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 have two minutes left and I still have a few more amendments I would like to discuss.

On the issue of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom, it is an established statutory purpose for investigatory powers. It recognises that threats to the economic wellbeing of the UK could be immensely damaging. It might include the possibility of a hostile cyber-attack against our critical infrastructure, our financial institutions or the Government. Similarly, preventing disorder is an important and legitimate law enforcement function found in all investigatory powers legislation. Where illegal activity takes place, public authorities listed on the Bill have responsibility to take action that is necessary and proportionate.

Turning to new clause 8, I do not underestimate the concerns expressed about the use of juvenile or vulnerable individuals as covert human intelligence sources. There are provisions contained within the code and the guidance, as Stella Creasy knows, and I have sought to discuss those issues with her outside of this place. The provisions also highlight the role of an appropriate adult, but I will continue discussions, because I recognise that there are concerns across the House. In good faith I would be pleased to continue those discussions to see whether there are other issues there.

On the issue of undercover officers and the authorisation of sexual relations, I will reiterate what police leaders have already said publicly: it is never acceptable for an undercover operative to form an intimate sexual relationship with those they are employed to infiltrate and target or may encounter during their deployment. That conduct will never be authorised, nor must it ever be used as a tactic of deployment.

Equally, we discussed trade unions on Second Reading, and I re-emphasise that the Bill does not prevent legitimate and lawful activity, which is precisely what trade unionism is all about. That is why the code of practice is explicit on that. Indeed, section 20 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in another context also highlights that.

We must not forget the human element of this capability. We are not talking about machines and equipment, which is why the Bill is framed in this way. They are real people who are making significant personal sacrifices, and they must be able to continue living their lives safely and securely. That is what this Bill is about. Through the information they provide, lives are saved, which is why the measures in this Bill matter so much.