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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Volume 809: debated on Thursday 21 January 2021

Third Reading

Relevant documents: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 19th Report from the Constitution Committee

My Lords, I am required to inform the House that the Scottish Government informed the UK Government that they would be unable to recommend legislative consent for the devolved elements of this Bill, and we have tabled amendments in advance of this debate that remove from the Bill provisions that are within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. The content of the Bill does not invoke the legislative consent process in Wales or Northern Ireland.

We have engaged closely with the Scottish Government over many months, during the drafting of the legislation and throughout its passage. Where the Scottish Government have identified concerns, we have sought to remedy them. An example of that is an agreement from operational agencies to discuss a memorandum of understanding with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to provide the Lord Advocate with visibility of criminal conduct in Scotland.

The Scottish Government, however, required further amendments to the Bill in areas which the Government cannot support; namely, placing express limits on the face of the Bill. The Government’s position throughout this process has been based on advice from operational partners to ensure that the Bill is workable in practice and has no unintended consequences for the safety of the public, or a CHIS, and we have had clear advice from operational partners in all parts of the UK that placing limits on the face of the Bill will lead to CHIS testing and increased initiation tests. We remain open to further discussion with the Scottish Government, to ensure that operational agencies continue to have access to the tools required to keep us safe.

Moved by

1: Clause 4, leave out Clause 4

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

My Lords, these amendments remove from the Bill the ability to authorise participation in criminal conduct for devolved purposes in Scotland. I have just outlined why we have tabled these amendments: they are in response to the decision of the Scottish Government that they cannot recommend legislative consent. The amendments, therefore, respect the Sewel convention.

Authorisations necessary for the purpose of national security or the economic well-being of the United Kingdom relate to reserved matters, and public authorities will still be able to grant authorisations for these purposes for activity in Scotland. An authorisation necessary for preventing and detecting crime, or preventing disorder, is not in itself reserved. An authorisation granted for the purpose of preventing and detecting crime, or preventing disorder, may, therefore, relate to devolved matters, and it will be these matters to which the Bill will not apply.

In the immediate term, public authorities will need to continue to rely on existing legal bases for such authorisations in Scotland. Were these bases to change—I note the legal challenge currently before the Court of Appeal in relation to MI5’s existing legal basis for this activity—it would be for the Scottish Government to bring forward their own legislation to place this conduct on the clear and consistent statutory basis that the Bill delivers. I beg to move.

My Lords, of course, we do not intend to oppose the government amendments —the devolution settlement is to be respected. However, I have some questions, the answer to which at least one of which I can work out from the Minister’s introduction to the amendment. She has had my notes, so I will go through the points that occurred to me.

First, can the Government say anything about their assessment of the impact of what the Minister has just explained? In Committee, she referred to minimising the “immediate operational impact”. It appears to be acknowledged, therefore, that there is some impact. What happens if Scotland legislates differently? The Minister’s letter to noble Lords of 13 January explains one of the issues, which I take to be the major issue, about which the Scottish Government was concerned: an amendment to the limits to conduct that can be authorised; that is, whether specific listed crimes should be excluded. The House has debated that point and I am not seeking to reopen the matter.

In Committee, the Minister reminded us that national security and economic well-being are reserved, not devolved; she has just repeated that. In that case, could there be challenges—it seems to me that there could be—as to whether certain conduct is merely, if that is the right word, a crime? It is not merely a crime, but the House will understand that I am referring to a crime that does not fall within the other categories. The Minister also said that public authorities will continue to rely, in the immediate term, on the existing basis for an authorisation—which, I take it from what she said, is the non-statutory basis.

How, then, does Clause 8 work? That clause says that the Bill extends to Scotland and Northern Ireland, save that Acts of the Scottish Parliament are not amended. The Minister has introduced Amendment 7 —as well as Amendment 8—which amends Schedule 2, the list of consequential amendments. This provides that there may not be a criminal conduct authorisation if

“all or some of the conduct … is likely to take place in Scotland.”

If some of the conduct is in Scotland and the rest in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, does that mean there have to be parallel authorisations, one statutory and one non-statutory? Or do I understand from what the Minister said that the Government in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will proceed on the non-statutory basis so it will be aligned with the authorisation in Scotland? A criminal conduct authorisation prompted by an ordinary crime, if I can call it that, cannot extend across the border but, of course, the crime may well do so.

Finally, the Minister may or may not be able to say whether the issue is wider than the Bill. We will be in Committee next week on the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill and I gather from government amendments that there is an issue there—but is it an even wider issue on legislation? I hope the Minister can help with my questions, which I have tabled in order to understand how the Bill will operate in this circumstance.

I thank the Minister for her explanation of the purpose of these government amendments and for her letter of 13 January explaining the position in the light of the confirmation from the Scottish Government that they are unable to recommend consent for devolved provisions within the Bill. We understand why the Government have brought forward these amendments today and accept the need for them. Our key concern is whether the situation that has now been reached will have any adverse impact at all on national security and economic well-being, UK-wide, and it would be helpful if the Government could confirm, as I think the Minister has sought to indicate, that there will be no such adverse impact.

The letter from the Minister of 13 January states that the Scottish Government

“require further amendment to the Bill in relation to limits to the conduct which can be authorised under the Bill.”

As this House has now added those limits to the Bill, are the Government minded to change their stance on that issue and accept the amendment concerned?

Finally—I appreciate that this is a matter to which the Minister has also made reference—will the Government say what the impact will be, first in Scotland, to which she referred, and also in the UK as a whole, if the present legal basis for authorising criminal conduct changes, based on the outcome of the current, ongoing court case?

I thank both noble Lords for raising those points. On the final point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on what happens if the law changes in relation to the court case, clearly the court case is ongoing, we await the findings of it and, in a sense pre-empting the court case, the Government have seen fit to put on to a statutory footing that which was never on a statutory footing. So I hope that, without in any way pre-empting the court case, this will satisfy the courts.

Obviously, the Government are disappointed that we are having to bring forward these amendments. We made it clear that a UK Bill was and remains our preference, and we have worked hard to try to accommodate that. But we have to ensure the workability of the Bill as our primary consideration, and on those grounds we could not provide the amendment necessary to ensure the support of the Scottish Government. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about limits, we will not accept any change to what we have put forward because it would completely undermine the operational capabilities that the Bill provides for. I have been through the arguments about the safeguards on human rights that are provided in the Bill and, of course, the Children Act when it comes to children.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the Government’s assessment of impact. She will appreciate that we do not want to provide sensitive operational detail, but operational partners are considering how to manage any impact of the decision of the Scottish Government. In the immediate term, public authorities will need to consider any existing legal basis for an authorisation, but the noble Baroness is absolutely right to acknowledge that these organisations will not be able to rely on the clear statutory basis provided by the Bill. If there is operational or legal risk in the future, it will be for the Scottish Government to bring forward legislation for devolved activity. It will be in their gift to decide on the safeguards attached to that legislation, and I would hope and expect them to be driven by the expert advice of operational partners, as we have been.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also asked—rightly so—about cross-border operations. Operational partners will continue to work closely with their counterparts in Scotland, including Police Scotland, where operations take place across the border, to ensure that they remain able to prevent crime and harm to the public in all parts of the UK. Finally, she asked whether the issue was wider than the Bill. Clearly, if there are any legislative consent issues to which Scotland, or indeed Wales, have to consent, these will be considered on a legislation-by-legislation basis, so it is very difficult for me to answer in any theoretical way, but that is the process that goes on for LCMs, as we call them.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked me whether there would be any adverse impact on national security and economic well-being more broadly. I answered no in my first speech and I will confirm that, because they are, of course, reserved matters.

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 5: Oversight by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner

Amendments 2 to 4

Moved by

2: Clause 5, page 7, line 36, leave out “or (g)”

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

3: Clause 5, page 7, line 39, leave out from beginning of line 39 to “(criminal conduct authorisations)” in line 40

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

4: Clause 5, page 8, line 4, leave out from “2000” to “(criminal conduct authorisations)” in line 5

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

Amendments 2 to 4 agreed.

Clause 8: Extent and short title

Amendment 5

Moved by

5: Clause 8, page 8, line 25, leave out subsection (3)

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

Amendment 5 agreed.

Schedule 1: Corresponding amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000

Amendment 6

Moved by

6: Schedule 1, leave out Schedule 1

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

Amendment 6 agreed.

Schedule 2: Consequential amendments

Amendments 7 and 8

Moved by

7: Schedule 2, page 13, line 11, at end insert—

“(b) after subsection (4) insert—“(5) No person may grant or renew a section 29B(5)(b) authorisation if it appears to the person that all or some of the conduct authorised by the section 29B(5)(b) authorisation is likely to take place in Scotland.(6) But subsection (5) does not apply if the grant or renewal of the section 29B(5)(b) authorisation is for a purpose relating to a reserved matter (within the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998).(7) For the purposes of subsections (5) and (6),“a section 29B(5)(b) authorisation” means an authorisation under section 29B in so far as it is granted or, as the case may be, renewed on the grounds that it is necessary on grounds falling within section 29B(5)(b).””Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

8: Schedule 2, page 14, line 27, leave out paragraph (b)

Member’s explanatory statement

This is one of 8 drafting amendments needed because at Report stage substantive amendments were made to RIPA which were not replicated for RIP(S)A in relation to activity devolved to Scotland. These amendments make the Bill’s approach consistent by removing all provision relating to activity devolved to Scotland from the Bill.

Amendments 7 and 8 agreed.


Moved by

Moved by

“Leave out from “that” to the end and insert “this House declines to allow the bill to pass because the bill (1) grants blanket prior legal immunity for otherwise criminal conduct without sufficient safeguards or oversight, (2) provides no system of prior judicial authorisation, (3) does not recover profits obtained under a Criminal Conduct Authorisation which could include proceeds from the sale of drugs, weapons, human trafficking and slavery, (4) fails to provide compensation to victims of crimes authorised under the bill, and (5) represents a significant expansion of undercover policing despite, and without regard to, the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry.”

My Lords, noble Lords can imagine that there is a lot of legislation going through this House that I oppose. In the past, I have exercised restraint and have not been disruptive with procedural Motions, but there are times when we all need to make a stand, and this Bill, for me, is one of those situations. It is a terrible piece of legislation and I cannot be complicit in it, nor in future acts of state oppression that will be the result of our passing it, and I will, therefore, divide the House.

Noble Lords have spent many days trying to improve the Bill, and we have made a few positive steps, but even if the other place does not remove most of those amendments, the Bill is still so fundamentally flawed that it should not be allowed to pass. Scotland has had the sense to refuse the Bill and I wish that we would do the same. I was subject to police surveillance for more than a decade. I did not know about it, it did not affect me, and even when I found out, it really did not affect me very much—but others in your Lordships’ House were subject to similar but much worse surveillance, and many will not even know whether they were observed and under surveillance or not. The Bill does nothing to improve that situation; in fact, it will make things worse by granting total legal immunity to undercover officers, spies and informants.

There is also the fact that the Bill has been brought forward while the Undercover Policing Inquiry is still going on. Not far from here, that inquiry is hearing evidence about police infiltration of peaceful campaign groups and unions, and undercover officers forming sexual relationships with women. The Bill learns no lessons from that inquiry and does nothing to support the victims. It actually grants much broader legal immunity to the wrongdoers.

I am also concerned that I did not get a proper answer to my repeated questions about the proceeds of crimes authorised under the Bill. My conclusion is that the police will be able to authorise people to profit from criminal activities, and that there is no way for the state to recover those profits. I hope there will not be too many miscarriages of justice and abuses of power before we revisit and repeal this legislation. With all that in mind, I am sad that I am in a minority in opposing the Bill, but I cannot in conscience abstain and accept its passage. I beg to move.

My Lords, as one of the many Cross-Benchers who has applied themselves to this Bill, I record my thanks to the Minister for her explanations and for the discussions with her, which I have enjoyed—no 48-hour weeks for her—and James Brokenshire, who continues to have all our good wishes; to the Bill team; to the police and MI5; to IPCO, whose monitoring function is so vital; and to the NGOs and individuals who campaign on these issues and do their best to keep us all honest. I am particularly grateful to those who brought the Third Direction case. There are issues of great public concern which simply do not come to the attention of Parliament without the spur of litigation, and this is one of them. I have also appreciated not only the speeches of other noble Lords but my informal dialogue with them, intensive at times, which in my experience can be achieved just as easily, if not quite so pleasurably, in a virtual House as in a physical one.

This Bill was not widely consulted on and went from Committee stage to Third Reading in the other place during a single day. It needed the time we were able to give it, and I believe that after seven days of debate we have achieved significant improvement and clarification. I thank the Minister in particular for working with me on real-time notification. I hope we can achieve a satisfactory result on the other excellent amendments that we have passed, including those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, which improve notification and the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, on juvenile CHIS, while still enabling the Bill to be enacted by the start of the Court of Appeal hearing on 28 January, which I know is the Government’s ambition.

I have great respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and understand her regrets, which are underlined by the withholding of consent by the Scottish Government, but I will not be voting for her amendment to the Motion. For all its difficult and controversial features, the Bill is a clear improvement on the opaque and poorly safeguarded arrangements that preceded it, and it has my support.

My Lords, I have bled your Lordships’ ears over this Bill long enough, so I can be short. I thank the Minister for her patience and fortitude but my profound fears about this legislation will continue for a very long time, until it is amended or repealed. My concerns are about the signal that it sends but, even more, about the serious human rights abuses that it will herald. It is, quite simply, the most constitutionally dangerous legislation that I have seen presented in this country in my working life.

I am rather ashamed not to have been able to persuade more of your Lordships of the profound dangers of allowing the Executive to grant advance immunity for criminal actions to a whole raft of their agents—not just the brave security services or the hard-pressed police but many other government agencies and quangos, and the members of our communities who inform for or work for them, including even children. It will not even be with prior judicial warrant. This legislation does not put current arrangements on a statutory footing, so it does not merely respond to the litigation mentioned by the previous speaker. As for that litigation, there may be a lesson here for those of us who at times have dabbled in test-case legislation: to be careful what we wish for when provoking the might of the state in this fashion.

Just as our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic are beginning to rebuild their own bedrock of the rule of law, it will take a little longer in our own jurisdiction. A lot is said of patriotism these days. My patriotism is not the love of a flag but, in a nutshell, a love of the NHS and the rule of law. This Bill abrogates the vital principle of equality before the law, which I think all people well understand. It is a very sad day for me. For the moment, like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I can only bear witness for the record—but that I must do. I cannot in good conscience support the Bill being passed off as law.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, always expresses herself firmly and persuasively. That said, I am afraid I could not agree with her less about this legislation. I support the passage of the Bill and want to thank the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who has been both consultative and a very good listener. She has also shown that she is prepared to move on important issues. Far from what the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, the Bill puts CHIS on a solid, statutory footing.

It has improved the way in which CHIS are to be dealt with by creating a clear process, all of which is legally enforceable and accountable. The code of practice has been mentioned less frequently in our debates than it deserved. It is absolutely required reading for all who are involved, or perhaps even interested, in how CHIS are handled in this country. One thing to be emphasised about the code of practice is that because it is a code rather than an Act of Parliament, although it has the force of law, it is a living instrument which can be changed as needs must.

The Bill will make a beneficial difference for the authorities, for the CHIS themselves and for public safety. With the changes that have been made, which have been difficult and creative at times, I commend it to the House.

My Lords, it is my particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, although it is a particular discomfort to me to disagree with him on this occasion. The Bill proposes that the state should have the power to grant immunity for crimes committed in the future by agents on its behalf. I believe that the grant of such immunity is contrary to the rule of law, which prescribes that all are bound equally to observe the law, not least the criminal law. The fact that such immunity will derive from legislation if the Bill becomes law does not alter my belief.

Giving the state the power to exempt prospectively its agents from criminal law is the antithesis of this fundamental principle. A decision to prosecute or not should be granted only retrospectively, when all the facts and circumstances of the conduct at issue are known, including the nature of any authorisation and, above all, whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. The CPS makes such decisions all the time; that is compatible with the rule of law and equality before the law. This arrangement, as far as is known, has worked perfectly satisfactorily for the last 200 years. Instead, the Bill overturns this status quo, challenges the rule of law and gives the state unparalleled powers. I regret that on this occasion I cannot follow the advice of my noble friends on my party’s Front Bench and, as a matter of conscience, I am obliged to vote against the Bill.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for all the consultation she has gone through, and the Government for their flexibility in adjusting the Bill to the stage it has reached. I am also always pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and find that I think along the same lines as him, as I did when I was the Government’s Security Minister and he was outside the box, looking in to make sure that we behaved.

I am speaking against the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, albeit that she put it eloquently. We should be proud of the Bill. Putting our covert human intelligence agents’ behaviour on a statutory basis is to be praised. As I have said, agents save lives. In working under cover, CHIS need to be trusted by those on whom they are reporting. Put simply, if they are to be believed to be a gang member, they need to act like one. If they do not, it is no exaggeration to say that they could be killed. Their handlers must be able to authorise them to break the law in certain circumstances and subject to specific safeguards. This has been strengthened in our debates and we should be proud of that. The ISC believes that there is a need for such authorisations. It also supports the Government’s decision not to place limits on criminal conduct in the Bill itself for the reasons that were debated.

I have thought long and hard about the use of children and I have to say that, initially, I was very concerned about it. As an aside, I do not consider 16 to 18 year-olds children, but that is a different issue. As regards the use of those aged below 16, I now believe that they should be used in exceptional circumstances, and appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure that that can be done to maximum gain and with minimum risk.

In summary, as I say, we should be proud that we have put this issue on a statutory basis. The Bill is a necessary and useful piece of legislation.

My Lords, in nearly 30 years in your Lordships’ House, I have never seen a piece of legislation that has made me more uneasy than this Bill. To me it is counterintuitive to give anyone the power to pre-empt the application of the criminal law .

I of course support the need to do all that is necessary to protect our national security and to detect and prevent serious crime, but it should have been possible to find other means. To choose this moment to extend in legislation the legality of law-breaking seems most unwise. This, after all, is a time when Russia is without compunction using, both at home and abroad, deadly poisons to eliminate its enemies. When it succeeds, it denies it. When it fails, its leader blithely explains that when it wants to kill, it succeeds.

I give one simple and deliberately irrelevant example. If a burglar is killed by a householder protecting himself or his family, it is unlikely that a jury will convict him of murder or even manslaughter. That does not mean, however, that we should legislate to give ex-ante immunity to householders who kill burglars.

I have one more word on journalists. I tried to persuade your Lordships to require judicial authorisation for any requirement to force journalists to reveal their sources in cases covered by the Bill. The amendment was defeated by seven votes but I was comforted by the fact that three former Cabinet Secretaries voted for it.

The Bill will now pass, and I shall vote for it, but let us agree, at least informally, that its implementation should be monitored with rigour. All societies must defend their security but open societies must take especial care of how they do so. Yesterday, President Biden told the American people that

“we’ll lead not merely by the example of our power but the power of our example.”

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is absolutely right to bring forward her amendment to the Motion. I might want to criticise the details, which I do not intend to do, but she is right to do so. In fact, it would have been inconsistent with her rigid approach to the Bill for her not to do so. So, to that extent, I support her right to table the amendment; there is no question whatever about that. It gives me an opportunity to further vote for the Bill because I will not support the amendment to the Motion.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, just made a point about the open society. This is a problem and there is a disquiet here. As an open society, we need to protect our openness. However, when that openness is the very thing used to undermine and smash our open society, we have to say no. We have to have a process that defends our open society and is consistent with the rule of law. The Bill is perfect for that. I have no doubt that in future the Bill will be amended, but the language that has been used about it is extravagant and misleading.

I see that on Twitter it is described as the “Spy Cops Bill”. It has nothing to do with spy cops. It is completely different and that can be misleading. If I was a CHIS in Scotland, I would be a bit concerned at the moment about becoming a whistleblower because I am not sure whether the Scottish Government are fully behind the process.

Perhaps I may briefly also express thanks. I have not been involved in the detail but I took up the Minister’s opportunity for a discussion with the Bill team and some of the advisers, which I found useful. Indeed, as a result, they published more information. The case studies, which I used extensively on Report, should have been deployed even more. There has been a communication issue regarding the Bill, which I find a fault because the Government have not defended and promoted some of its practical aspects as much as they could have.

The Bill protects covert human intelligence sources. It makes sure that they are not put at risk by being tested by the criminal gangs they may have been sucked into involuntarily, as mentioned in some of the examples used in the case studies. It is not the case that all people knowingly go down that route; they get sucked in by their employers. As a non-expert in this area, I found the newly published guidance incredibly helpful.

My final point is on the pejorative language used, such as when quangos are dismissed as not important. Most of the quangos listed in the Bill are non-ministerial government departments and should not be dismissed by saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter”. I find that kind of language unacceptable among parliamentarians because it deliberately seeks to mislead the public regarding what the Bill is about. It should stop.

My Lords, I have a lot of respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and we support the spirit of her amendment to the Motion to the extent that we oppose the granting of legal immunity. We believe that the Bill undermines the rule of law—that is, the principle whereby all members of a society are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes. As a result of the Bill, that is called into question, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, have said.

Where a police officer or member of the security services tasks a covert human intelligence source to commit an act defined in law as a crime, the person tasked will no longer be subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes. An existing system that has worked effectively for decades, whereby informants and agents are tasked to commit crime and the decision, almost without exception, not to prosecute is taken by the relevant prosecuting authority, after considering all the facts, will be swept aside.

It is to be replaced with what we consider an unsafe and undesirable power, vested in the hands of the police, the security services and numerous other public authorities, to grant legal immunity with no prior judicial authority. The main issue is not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, says in her amendment to the Motion, that there are insufficient safeguards or oversight, although this is arguably true. It is the fact that immunity can be granted at all, making the illegal legal. That is the fundamental issue for us on these Benches. I expect the legality of this aspect of the Bill to be challenged in the courts. That said, the House fully debated this aspect of the Bill, and without the support of the Labour Party leadership, we on these Benches were unable to remove it.

Contrary to the amendment to the Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, this House has clarified the existing position and improved the Bill, to ensure that innocent victims of crimes committed by those instructed to do so by state agents can seek compensation. Contrary to her amendment to the Motion, undercover policing is not being expanded by the Bill, although the Bill has shone more light on this aspect of policing. The number of public authorities that can deploy covert human intelligence sources has been reduced by the Bill. The directed criminal activity of those informants and agents has been placed on a statutory footing, rather than the Bill enabling it to increase.

From the start, we recognised the need to place the tasking of covert human intelligence sources to commit crime on a statutory basis, which this Bill does. We have improved the Bill in some important respects—the safeguards for children and vulnerable adults, for example, despite our fundamental misgivings over immunity. Therefore, with regret, we cannot support the noble Baroness’s amendment to the Motion.

I thank the Minister and the Bill team for their work on the Bill; our Labour colleagues and their staff for their assistance and co-operation on those aspects that we were able to agree on; and those on the Cross Benches who have liaised with us. I also thank my staff and colleagues for their help with what has been a very difficult Bill for me, personally, because of my previous professional experience of this difficult area of policing and because of my knowledge of the very real opportunities that the Bill presents for corruption and malpractice. The amendments that this House has introduced are the very minimum required and we will resist any attempt to remove any of them.

My Lords, we do not support the amendment to the Motion. This unelected House does not vote down Bills. Our role is that of a revising Chamber. Through making amendments to Bills, we invite the House of Commons to reconsider its position on specific aspects of legislation. That is what we have done with this Bill.

We have debated amendments to the Bill. Some have been agreed by this House, and some have not had its support. From our point of view, we have not won the support of this House for everything we wanted, but important amendments have been agreed and we want the Bill with those amendments to go back to the House of Commons for consideration. This amendment to the Motion, if carried, would thwart that objective and accordingly we shall vote against it.

This House has made important changes to the Bill. I should like to take this opportunity, along with my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark and my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton, to thank the Minister and her ministerial colleagues, the Bill team, many other Members of this House and various security agencies and organisations for their willingness to meet us to discuss aspects of the Bill. Those meetings have been most helpful. Finally, we place on record our appreciation of the invaluable and immense support we have received from our own staff on this Bill, particularly Grace Wright.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment to the Motion. I join other noble Lords in thanking the police, MI5 and other operational partners who will now, I hope, have a clear statutory framework and, as the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, says, the accompanying code of practice, which will also have the full force of law in which to operate.

I hope that the Government have put forward their case, in spite of some of the unique challenges relating to the sensitivity of this tactic and that noble Lords are reassured that I have been listening and will continue to listen to the strength of views that have been put forward on certain issues. I am happy to discuss any issue further and urge noble Lords to take that course of action if they have any remaining concerns, rather than support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, which would cause the Bill to fall.

My noble friend Lord Marlesford talked about the implementation being monitored with rigour and I totally agree. Any legislation brought before Parliament must have that rigorous monitoring behind it. Every time the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has spoken on the Bill, I felt like saying, “I refer noble Lords to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker”. He talked about the case studies which were much asked for at the beginning of the debates on the Bill and, once forthcoming, as the noble Lord said, almost forgotten about.

It is also worth considering that, without the power or activity that the Bill provides for, the NCA would have been unable to take almost 60 firearms off the street in 2018 alone and the Metropolitan Police would have been unable to seize more than 400 kilograms of class A drugs between November 2018 and November 2019. MI5 and CT policing would also have been impacted in their ability to thwart some 27 terror attacks since March 2017. I do not think that any noble Lord would want to prevent this criminality being stopped in future, which is what the amendment would do.

I acknowledge the important principles behind much of our debate on the Bill—Parliament needs to reassure itself that there is suitable oversight in place, and we have really interrogated that. While strong and differing opinions have been expressed on how to legislate for this activity, I pay tribute to the quality of the debate, despite fundamental differences, and the passionate and articulate way in which noble Lords have relayed their views.

I hope that, during the course of the debates, I have demonstrated the significant safeguards that exist and some of the additional ones that, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and others have said, have now been inserted. Highly trained and experienced authorising officers must assess that an authorisation is necessary and proportionate. That authorisation must be compliant with the Human Rights Act, including the right to life and the prohibition of torture or subjecting someone to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The authorisation is then overseen by the independent Investigatory Powers Commissioner, who reports his findings in his annual report and, thanks to amendments supported by noble Lords, will now consider each and every authorisation within seven days of it being granted. The IPT then offers an entirely independent judicial mechanism for anyone who is concerned that they have been subjected to improper action by any user of an investigatory power.

I hope that the Division that I know the noble Baroness is going to call will not succeed, and I hope that the Bill will now go back to the other place so that it can consider the amendments that noble Lords supported on Report. The Government are committed to providing any additional reassurance to command the support of Parliament and, of course, to keep the public and CHIS safe.

I will conclude there because I realise that we have combined speeches from the debate on the amendment with the final concluding remarks, but I join the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in thanking the Opposition Front Benches, everyone who has contributed to these debates and all the staff who support us. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, but I suspect that that is not about to happen.

I thank the Minister for her response and all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I also thank the eight or nine Peers I passed as I came into the House, all of whom gave me the benefit of their views on this Bill and my amendment—some were positive.

It seemed to me that this Bill was the worst I had ever seen in your Lordships’ House until yesterday, when we had the overseas operations Bill, which is even worse. Luckily, there appears to be more opposition to that; I look forward to joining in. I have been in your Lordships’ House for seven and a half years, and, to the best of my recollection—which is not always the best—I have only ever pressed one vote to a Division. Today’s will be the second. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.