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Lords give Nationality and Borders Bill bumpy ride

04 March 2022


Protesters demonstrate against the Nationality and Borders Bill outside Parliament last week

Protesters demonstrate against the Nationality and Borders Bill outside Parliament last week

THE House of Lords has rejected two clauses in the Nationality and Borders Bill which would have allowed the Secretary of State to remove British citizenship without notice, for reasons of national security, and for powers to be given for the differential treatment of refugees arriving in the UK.

Speaking to Clause 9 of Amendment 20, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, questioned why the Government appeared “genuinely confused” at the level of opposition that it had triggered. “I am afraid that is symptomatic of a serious breakdown in trust between the Home Office and society groups, particularly minority-ethnic groups,” she said.

“The response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review promised a new culture in the Home Office — one that was more compassionate, that saw faces behind the cases, and would rebuild and enhance public trust and confidence in the Home Office.

“The Bill as a whole does not do much to create the impression that this new culture has been embedded. Trust is hard to build and very easy to lose.”

The Conservative peer Baroness Warsi said that the Bill was simply “papering over the cracks”. She told the Lords: “We have the opportunity in this House to once again, incrementally, make a bad law slightly less bad, or we can take a position and say that the underlying law itself is so bad that we are no longer prepared to keep making these incremental changes.”

Speaking to Clause 11 of Amendment 28, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler — the only member of the Lords to have visited Napier Barracks, in Kent, where asylum-seekers are housed — called for a simpler and more efficient asylum system. “I continue to be convinced that what is proposed will provide a more complex, slower process,” he said.

He brought to the House a letter signed by more than 1000 leaders from all the main faith communities in the UK and delivered to the Prime Minister on Monday, expressing horror at the potential repercussions of the Bill.

The Bishop quoted from the letter: “The artificial manufacture of a two-tier system creates two different classes of refugees. This would not be based on needs or merits but would depend on the ability of a person to arrive in the UK via a ‘regular route of travel’.

“This is a clear breach of the principles of the Refugee Convention. . . Criminalising and punishing vulnerable asylum-seekers who have little choice but to arrive in the UK through ‘irregular routes’, when the majority are subsequently able to prove that they have a legitimate basis for their asylum claim, is a disgraceful and dishonourable policy and should be abandoned.”

Signatories include the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who accompanied Bishop Butler to Napier.

The Bill has reached the report stage and has received severe criticism. Lord Dubs described Clause 11 as “complete nonsense. . . It is not workable and it diminishes this country in the eyes of the world.”

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