Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2019 – 2021
The new Director General of MI5 Ken McCallum has laid out his stall in a very rare interview. He talked about the resurgent threat from the Russian Federation, the growing threat from China, Islamist terror groups and far right groups. As we saw with the attack in Paris last night there needs to be security services to try and stop these organisations and groups spreading their violence.
The threat from the Russian Federation is increasingly important to keep a tight hold on, especially since the attack in Salisbury, with the Novichok poisoning of Sergai Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Most recently the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned using the same nerve agent allegedly by the Russian government.
The Chinese threat is ever so important to keep a keen eye on. With Huawei connection making waves in the intelligence world.
Now I agree with the DG that his service is an integral part of the joint effort to protect the people of our nation. The main task for any government is to protect this nation and it’s people and as I said MI5 is a major player in this protection. The people who work in GCHQ, many of whom live in my constituency do very important work. Making the service more open to attract the best talent is also a good thing.
Now, having said all that there is a piece of legislation on its passage through the House that has me concerned and this is where I disagree with the DG who has welcomed its inception. The name of the legislation is The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act 2019 – 2021. As outlined in the House of Commons briefing paper the Bill is meant to strengthen the Regulation Of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and so “the main purpose of the Bill therefore is to place such activity on a clear statutory footing.” *
*source House Of Commons Briefing Paper Number 9012.
This bill is highly controversial in the sense that its aim is to give those in authority within the security services and other national government agencies and departments, including the Department of health and social care and the Food Standards Agency the power to authorise criminal activity for its operatives as part of their under cover work without facing any redress for their actions. Although some say that certain levels of this type of activity is necessary to stop bigger crimes being committed, the new Bill does not give limitations to the criminal activity.
Non government agencies including Big Brother Watch, Reprieve, Privacy International and others have cited serious issues and concerns about the Bill. I have to concur with their findings. Most importantly the Bill has no express limits to the level of criminality that the operative may take. There is nothing contained within the Bill that specifically prevents the authorisation covering murder, torture or sexual violence.
Even in the US and Canada there are limitations to the types of crime that can be committed. The Bill gives the Secretary of state (The Home Secretary) the increased authority to appoint those who can expedite the authorisations for the crimes to take place.
Indeed there is no external input from the Judiciary and these authorisations are given internally by those designated, without approval from the Judiciary.
I understand the need for security and the security services but I too join those who have raised concerns about the Bill and call on the Government to implement the limitations in line with the US and Canada.
We cannot authorise agents to commit crimes of the highest type. This is a step too far.
Glenville Gogerly EADW – Libertarian Party Home Affairs Spokesperson.