Last week the UK House of Commons voted on an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would empower the Home Secretary to strip foreign-born terrorist suspects of their UK citizenship, even if it would render them stateless. (Those with dual citizenship can already be stripped of their British citizenship). The amendment reads (p.3):
"(4A) But that does not prevent the Secretary of State from making an order under subsection (2) to deprive a person of a citizenship status if—
(a) the citizenship status results from the person’s naturalisation, and
(b) the Secretary of State is satisfied that the deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person, while having that citizenship status, has conducted him or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory.”
The decision doesn’t have to be made following a court ruling and it isn’t made by a court – it’s made by the Secretary of State herself. The amendment was proposed by the Home Office Secretary of State, Theresa May, and was reportedly aimed at drawing Tory back-benchers away from an amendment that would have limited criminals up for deportation’s ability to rely on the right to family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. That amendment was defeated with the help of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The vote is another example of how difficult it is for Cameron to control his back bench, which will be worrying for him come the European elections. At the moment the Conservatives are expecting to come behind UKIP in the May poll, but even with that factored into their calculations, the back benches may take the result as a spur to become even more rebellious.
Disappointingly, the anti-immigration rhetoric has meant that the other parties have failed to take a firm stand on the issue of taking away citizenship. On Question Time on Thursday, the Labour and Lib Dem representatives weren’t able to give a clear “yes” or “no” on whether or not they supported the idea. UK politics seems to be stuck on an illiberal course…