Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham 1:30 pm, 15th October 2020

As I expect we will not get an opportunity for Third Reading, I start by saying this: another day, and another attempt by the Government to ram through a Bill that puts the Executive and their agents above our laws.

I rise to speak to the amendments and new clauses in my name and those of other hon. Members—amendments that seek to protect our diverse communities, our trade unions and our right to political protest. In doing so, it is important that I correctly frame my contribution and make it clear that I, and others who oppose the Bill, completely understand the need for undercover operations, such as joining a proscribed organisation or selling or possessing drugs as a means to uncover the activities of organised criminals. Ministers have, however, failed to convince us why, unlike other countries, we have decided to legislate for such operations to include authorising criminal actions with no limits—even for the most heinous crimes—with no judicial oversight, and with power so heavily concentrated in the Executive.

Likewise, it is completely bizarre to suggest that the undercover policing inquiry that is due to start next month is irrelevant to this Bill. How can that be so when the inquiry will investigate whether crimes were committed by undercover police officers? The attempt to argue that in the course of such conduct—for example, coercing women into sexual relationships, and infiltrating and sabotaging campaigns and trade unions—no crimes were committed is surprising, to say the least, but to make such assertions before the evidence has begun to be heard, and to introduce legislation that will essentially green-light further such actions, is breathtaking.

Giving the legal go-ahead to such criminal behaviour in the future totally undermines attempts to secure justice for the past. Before I hear anybody say that that is irrelevant, I will point out that it is very relevant to many people and groups, such as the 14 trade unions that recently signed a statement and campaigning organisations including Reprieve, the Pat Finucane Centre, the Hillsborough and Orgreave truth and justice campaigns, the Blacklist Support Group, anti-racist groups and family campaigns for justice. Without question, I stand with them.