UK & World News
Immigration Bill: Govt Braced For Rebellion
The Home Secretary has announced a last-minute change to the Immigration Bill so British terror suspects can be stripped of their citizenship, even if it leaves them stateless.
It comes as the Government faces a significant backbench rebellion later as Conservative MPs call for tougher measures in the new legislation.
Theresa May has tabled an amendment which will allow the removal of a UK passport from any person whose conduct is deemed "seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK".
The Home Secretary already has the power to take away British citizenship from those with dual nationality.
But this change would allow her to make people stateless if they have been naturalised as a British citizen.
The Home Office insisted powers to make British citizens stateless will be used sparingly and in strict accordance with the UK's international obligations.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: "Those who threaten this country's security put us all at risk. This Government will take all necessary steps to protect the public.
"Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. These proposals will strengthen the Home Secretary's powers to ensure that very dangerous individuals can be excluded if it is in the public interest to do so."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also backed the move. Speaking during his weekly LBC Radio phone-in, the Lib Dem leader said while plans that would allow terror suspects to have their citizenship revoked were "controversial", they were "justified".
Up to 70 Conservative backbenchers have signed a tweaked amendment to the legislation, originally tabled by Nigel Mills MP, calling on the Government to reinstate restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria working in Britain until the end of 2018.
Meanwhile a further 100 MPs have come out in support of a move by Tory MP Dominic Raab to completely block foreign criminals appealing deportation by claiming a right to a "family life" in the UK.
Mr Raab's amendment on making it easier to deport foreign criminals has been selected by the Speaker and will be voted on.
David Cameron is seeking to minimise a rebellion by reassuring backbenchers he shares their concerns, but has appealed for them to allow legislation to proceed uninhibited.
He told MPs yesterday at Prime Minister's Questions: "The Immigration Bill makes all of those important changes and many more besides, including making it possible for us to deport people who don't face arrest back in their own country before they have appealed and they can appeal from overseas.
"These are all very good changes and I hope that we won't delay too much before passing this important Bill."
While the Government has refused repeated calls to publish estimates of the number of Bulgarians and Romanians expected to arrive this year, the Prime Minister said early signs seemed to be acceptable.
Though the Prime Minister rushed through new measures to ensure EU migrants are unable to claim out-of-work benefits for their first three months in the UK, this was not enough to satisfy Mr Mills and his backers.
However, Mr Mills has lost the significant support of influential backbencher Douglas Carswell MP, who despite having signed the amendment announced he would no longer vote for it.
He said: "If we want to restrict the free movement of people into Britain from the European Union, then there is only one thing we can do - leave."
Meanwhile, Mr Raab's amendment would see the Home Secretary - rather than the courts - have the final say on whether an offender's family links are strong enough to allow them to avoid deportation.
Foreign criminals who can prove they face torture, ill-treatment or death in their home country will still be able to overturn deportation orders under separate human rights measures.
Other measures the Government has already announced include migrants having to pay for primary care services such as minor surgery carried out by GPs, while prescription charges will be extended.
The Home Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary unveiled proposals that would see jobless migrants from within the European Union denied access to housing benefit from April this year.
When asked, Downing Street said the Government was considering all amendments.
:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.