76% of Lib Dem members oppose Government plans to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’

Lib Dem stickersLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Three-quarters oppose Theresa May’s plans to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’

The Government has proposed in its Immigration Bill that the Home Secretary should have the power to revoke the British nationality of those whose presence in the UK are deemed ‘not conducive to the public good’. It argues that it needs to take all necessary steps to protect the public from those who threaten the UK’s security. Opponents argue that such powers should not be given to ministers, and that those who threaten the UK’s security should be dealt with through the criminal justice system. Do you support or oppose this measure?

    14% – Support

    76% – Oppose

    4% – Neither

    5% – Don’t know

This week saw the Government’s Immigration Bill back in the Commons, including its highly controversial proposal to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’. Lib Dem home office minister Norman Baker had written to fellow Lib Dem MPs to assure them of the “major shift’ in its wording and appealing to them now to back the legislation. As Isabel Hardman explained in the Spectator, “This ‘major shift’ means the Home Secretary must believe the suspect being deprived of their citizenship will be able to secure alternative citizenship from another country, and that the process can be examined by an independent reviewer.” Not all Lib Dem MPs were wholly reassured – both Julian Huppert and Sarah Teather closely cross-questioned the Government – though in the end only Sarah voted against the measure.

We asked Lib Dem members your view before this new concession was known. But it’s clear from the result – 76% opposing the ‘stateless’ proposal – that it would have been the very least expected. Here’s a sample of your comments…

• No one should be left stateless, however distasteful their views or actions
• Politicians shouldn’t be involved in justice
• I think there are occasions when HMG has to act rapidly and the legal system takes too long.
• Should not be left to Ministers. I personally believe the Home Secretary is ‘not conducive to the public good’. Should I have the right revoke her citizenship?
• I feel strongly that it is important that a party that stands for liberal principles should oppose this measure.
• Government should not have the power to make a person stateless.
• Such actions are despotic. The Nazis did this.
• Using security as justification for sidestepping judicial processes is unacceptable
• This amounts essentially to ‘banishment from the kingdom’. We’re not living in the Middle Ages!
• The Criminal Justice system with a jury should be the only ones to have the powers to revoke.
• It is proably abreach of human rights to deprive a person of their citizenship.
• Should be available in extreme circumstances (ie someone convicted of a serious violent offence, or large scale corruption), but the decision should be made by a judge, not a politician.
• This is the sort of thing totalitarian regimes do
• We should never force people to lose their citizenship unless it was obtained through fraud.
• No person should be able to be deprived of any nationality for any reason other than that they acquired it fraudulently. If it was correctly granted at the time of grant, then it should persist for their lifetime.
• The power is essential, but must not be wielded by politicians.
• These powers will be abused for sure.
• Whilst comparison to the Nazi citizenship laws of the 1930’s is perhaps a little “overblown”. The proposals are unacceptable from a human rights perspective. There is no political case for it and the Lib Dems should ensure it is opposed.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 745 responded in full – and a further 87 in part – to the latest survey, which was conducted between 16th and 22nd April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    8 Comments

    • Charles Rothwell 10th May '14 - 3:07pm

      I was one of those who opposed the idea. Surely one of the key features of a democratic state is having an independent judiciary which is entrusted to make decisions in line with the law and with a degree of discretion so that each case can be assessed on its merits. It is incredibly ironic that the Tories, the party of ‘libertarianism’ and ‘British freedoms’ come out with these populist, knee-jerk proposals which they assume will go down well with ‘Daily Mail’ readers and match the equally unbounded appetite of Labour for expanding the remit of the state into areas it should be well kept out of. The current example of this is the knee-jerk, populist Tory proposal over knife crime which, in my view, Nick Clegg is absolutely right to oppose. We are in dire danger in this country of abandoning a rational, evidence-based approach to political issues to one based on ‘gut instinct’ and irrational presumed panaceas. It is up the Lib Dems to be/remain THE party of rationality in this and other fields.

    • Stephen Donnelly 10th May '14 - 3:12pm

      ……an answer to the question ‘what are the Lib Dems for’. Thank you to the 76% for reminding me why I am a member. No other party can be relied upon to defend those who are in no position to defend themselves.

    • There are a lot of problems with this proposed measure. I agree with both statements – “that the government needs to take all necessary steps to protect the public from those who threaten the UK’s security; and that such powers should not be given to ministers, and that those who threaten the UK’s security should be dealt with through the criminal justice system.

      This proposal should not have been tacked on to the immigration bill. I believe it has arisen as a consequence of the specific threat of domestic extremism that has arisen as a consequence of a few hundred British Jihad’s returning from military service with proscribed Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups in Syria.

      The Home secretary has and currently exercises the power to issue deprivation of citizenship orders for dual citizens. This proposal to extend these powers to naturalised citizens, potentially rendering them ‘stateless’ raises obvious legal and human rights concerns. It also does nothing to counter the threat posed by British born citizens returning from Syria’s war-zones.

      I believe that there is a current bill that can be enacted by parliament, the ETPIMs Bill. This Bill would introduce an additional security measure which could be placed on individuals: the Enhanced TPIM (ETPIM).

      The conditions that must be met before the Government can impose an Enhanced TPIM are more stringent than under the current regime – the legal test to be met before imposition from “reasonable belief” under a TPIM to “balance of probabilities” under an ETPIM. That test is one that should necessarily require judicial oversight i.e. court authorisation.

      Individuals under an ETPIM can be prohibited from entering a defined area and from associating with any individual without the Secretary of State’s prior permission; and would allow the Secretary of State to require an individual to reside at any residence specified by the Government (i.e. relocation as with the now defunct control orders), unlike the existing TPIMs Act, which makes no such provision.

      The introduction of EPTIM’s specifically in response to threat of terrorism from known members of terrorist groups would allow for a period of rehabilitation and reintegration to be undertaken outside the UK (with UN or UK charitable and humanitarian programs in the refugee camps bordering Syria) . A temporary restriction on re-entry to the UK, pending a period of reintegration, may serve as an adequate and effective protection for the public from this threat while avoiding the more permanent and draconian measure of loss of citizenship.

    • Meral Hussein Ece 10th May '14 - 6:36pm

      @ Charles Rothwell is absolutely correct. This measure was introduced to the Immigration Bill at the last minute. While going through Lords where it received a thorough scrutiny, it was clear it would have little impact, and was more about playing to the right wing media. It was defeated in the Lords, with many Lib Dem peers voting against the government ( myself included), and many more abstaining. If individuals were to be rendered stateless , – putting the UK on a parr with countries like Zimbabwe, the state would still have to take responsibility for that individual, despite losing their passport and right to vote. Where would they go? No other country would give them citizenship. The Lords amendment which was overwhelmingly supported by a majority of 98, was to ensure this proposal received thorough scrutiny from a Commons/ Lords joint committee. It’s coming back to the Lords next week, and we await to see what the government concession will look like when presented there.

    • Chris Randall 11th May '14 - 10:00am

      For me its easy as this if you have a guest in your home and they take advantage then you throw them out of your house. Why should it be any different with a guest in this country if you offend or steal or are violent to or damage our community then you are asked to leave, either under your own accord or by force if necessary, no long appeals systems just go be gone.

    • Tony Rowan-Wicks 11th May '14 - 11:42am

      I also voted against this proposal. It is not liberal in any way. The Home Secretary wishes to make it undemocratic too, as democracy grants access to the laws of the land. The HS is clearly hoping to made laws which apply [individually] without the checks through the courts.

      I don’t agree with Chris that British nationality is like a guest to a house – as the one is granted on a legal basis to a foreign individual, the other is an ad hoc friendship which is not legally binding.

    • I totally agree with the 76% and I hope the clause gets monstered in the Lords. There is no substanstive justification for this measure, except a few additional polling points.

      The Government is taking liberties with Parliament and the civil service. On this rushed clause, it is has been far too petrified of proper scrutiny. Its not hard to see why.

      The civil servants who drew this up need to consider whether they are taking appropriate legal advice or relying on judges to strike down poor law drawn up at the whim of hapless political direction. Despite being given months, the government has failed to concisely and clearly explain why this power is needed or neccessary.

      I suggest peers request the full and proper legal advice to be published and the most robust oversight is a necessary pre-requisite to ensure Zimbabwean-esque policies are the except rather than the norm.

    • The House of Lords yesterday voted through the government amendment to the Immigration Bill that removes the restriction on making people stateless. http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/business-papers/lords/lords-divisions/?date=2014-May-12&itemId=1&session=2013-May-08

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