Clause 1 - Authorisation of criminal conduct

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Minister of State, Home Department 3:45 pm, 15th October 2020

I take in equally good faith the way in which my right hon. Friend and the Committee have approached this, and it is firmly my intent that information will be provided. He knows the debate and discussion over live operations and being bounded in that way, but I would want to ensure that information is given to his Committee, so that they can fulfil their oversight function and also, I think, give confidence to the House. He and his Committee have raised an important point, and I recognise the contribution that they make.

I turn to the issues of redress in relation to the amendments tabled by Bell Ribeiro-Addy, in amendment 2, the Leader of the Opposition, in new clause 1, and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland in amendments 20 and 21. Let me be clear: there is no barrier under the Bill for affected persons seeking a judicial review of a decision made by a public authority. Similarly, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal already has jurisdiction in relation to conduct to which part 2 of RIPA applies, which will include the amendments made by the Bill. I am, though, listening to concerns expressed by Members about the Bill’s potential impact on routes of redress, and I am happy to consider whether anything further is needed.

I shall now discuss the amendments that seek to place further limits on what can be authorised. The limits that other countries have chosen to place on the face of their legislation have featured prominently in this debate, as they did at Second Reading. Further to the Second Reading debate we have continued, for example, to engage with our Canadian friends with regard to their limits on the conduct of their covert human intelligence sources. The Solicitor General and I agree that it is correct to say that limits are found on the face of their legislation, but it is not straightforward to make comparisons between what we are proposing here and what might exist for other countries. We have our own legal systems; our operational partners each have their own practices and functions; and—perhaps most importantly—we have a very different threat picture.

For example, our friends and partners, such as Canada and the US, are not signatories to the European convention on human rights. We are the only members of Five Eyes that are bound by the convention and the obligations that it comes with. Again, I reference clause 1(7)—it has been focused on quite a lot during today’s debate—which makes specific reference to the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 being taken into consideration. Placing explicit limits on the face of the Bill risks creating a specific list of prohibited activity that would place into the hands of criminals, terrorists and hostile states a means of creating a checklist, as I have explained and as I think my hon. Friend James Sunderland set out so clearly in his contribution. Therefore we cannot accept amendments 8, 13 or 22.