Thank you Mr Speaker.
This Bill recognises that illegal entry to the UK is unfair on the British public and undermines our long and proud tradition of providing sanctuary to those facing oppression, persecution or tyranny.
Provisions in the Bill would increase the punishment for people smugglers, make it a criminal offence to knowingly enter the UK without permission, and make it easier to swiftly remove those who enter the UK illegally.
As with individuals who take measures to lock their homes, protect their online data and so on, all governments around the world have the right and duty - a primary responsibility to their citizens to protect their borders to keep their country safe and ensure economic and social stability for their citizens. There would be mass immigration without border control, which would put intolerable burdens on infrastructure and public services, inevitably leading to economic instability and unemployment. These are the main reasons why every country has its own rules about who may travel, work, and reside within its borders.
Therefore, whilst we must provide justice, protection and compassion to those seeking a safe haven, we have an inherent power to defend our borders and exercise nation sovereignty. For those who come for economic reasons, like every country, we have legal migration routes via visas or work permits. The UK has always shown compassion and equal justice to all who immigrate here lawfully, while defending our borders against those who seek to come here unlawfully.
It is important to recognise the difference between refugees and migrants; they are not the same. Refugees are unique in their plight and they have protection in law and are not penalised for entering this country illegally. Economic migrants choose to move - they do not flee from war-torn countries or because of persecution. Under international law, migrants are not afforded international protection; in other words, there is no basis for economic asylum.
This Government recognises its legal and moral duties to break up criminal gangs that treat human beings as commodities with no care at all for the individual lives and families they destroy. They are merely a way of making money to these criminals.
This Government also recognises its legal duty to overhaul the asylum system which currently encourages and enables people smugglers and illegal immigration. Being without dignity or worth is not what anyone wishes for our fellow man.
I would like to focus my comments today on Government Clause 9 which would amend the deprivation of citizenship powers in the British Nationality Act 1981. Currently, s40(5) of the 1981 Act requires the Secretary of State to give a person written notice of their deprivation order, the reasons for the order, and the person’s right of appeal.
Clause 9(2) specifies circumstances in which the Secretary of State would be able to deprive a person of their British citizenship without giving them notice.
Briefly, these are if the Secretary of State does not have the information needed to give notice; it would “not be reasonably practicable” to give notice, “for any other reason”; or if giving notice would not be in the interests of national security, relations with another country, or otherwise in the public interest.
There has been some criticism of the clause. The Runnymede Trust, for example, states that ‘Citizenship is not a privilege’ and that the Nationality and Borders Bill is a ‘threat to ethnic minority Britons’.
The power to deprive an individual of their citizenship has been possible for over a century, since the 1914 British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act. It is currently also contained within the British Nationality Act 1981.
I am aware that Home Office powers to strip British nationals of their citizenship were introduced after the 2005 London bombings and were broadened in 2014.
The new clause would remove the need for notification in a range of circumstances.
It is integral to the national security of this country that if an affected person cannot be contacted or because knowledge of their whereabouts derives from sensitive intelligence sources, we can act. Removing someone’s British citizens is a last resort against the most dangerous people who pose a risk to society or those whose conduct involves very high harm. It is rare, and always comes with a right to appeal.
Deprivation of citizenship on ‘fraud’ grounds is for those who obtained their citizenship fraudulently and so were never entitled to it in the first place.
The Nationality and Borders Bill does not change any existing rights or circumstances in which a person could be deprived of their citizenship.
Decisions are made following careful consideration of advice from officials and lawyers and always in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually. When seeking to deprive an individual of their British citizenship on the basis that it is ‘conducive to the public good’, the law requires that this action only proceeds if the individual would not be left stateless.
An individual can seek to exercise their statutory right to appeal against the decision - even if not aware of their deprivation at the time. The clause in the Nationality and Borders Bill would not impact the individual’s right to appeal.
British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege which also comes with responsibility. Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm. The nationality and borders bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practical to give notice, for example if there is no way of communicating with the person in question.
Whilst human migration has been going on for millennia, we face increasing global challenges caused by a range of complex climate, economic, social, and political factors. We have seen mass migration cause a swing to nationalism in some countries; we must not let that happen here – a country which has always welcomed immigrants. The developed world, including our allies in Europe need to better help people thrive in their homelands than face the indignity and a lack of worth in Europe, where people are exploited or detained in facilities. No man, woman, government nor faith should be upholding this new form of slavery.