Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Lord Mann Excerpts
Lord Mann Portrait Lord Mann (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I join the welcome and congratulations to the Lord Advocate for Scotland and the noble Lords, Lord McLoughlin and Lord Walney. I thank the noble Lord, Lord McLoughlin, for the way in which he gave me and others support when we were under pressure at the height of the issues of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. I acknowledge that what he said in private was far more significant than what he said in public. The noble Lord, Lord Walney, stood on the right side when he did not have to, and took a brave stance. He supported Jewish members of the Parliamentary Labour Party and Jewish Members of the Labour Party. That will not be forgotten, and I thank him.

There have been a number of changes since the 1970s and 1980s. We are no longer fighting countries and armies under rules of engagement in war. We have human rights legislation that we did not have before. Those are significant changes. Since 1997, the strongest trade union organisation in the country is at GCHQ. Being a trade unionist and being loyal to one’s country are not contradictions. The density of membership there is a sign of that. It is part of the checks and balances in the system that makes it work.

We are now in a digital era, which changes many things. In many of the issues that we are talking about today, we are missing the mundanity of the actions that will be required outside the law. Some of the models are rather old-fashioned in terms of approach to what is going on. The mundanity is important to the effectiveness of the powers required.

I particularly want to talk about what happens if we do not do this, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, eloquently pointed out. We go back to the grey area that existed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s —the shadows, as it was described. What characterised that more than anything was the incompetence of the actions taking place. Nothing could illustrate that better than putting people inside the International Marxist Group or, as we used to call them, the sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie. The only revolutionary thing that that organisation ever did was when some of its members accepted a peerage to come into this place.

The incompetence of the grey area was not in the national interest. There is a worse example. The Economic League sums up the grey area, the shadows and the incompetence. I should know: I was on the Economic League blacklist. When I went to work for the Ciba-Geigy chemical company in Manchester, I got given a job that was then withdrawn because I was on the list. I managed to get hold of the list and found my name on it. That is what happens with a grey area.

The Bill does more than codify; it allows accountability. It does not mean that things will not go wrong and there will not be big issues—there could well be—but it gives us, the people and the victims, the power to do something about it. The grey area is not an option. I want to see the Bill go through.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, will not be speaking in the debate so we will move straight on to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker.