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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

A small number of constituents have got in touch with me over recent days about the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

As this Bill has received some media attention, I thought it would be helpful for all Portsmouth people to have some information about this and Labour’s views on the matters this legislation attempts to deal with.

This Bill is about “covert human intelligence sources” – undercover agents – who are working to disrupt some of the vilest crimes imaginable, including terrorism, violent drug gangs, serious and organised crime and child sexual exploitation.

It’s vital that our security services are able to disrupt this activity, prevent further crime and bring people to justice. Since March 2017, MI5 and Counter Terror Police have together thwarted 27 terror attacks.

It cannot be right, though, that this has been happening in the shadows and without being subject to a clear legal framework or robust accountability. I believe this activity should be in law, with strong safeguards.

The CHIS Bill is not perfect, but it is an improvement on the status quo. Without it, undercover sources would either not be able to operate – therefore removing a vital tool for the security services to prevent very serious crimes – or would continue to operate in the shadows, away from the legal oversight.

Crucial to these safeguards is the fact that the Human Rights Act is on the face of the Bill. This means that no criminal authorisation can go beyond its limits, in effect this prohibits murder, torture and sexual violence. As the Bill continues to progress through Parliament, next in the House of Lords, Labour will also argue for even stronger protections.

As this Bill does not have retrospective power, it does not impact upon the search for justice for the wrongs of the past. The Bill does not impact on the legitimate work of trade unions. The 2016 Investigatory Powers Act, contains significant safeguards that prevents interference with legitimate trade union activity: the Labour Party secured changes to the Bill including Section 20, which is a clear protection for Trade Unions.

The last Labour Government banned the practice of blacklisting and a future Labour Government will build upon that and stand beside those campaigning for justice. The next Labour Government will ensure the release of papers for both Shrewsbury 24 and the Cammell Laird shipyard workers. The next Labour Government will also order a full public inquiry into the events at Orgreave in 1984 and its aftermath. We stand with the victims of the terrible, disgraceful ‘spy cops’ scandal. Labour is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Mitting Inquiry.

I will continue to work with others to press the Government on vital safeguards, we will put the public’s safety first as part of our commitment to Labour’s role in keeping individuals, families and our country safe.

Stephen Morgan MP