David Davis wanted to amend the Nationality and Borders Bill to remove clause nine, arguing it could put at risk people who have lived in the UK for almost all of their life.
Under existing law, deprivation of citizenship can be executed for those people considered to pose a threat to the UK, including terrorism or war crimes, or if they obtained their citizenship fraudulently.
The Bill does not change these circumstances, but enables citizenship to be removed without notice if it would “not be reasonably practicable”, is in the interests of national security and in the interests of the “relationship between the United Kingdom and another country” – among other reasons.
Speaking as MPs considered the Bill at report stage, Mr Davis said: “Very often if they were sent to the other country which they’ve never been to and don’t speak the language any more, they will face summary execution, at least one case that applies.
“This is an uncivilised, legally disputable removal of the rights of people who may not be good people, but then put them in front of our courts and punish them.
"That’s the way British justice works. That’s the way British democracy should work and that’s what we should do today.”
Shadow Home Office minister Bambos Charalambous labelled the powers “shameful and Orwellian”.
He said: “Not only do the provisions in this clause represent a total disregard for justice and the rule of law, but also for certain British citizens – despite being born and raised in the UK – their rights would always be precarious and subject to change because in the words of the Home Office ‘British citizenship is a privilege, not a right’.
“The consequences of this are drastic. It is a threat to all, but particularly to those from an ethnic minority background.”
Home Office minister Kevin Foster defended the plans despite a fierce backlash from opposition MPs.
He said: “Clause nine, to be clear, does not change the circumstances under which a person can be deprived of British citizenship, nor does it remove the right of appeal against a decision to deprive a person of their citizenship.”