The contentious Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill 2006 plans to lower the criterion which currently allows a politician, the Home Secretary, to revoke someone's British Citizenship (if they have dual nationality), has not been amended by the House of Lords.
Yet again, the House of Lords brings up the correct arguments, and to outside observers like us, wins the intellectual debate over an amendment, and then just chickens out, and lets the Government off the hook, by withdrawing the amendment.
This is not proper democratic scrutiny of legislation any more than the failure of Members of Parliament in the Commons even to address the detailed arguments in the first place is.
The as we have noted previously the proposed Clause 56, which deals with deprivation of British Citizenship and the similar Clause 57 which deals with right to abode in Britain, and Clause 58 which deals with acquisition of British nationality, will
"replace an existing criterion for deprivation of British nationality that the person concerned had done something which was "seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory" with the criterion that it is "conducive to the public good" to deprive a person of his or her British nationality."
The amendments only sought to preserve the status quo.
What they should have done was to remove this power from a politician, the Home Secretary, and give it to an independent senior Judge, as part of the sentencing of a person, on conviction, on actual evidence, of a serious crime.
The withdrawal of the amendment 56 debate did confirm our suspicions that the real reason for this lowering of the criterion is entirely due to the notorious islamic radical preacher Abu Hamza "The Hook" al Masri, who has now been convicted under other laws. but who has dual British / Jordanian nationality (although he was born in Egypt) and who the Government has been trying to wash their hands of for years.
The Government Minister Baroness Ashton of Upholland vaguely talked about the need for this weaker test, in order to cope with human traficking and prostitution rings, despite all the recent cases involving purely foreign nationals, who are serving prison sentences. She could not estimate how many people would be affected by this change in the criterion.
As with other rushed Home Office legislation, this change in the law will have far wider implications than just for the notorious Abu Hamza, especially in Northern Ireland.
An example of the obscure language used by the Government lawyers to try to confuse the rest of us, which was, thankfully, amended:
14 Mar 2006 : Column 1178
Baroness Ashton of Upholland moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 10, line 27, leave out "effluxion" and insert "passage"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
The Bill now goes to the Commons, who, on current form, will not bother to amend it either.