Statement following the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill vote

Tonight, I firstly would like to thank the police and the secret service operators who are fundamental in keeping us safe. And many do more than we will ever know at often great personal sacrifice. I am also sure that no one going undercover is ever the same person again.

 I voted against this the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill because I could not in good conscience abstain on something which, in my view, needs to have safeguards on the face of the Bill.  The Government has asked us to rely on the Human Rights Act for a lot of checks and balances but we also know that this Government does not like the Human Rights Act - often referring to it frustratingly as red tape.  We must protect our democracy and civil liberties by maintaining strong checks and balances on the Government.

But sadly, my view is that this Bill will effectively allow security services, police and others to authorise serious prior criminal activity.  Giving yet more unchecked powers away, without strong accountability or oversight, is unacceptable and represents a very worrying trend with this Government.  I also find it deeply worrying that, as organisations such as Reprieve have pointed out, the UK Bill places no express limits on the types of crimes which can be authorised. However the Canadian bill has 6 relevant and vital safeguards which the Labour Party would like on the face of the bill. 

The idea that the Human Rights Act alone offers the necessary protection, under a Conservative Government which has repeatedly sought to undermine it and also in 2019 pledged to ‘update it’, is not good enough.  What we need instead are sufficient oversight, safeguards and limitations on the powers in black and white, in this Bill, before it goes on statutory footing.  For all these reasons and more, I could not bring myself to abstain on this Bill – I had to vote against it.