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26 January 2022

Nationality & Borders Bill briefing: deprivation of citizenship

Ahead of the debate in the House of Lords on Thursday 27 January, we have produced a briefing for peers on the amendments that have been tabled to Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill.

What is Clause 9?

Clause 9 is the part of the Bill which, if passed, would give the Secretary of State for the Home Department the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship without first providing the person with written notice of their intention to do so.

The Secretary of State has long had the power to deprive someone of their citizenship and in the past decades the circumstances under which they can do so has steadily increased. This is deeply concerning in and of itself, and something we have been arguing needs to be reconsidered. But Clause 9 goes further in that it would mean people could be deprived of citizenship without their knowledge, and therefore with no opportunity to appeal that decision.

Amendments to Clause 9

We’re not the only ones to oppose Clause 9. As well as the concern that been expressed by other organisations and individuals, plenty of members of the House of Lords have spoken out against the Government’s plans.

On 5 January, when it was first debated in the Lords, Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti said: “To deprive a national of that status without notice should be beyond the contemplation of any civilised society that cares about rights and freedoms in general and due process in particular.” And Conservative peer Baroness Warsi said:  “This power grab by the Home Secretary is deeply dangerous, one that seeks to deprive someone of their right to citizenship without even giving the person being deprived the right to know, depriving them even of the right to check whether the Secretary of State had the legal basis or accurate facts to exercise that power. These proposals would mean that I would have greater protections when being deprived of my driving licence than of my nationality.”

The cross-party Constitution Committee of the House of Lords published its report on the Bill on 21 January, and concluded: “The power to remove a person’s citizenship without notice is significant. It is unclear what the reach of the provision will be, how its retroactive scope might operate or how feasible it will be for affected persons to appeal a deprivation order when they have no notice of it…The House may conclude that this clause is unacceptable and should be removed from the Bill.”

The Bill is being debated again on 27 January, and a number of peers have tabled amendments, including ones that would remove Clause 9 from the Bill and that would limit the Secretary of State’s current deprivation of citizenship powers. We’ve produced a briefing that explains what each of the amendments would do in practice and suggests some questions that peers may want to ask the Government: click here to download.