Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Baroness D'Souza Excerpts
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D’Souza (CB) [V]
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Most of what I wanted to say has been said, and eloquently said. I will merely emphasise two points before I metaphorically sit down. The Government justify the absence of limits on the potential criminal activity that the Bill enables by saying that to do so might serve to expose active agents. Furthermore, HMG argue that there is no need to include such limitations in the Bill, as has been the case in similar legislation in Canada and the USA, on the basis that the UK is party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated in the Human Rights Act 1998, and is therefore bound by the terms of the convention. However, at the same time and in almost the same breath, the Government said, in legal filings, that they do not believe that covert agents should be bound by the terms of the Human Rights Act. Additionally, since the Human Rights Act specifically precludes murder, torture or other degrading behaviour, which surely covers sexual violence, the argument that naming limits might endanger agents rather falls to the ground. Will the Minister clear up these ambiguities?

Secondly, the Bill relies heavily on oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the right to lodge any complaint with the tribunal and additional oversight —oh, I fear I have lost my text. Forgive me. What I was going to say is basically that dependence on the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, when there are no fewer than 14 authorising authorities bound to ensure that any criminal activity undertaken must be proportionate, necessary and at the lowest level possible to achieve the aims of the particular operation, is surely too much to ask. One could rely on the ISC, but we all know that too often the ISC has not received full or timely information to fulfil its function, and the tribunal itself will obviously take place after the criminal act has been committed. For that reason, I ask the Minister to clear up what seem to me to be ambiguities.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We are going to make a final attempt to return to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. We hope that, on this occasion, the gremlins have finally been removed from the system.