Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence) 3:00 pm, 15th October 2020

Dame Rosie, I will engage in this part of proceedings in the spirit of co-operation and collegiality, so as not to exhaust the comments others may wish to make.

It is a pleasure to follow Dame Diana Johnson, who I believe should be on the Intelligence and Services Committee. She is right to highlight new clause 8, tabled by Stella Creasy. I have to say that that is the first time appropriate consideration has been given to those issues in any of our contributions on the Bill. The Minister knows I support the general thrust of the Bill and the provisions in it. I heard him refer to the Children’s Act 2004 and some of the standards that need to be adhered to when considering children through the prism of the proposed legislation, but the hon. Lady made sincere and serious points. I hope he will reflect on them further.

In fairness, given the amount of time left in the debate and the contribution I can make, it is right that the Minister has more time to respond to the issues raised and that he does so comprehensively. I think there have been fair points made throughout the debate, even on amendments that, ultimately, I may not back. On trade unionism and blacklisting, my reading of the Bill, the guidance and the authorisation process is that there is no fear around those issues. However, there is clearly an apprehension of fear among those who have proposed amendments in that regard and I hope the Minister will deal with them comprehensively.

I have indicated my assent and support for new clause 3. I think the Minister is probably minded to accept it. I hope I am not going too far in suggesting that the Minister should accept new clause 3 from the Intelligence and Security Committee, but I ask that he does.

If I could ask anything from the Minister’s response, it would be on these two issues. First, there has been discussion and consideration around the Human Rights Act. In fairness to Dan Carden, he did say that that only allows for retrospective accountability on the part of the state. To my mind, however, it would be wholly unlawful for anybody involved in the authorisation process to authorise something that naturally falls foul of the Human Rights Act. They could not do it. They do not have the values to allow for it. In terms of torture, torture is not permissible in any circumstances. It is against our Human Rights Act and it is against international frameworks. It cannot be allowed. That is an absolute right and I think it is clear that there should be no authorisation, and cannot be any authorisation, given on that basis.

I would like the Minister to talk about sexual crime more particularly. I still believe that that should not be, and could not be, authorised. I find that some of the amendments, because they have a total list of these issues, are unhelpfully drafted. Having each and every one of the aspects contained in an amendment—I am thinking in particular of amendment 13—means that it is unsupportable. There is a world of difference between causing loss of life or serious bodily injury and murder. It is a nuanced legal difference, but there is a world of difference between the two. There are circumstances in which, regrettably, life is lost, and there are circumstances in which it is legitimate for the state to remove life. I do not say that to be controversial; that is part of our human rights framework. That is provided for in our human rights legislation. There is a distinction between the two, and amendments that group all these issues together are unhelpful. They are individually important issues, and we should have the opportunity to engage with them individually and independently of one another. I would be grateful to hear from the Minister on those issues.

I will draw my remarks to a close, but I have to say that this process, with two hours and 20 minutes of debate for Committee stage, is wholly unsatisfactory. These issues are much too important to be left to two hours and 20 minutes of debate.