, we can remove that. It makes reference to the fact that some people have citizenship of another country and right of abode here, when we might wish to remove that right of abode because of acts that they have committed. That is the fundamental point.
I have looked at the point that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, made about whether we would be in contravention of the convention, because I thought that it would be, understandably, raised. My understanding is that we are not in contravention, because of the way in which the convention deals with issues of citizenship, as one would expect. That is the advice that I have. It is because citizenship is not an absolute right within the conventionit is qualified.
Lord Judd: I believe that my noble friend is trying to be helpful, and we are all grateful for that.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: But!
Lord Judd: Yes, but! I am sure that the advice that the Minister received was given in good faith, but it does not coincide with the advice that we received in the Joint Committee and which we evaluated very carefully. In any case, leaving the convention on one side and going back to the main point that I made at the beginning of my earlier intervention, if we are to take citizenship seriously, we are inadvertently in this Bill, by the back door, introducing two levels of citizenship. Whether a person has citizenship somewhere else or not is not the issue; the issue is what British citizenship means. Some people may be subject to this provision and some may not. Surely that is a distinction in the quality of citizenshippotentially for everyone. That point should be taken very seriously, and I am quite certain that my noble friend will take it very seriously.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I take it seriously but, actually, I disagree. For me the principal concept of citizenship is that people have a right to be a citizen and not to be stateless. That is fundamental, in my personal view, but it does not mean that you have a right to be a citizen of more than one nation. Citizenship may be given by another nation for various reasons, which is perfectly acceptable. Let us say that someone lives as a citizen of our country but he does not act in the interests of the countrywe can argue about the higher or the lower test, but let me take the principle behind itand he is not interested in being part of the country or in supporting or welcoming the things that make our country the country we wish it to bea diverse, enriched nation with a democratic future, and so on, where people are equaland if that person does not believe in that and is going to act in opposition to it but he has citizenship of the country, one must look at all the mechanisms available and take citizenship, in my view, extremely seriously.
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If someone is a citizen elsewhere and chooses to use his citizenship here to behave inappropriately, it is right and proper to have the capacity to say that we do not wish him to be a citizen herenot least because, if he chose to leave the country, it would mean that we did not automatically have to give him the right to re-enter. There are cases and examples of people for whom I believe that that is right.
Lord Judd: I think that my noble friend is being helpful, but she is demonstrating exactly the importance of the point that I made earlier because she is beginning to define the circumstances in which the provisions would operate. It is not being suggested that everyone to whom the provisions might apply would necessarily fulfil the kind of role that she has described. That kind of role raises issues, of course; but this is precisely why, if we are to have legislation of this kind, generalised comments are not wise. It is terribly important to have more precision and clarity about exactly what is meant, and I believe that my noble friend is beginning to help us in that respect.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am grateful that I appear to be helping my noble friend; it is always a pleasure when I do. I was hoping that I was included in his remarks about affection, as he is certainly included in mine. I am very clear that the principle that we are trying to establish in what we are doing is that this is a limited but important part of the way in which we deal with what could be describedas it has been described in many placesas an unprecedented concern about terrorism in particular but also about people who are involved in trafficking and war crimes and so on. The critical factor, if we accept that principleand some noble Lords may notis then to look at how we best recognise the level and kinds of activities that people may undertake and to be sure that we have the ability to say, "This is not acceptable."
The difficulty with the higher test that we had is that we already know of situations in which people may not be caught. We believe that they should not continue to be dual citizensor, in the case of those seeking citizenship, should not be granted itbecause of their activities. One might argue that they were not necessarily a great danger in this country but that their behaviours were, in our view, completely unacceptable. I understand why noble Lords are concerned to ensure that there is as great a clarity as possible within that, so that one is not left with wide discretions that might lead us in directions that noble Lords will be fearful of. The list of behaviours is not exhaustive for reasons that I am sure noble Lords will accept. It is very difficult to predict what may happen in future because of rights of appeal and the role of the courts, which ultimately settle what is meantsomething that we are all very proud of. We need to be as clear as we can about the list to provide the clarity that noble Lords want to see.
The difficulty always comes in using a phrase that has resonance but which of itself is not definitiveas the higher test was not. We must accept that the
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Government must be able to consider the kinds of activities that I have described already as being cases that are live, and that they make the appropriate decisions with the reassurances that I have given about the role of the courts, the Human Rights Act and the ability to appeal. If one were able to give a definitive list and say that the following 10 behaviours were all we had to concern ourselves with, I am sure my right honourable friend would be happy, as would noble Lords. But we are not in that position and, I suggest, probably never will be because of changing circumstances, along with the issues that we face and the kind of serious concerns that we have. I referred to trafficking, which was not something that 20 years ago I was particularly concerned about in this country. Who knows what in five years' time might be the serious problem? We might want to say that human trafficking may not be a direct threat to this countrybut, my goodness, it is a direct threat to everything that we stand for.
Therefore, to be able to be definitive is impossible, yet not to take the opportunity to try to tackle these questions would be foolish. So although I understand the concerns that have been raised and accept the way in which the Joint Committee has tried, as always, to look at the matter in great detail and with great care, we ultimately have to make a decision, recognising that the safeguards are in place that will help us to ensure that these powers will be used sparinglywhich is our intentionbut appropriately.
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