Owners of Harrods – but UK citizens?

Millionaire Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed and his brother Ali are currently waiting the outcome of their latest legal bid to overturn the Home Office's refusal to grant them UK citizenship.

The Egyptian-born Al Fayeds failed in a High Court action this February to overturn the Home Office decision. Now they have renewed their challenge and judgment has been reserved by Master of the Rolls Lord Woolf and Lords Justices Kennedy and Phillips on their claims that the Home Office was wrong.

Among other things, the Al Fayeds claim that the refusal of naturalisation cast a slur on their names, which could have adverse effect on them if they attempted to travel abroad. In court they were represented by Michael Beloff QC, who argued that the Al Fayeds met all the Home Office requirements under the 1981 British Nationality Act for citizenship.

It is argued that the Home Office refusal was in breach of natural justice and that there was a failure to give reasons for refusal. Beloff said the Al Fayeds were never told of the existence of any concerns about granting the applications on the part of the Home Office.

He said citizenship was an important right and the Al Fayeds had been refused the chance to bear the citizenship of the country that was their home, where they had extensive business interests and where they made enormous financial contributions both in taxation and in donations to charities.

For the Home Secretary, however, counsel Stephen Richards argued there had been nothing wrong in the decision to refuse the Al Fayeds citizenship and that the provisions of the 1981 Act made it clear the Home Secretary was not required to give reasons in cases such as these.