1. This CLP notes:
1.1. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 15th October 2020.
1.2 The Bill would amend Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to create a new process of ‘Criminal Conduct Authorisations’, constituting an express power for MI5, police forces and a range of other public authorities to authorise their agents and informants (“Covert Human Intelligence Sources” “CHIS”) to commit criminal offences.
1.3 This legislation would license offences, committed during cover operations, for a wide range of public authorities, from the intelligence services and the police, to the Gambling Commission and the Food Standards Agency.
1.4 The Bill places no limits on the types of crimes which can be authorised, with no express prohibition on human rights violations, including murder, torture, kidnap, or sexual offences. It allows state agents to commit crimes to stay undercover. There is no provision for innocent victims to get compensation.
1.5 In placing current guidelines on a statutory footing, the Bill would give legal basis to the infiltration of trade unions, as grounds for criminal conduct would include not only ‘national security’, but also ‘preventing disorder’.
1.6 Not only does this Bill make it impossible to prosecute such crimes, it gives prior authorisation to commit them and with no judicial oversight. As such it is weaker than comparable laws for phone-tapping, despite involving potentially far more harmful conduct.
1.7 That past victims of such covert operations include Pat Finucane, the Orgreave picketers, the Hillsborough victims, and multiple women who were abused as the result of state infiltration of environmental and social justice campaign groups.
1.8 That Labour Party leader Keir Starmer issued a one-line whip to abstain on the third reading of the Bill. He has since expressed what sounds like full support for the bill, claiming it was “impossible” to argue that the Bill would allow undercover agents to torture people. (https://www.expressandstar.com/news/uk-news/2020/10/23/starmer-defends-labour-position-on-spy-cops-bill/)
1.9 That 34 Labour MPs ignored the whip and voted against the bill.
1.10 That Unite the Union has launched a campaign against the bill: https://unitetheunion.org/campaigns/block-the-spycops-bill/
2. This CLP believes:
2. 1. This Bill is part of a wider project by this government to wrest key scrutiny powers away from parliament and the judiciary.
2. 2. This Bill has alarming and destructive implications for all progressive movements in the UK as well as the trade union movement in general.
2. 3. Keir Starmer was wrong to whip his MPs into abstaining on the bill.
2. 4. The prohibition of torture, sexual violence and murder on behalf of the British state must be absolute.
3. This CLP resolves:
3.1. That the Labour Party must oppose this Government’s ongoing project to place British authorities above the law.
3.2 To condemn the decision to abstain against Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill and call on the leadership to now unreservedly oppose it.
3.3 To thank the 34 Labour MPs who refused to follow the whip and who voted against the bill.
3.4 To publicly campaign against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.
3.5 To publicly campaign on behalf of victims of covert operations, and support the Pat Finucane Centre, the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, and Police Spies Out of Lives in their work to expose covert criminality by the British state.