Amendment 22

Part of Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:03 pm on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration) 2:03 pm, 3rd December 2020

My Lords, it is clear that there is a lot of unease—I choose a mild term—around the House about the threshold for granting criminal conduct authorisations, although there seems to be general acceptance of the ground of national security. My noble friend Lord Paddick will speak about the threshold for disorder, and I will say a word about crime. Economic well-being and other matters that have just been referred to are in separate groups, so I will not anticipate those debates.

To prevent or detect crime without qualification seems to us to be, bluntly, wrong. I appreciate the requirement for proportionality, but the more certainty about what level of crime justifies going to the next stage of assessing whether a grant can be made, the better, and on the face of the legislation. I am sure the Minister will say is not intended that a trivial crime should prompt such an authorisation, but the legislation must make clear the threshold for granting so serious an authorisation.

Amendment 22, in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Hendy and Lord Hain, has chosen

“crime triable only on indictment,” which is certainly one way of going about this. It strikes me that there might be too wide a mesh in that net. We have proposed a definition of serious crime taken from the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, as authorising intrusive surveillance. Amendment 31 sets out the definition. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, has said to the noble Baroness that he is attracted to this, and I welcome that support.

The relevant section in RIPA is Section 81, which is reproduced, although I apologise to the House, because in Amendment 31, which sets out the tests, I should have had an “or” in between paragraphs (a) and (b) in proposed new subsection (5B). However, they are alternatives. I do not suggest that both have to be satisfied, although I suspect that in practice it is likely they would be. RIPA recognises that intrusive surveillance is a particularly serious form of surveillance, and I do not think it could be denied that criminal conduct is serious. We think this is an appropriate definition which, in the past, has clearly satisfied not only Parliament but the Home Office—I believe an amendment on that was accepted by it—and the Constitution Committee has been concerned about this as well. I hope we will find a way to define the level of crime, whether it is this amendment or not—although we think it is a good way to go about it. I will leave it to my noble friend Lord Paddick to talk about disorder.