Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury) 2:45 pm, 15th October 2020

My right hon. Friend. I think that was one of the briefest speeches he has ever made in this House.

This Bill is about the power of the state, and it is also about the rights of citizens. What we have today is a book of amendments, almost each and every one of which would improve the Bill, but unfortunately, it feels to me like a fait accompli by the Government. I am not surprised that the Government are not listening to civil liberties organisations, but I am pretty surprised that they are not even listening to the Intelligence and Security Committee of this House. The way in which the House is being led down the garden path is something worth speaking up against.

I would not be in this House if it was not for my experiences growing up with a dad involved in an industrial dispute for over two years—the experience of workers taking action and the challenges they faced. That was an unofficial dispute, opposing casualisation and insecurity, and it lasted two years. It is relevant because there is a real worry that these powers could be misused. What matters is what is in the Bill. Of course we all want appropriate powers to deal with criminality and the most serious crimes. However, the scope in the Bill for organising criminal conduct by the state is wide open to abuse, and it comes down to a triple-whammy attack on our civil liberties.

First, the Bill permits secret agents of the state to commit any crime to prevent what they consider to be disorder or harm to the economic wellbeing of the UK. Secondly, it does not include the necessary independent judicial oversight, so the agencies concerned will act alone in that decision making. Finally, the Bill does not limit those crimes at all. We have heard that the Human Rights Act will be applied to this legislation, but the Human Rights Act does not create crimes like other legislation does. Rather, it means that a Government can be found in breach of that Act, so the crimes in this Bill are simply not limited.