Commons Reasons and Amendment
Relevant documents: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, 19th Report from the Constitution Committee
1A: Because the Commons consider that this amendment would cast doubt on whether belief need be reasonable for the purposes of other authorisations under Part 2 of RIPA.
My Lords, I begin by paying tribute to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debates on this Bill. The quality and detail of discussion have been exceptional, and even where the Government have not agreed with the remarks of noble Lords, I recognise the value they have added to the debate. I also thank those noble Lords with whom I have discussed the Bill directly to seek to reach agreement on key issues, and I thank Opposition Front-Benchers in particular for the collaborative approach they have taken. I hope that today, we are able to reach consensus on the issues raised in these amendments, and to provide the certainty and assurance that CHIS and operational partners deserve when this Bill moves on to the statute book.
I have been clear throughout these debates that the Government’s position on this Bill is driven by the need to ensure that this important tactic remains operationally workable. We cannot risk the operation of the tactic or create unintended risk of harm to CHIS, or indeed the wider public, through damaging amendments, even where the sentiment behind them is well-intentioned. However, where we have been able to provide additional reassurances about the safeguards underpinning the power in an operationally workable way, we have welcomed the opportunity to do so. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, for his amendments on real-time notification. I hope I can demonstrate that same approach to the amendments we will discuss today.
Amendment 1 would place on the face of the Bill the requirement that an authorising officer must reasonably believe an authorisation is necessary and proportionate. As I have previously confirmed, it is indeed the case that the belief of the authorising officer should be a reasonable one. The revised code of practice confirms this, and in response to concerns raised by noble Lords, this was further amended to make that clear. However, placing this requirement on the face of the Bill risks casting doubt on whether the belief must be reasonable when that is not specified elsewhere—for example, in Section 29 of Part II of RIPA.
However, the Government are willing to be clearer still in the code of practice and specify that
“the person granting the authorisation must hold a reasonable belief that the authorisation is necessary and proportionate.”
I thank the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Paddick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for their engagement on this point, and I hope this provides the necessary reassurance on this issue.
Amendment 2 would place express limits on the face of the Bill. We have discussed at length why this is not workable and risks CHIS testing and harm to the public by enabling the development of wider initiation tests. To be clear, it is the assessment of operational partners that to explicitly rule out rape, for example, would lead to gangs asking potential members to rape people to prove that they are not working on behalf of the state.
Let me once again confirm that the necessity and proportionality tests and the Human Rights Act provide limits to the conduct that can be authorised. An authorisation that is not compatible with the Human Rights Act will not be lawful, and this is clear in the training and guidance of all public authorities. I ask all noble Lords to seriously consider, therefore, whether we should risk CHIS testing and serious harm to the public when the practical effect of Amendment 2 is not necessary. The Government will not support this amendment for these reasons, and I implore noble Lords to place weight on the advice of operational experts and do the same.
Amendment 3 relates to the criminal injuries compensation scheme. As I said earlier, the Government are listening to ways of providing additional reassurances to Parliament and the public with regard to the safeguards underpinning this legislation where that is operationally workable. Therefore, recognising the views of noble Lords on Report, we are bringing forward an amendment in lieu which makes it clear that a person can access the compensation scheme where appropriate. Therefore, I hope noble Lords are reassured on this point.
Amendment 4 relates to the authorisation of juveniles and vulnerable adults. Let me start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham and the noble Lords, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Kennedy of Southwark, for their extensive engagement on this issue. I also pay tribute to Stella Creasy MP in the other place. This is an uncomfortable area and I completely understand why many noble Lords’ starting position would be to seek to prohibit any authorisation of a juvenile. The danger of that approach is that in prohibiting their use as a CHIS you increase their use by criminal gangs, which will be reassured that a juvenile cannot be working on behalf of the state.
Amendment 4 recognises this issue, and instead places additional safeguards into the Bill. The Government agree with the sentiment of this amendment but cannot support it in its current form, as it would create operational issues that would risk unintended consequences for the young person or vulnerable adult. For example, the amendment defines exceptional circumstances as those
“where all other methods to gain information have been exhausted”.
This requirement risks the workability of the power and, crucially, the safety of the juvenile. There may be occasions where there are other ways to gain the information, but these may not be the safest way to extricate the juvenile from the situation and lead to the best outcome for the juvenile involved.
Therefore, the Government have brought forward amendments in lieu. These capture the essence of this amendment and provide significant additional safeguards for the authorisations of these groups, but in an operationally workable form. The government amendments make clear that the authorising officer is under a duty to safeguard and promote the best interests of a juvenile and that the authorisation must be compatible with that duty. This reflects Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also applies the same statutory safeguards that are in place for CHIS use and conduct authorisations to the new criminal conduct authorisations and requires the IPC to keep these enhanced safeguards under particular review. The use of such authorisations will therefore be subject to close and independent scrutiny, through both the real-time notification process, regular inspections and the IPC’s annual report, which is laid before Parliament.
I encourage all noble Lords to read the 2019 annual report, published in December last year, and I can quote from IPCO here to provide further reassurance today. The 2019 report stated:
“In the very rare instances when a juvenile is authorised as a CHIS, we conduct a close examination of the case. We examine every such case at inspection and focus on the safety and welfare of the juvenile and check that the use and tasking (conduct) is not endangering the CHIS or leading the juvenile to associate with criminals and environments that they would not otherwise encounter.”
I also reiterate another important point relating to oversight of authorisations. It will never be the case that just one individual in the public authority is involved in the authorisation process. RIPA requires the handler and the authorising officer to be different people, while the code of practice mandates that no authorising officer can authorise themselves, so no single officer could ever take a decision without consulting others.
In addition, recognising the views of noble Lords on Report, the amendments also place the requirement for a juvenile CHIS to be authorised only in exceptional circumstances into the Bill and tighten the existing definition of “exceptional circumstances”. Such circumstances will exist only where there is no reasonably foreseeable harm to the juvenile as a result of the authorisation, and where the authorisation is believed to be compatible with the best interests of the juvenile, as per Amendment 4.
The amendments in lieu further clarify that an appropriate adult must be in place for any meetings with an individual under the age of 16, and that there is a presumption that an appropriate adult will attend meetings with 16 and 17 year-olds, with any derogation from this position justified in writing. I hope noble Lords recognise the addition of this language to the Bill in response to concerns raised previously. I can also provide reassurance that the same principles apply to the underlying authorisation of the use and conduct of a juvenile CHIS; an appropriate adult must be in place for a meeting with a juvenile under the age of 16, and justification must be provided if one is not in place at meetings with 16 or 17-year olds.
The definition of “vulnerable adults” is deliberately broad so as to capture a wide range of people—including, for example, victims of modern slavery. The amendments recognise that children are a specific subset of vulnerable individuals, due to their age. It is appropriate for there to be consistent safeguards for all juveniles, as the reason for their vulnerability is the same. It is not possible to apply the “exceptional circumstances” requirement to all vulnerable individuals, as they will be considered to be vulnerable for a wide range of reasons and will require different levels of support. The safeguards, while still robust, recognise this distinction. The amendments add additional safeguards for vulnerable individuals, however. These require that an enhanced risk assessment must be carried out; the source must be capable of understanding and consenting to the deployment and any associated risks; and consideration must be given to the best interests of the source.
These amendments provide significant additional safeguards for the authorisation of any juvenile or vulnerable adult CHIS but, crucially, ensure that there are no unintended consequences for the safety of the CHIS or the operational workability of the tactic. I pay tribute to all who have spoken on this important issue and hope that I have demonstrated the extent to which the Government have listened and, in response, sought to provide additional reassurance and safeguards.
Finally, Amendment 5 relates to real-time notification to the IPC. The Government support this amendment, but are unable to support the further amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, nor indeed the Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, which threatens the workability of the regime by giving judicial commissioners the power to unilaterally cancel an authorisation. We maintain that it is the authorising officer who is best placed to consider not only the necessity and proportionality of an authorisation but the live operational environment and safety of the CHIS. They are therefore also able to best consider comments from a judicial commissioner in the context of the safety of the CHIS. However, I reassure noble Lords that this does not mean that an authorising officer would simply ignore the comments of a judicial commissioner; they place great weight on their views and will consider any action to be taken in response to concerns. This is a collaborative process and operational partners and IPCO do, and will continue to, work closely together on issues raised by judicial commissioners.
I also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that it is already the case that a judicial commissioner would inform a public authority if they felt an authorisation should not have been granted. They may advise the authorising officer that the activity should be reported to the relevant authority—for example, a law enforcement body or prosecutors—and it would then be for prosecutors and a court to determine whether the authorisation was lawful. While the primary responsibility for making that report rests with the public authority, judicial commissioners are also able to refer matters directly to the relevant authorities, including the prosecution services, as per the process set out in Section 232 of the Investigatory Powers Act.
I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, for further discussion on this point and recognise that it would be helpful to provide clarity in the code of practice. We will therefore add language to the code which states:
“Where a judicial commissioner makes observations in relation to a notification, it is for the authorising officer to determine what action should be taken. Having consulted with a more senior officer, they must, as soon as reasonably practicable, notify the office of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner of the intended action, or where action has been taken, for example in urgent cases, of the action.”
I hope that this provides the necessary reassurance and that noble Lords will support the Government on the amendment
I hope I have sufficiently set out the Government’s position on each of these issues and demonstrated a willingness to seek agreement where possible. The Government seek to put this Bill on to the statute book as soon as possible and I therefore hope we can reach agreement on all issues today. I beg to move.
My Lords, at this stage in the journey of a Bill, I know your Lordships’ House will be mindful of its role as an unelected revising Chamber, but in the context of this Bill I humbly suggest that noble Lords be equally mindful of the serious constitutional, human rights and rule of law implications of the legislation, which was not a manifesto commitment of any party.
While mature democracies the world over have written constitutions and entrenched Bills of Rights, including ultimate strike-down powers with which their highest courts can protect fundamental rights and freedoms, that is not currently the case in the United Kingdom. Instead, the burden of protecting rights and freedoms must be more evenly shared between the judiciary and legislature. While your Lordships’ House lacks the other place’s elected legitimacy, it can in my view justify its existence at all only by having more of the independence of mind required to stand up for the most fundamental human rights of the vulnerable against state oppression, by accident or design, in the form of authorised criminality with total legal impunity.
Furthermore, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has an important role in our unusual constitutional scheme. It has been unequivocal in its critique of the ways this legislation violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Your Lordships took its clear advice, and that of my noble friend Lady Massey, in the form of the amendment banning the authorisation of certain grave crimes, in particular murder, rape and torture. The Government’s rebuttal is both circular and hollow. They argue that the grave offences in this amendment would provide a deadly checklist against which suspected undercover agents might be tested, but they also argue that the convention rights already provide these express prohibitions. This amendment might be either dangerous or superfluous, but it surely cannot be both. Which is it?
In the past, government lawyers have argued that the convention rights do not bind undercover agents of the state, and only recently, in the very litigation that provoked this Bill, they argued that agents are not precluded from committing murder. I am clear in my belief that the Human Rights Act binds undercover agents of the state, alongside the state itself. I would be grateful if the Minister could place her express agreement with that proposition on the record during today’s proceedings.
However, even that would not render this amendment superfluous, as the criminal law provides a clearer and more detailed set of instructions to all our citizens. This is essential to our nation’s compliance with convention rights. What would your Lordships’ House say if this kind of criminal immunity, without detailed limitation even for grave offences, were being passed in Russia, China or anywhere other than here? What would the Government say?
As a matter of conscience, and if only to record our grave concerns for the benefit of the litigators and senior jurists who will inevitably pick up the stitches that legislators have dropped, I will test the opinion of your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, I will speak to Motions A, C and D and my noble friend Lord Paddick to Motions B and E. I thank the Minister and the Government for their engagement on the Bill, which raised far more issues than its slim size might have suggested.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, proposed the way forward on the first point, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas. They and we on these Benches would have far preferred the new Section 29B to require criminal conduct authorisations to require “reasonable belief” on the part of the person granting them that they are necessary and proportionate and that the requisite arrangements are in place—in other words, for that to be placed in the Bill. Necessity and proportionality are dependent on a belief which, as the Bill is drawn, is subjective, which dilutes the safeguards. The House agreed with us.
The Government have been concerned that, because Section 29 of RIPA—the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act—which deals with authorisation for the conduct and use of covert human sources, requires belief only, the different wording in new Section 29B would throw Section 29 into doubt. I understand the significance of consistency in legislation, but I do not entirely follow the argument in this case, since Section 32A, which was inserted into RIPA in 2012 and deals with authorisations, including those under Section 29—I hope noble Lords are following so far—provides for judicial authority if and only if the judicial authority is satisfied that there were reasonable grounds for believing and so on. Even if the argument is restricted to consistency, our view is that the term should be included in the Bill. The Commons disagreed with this on the basis of inconsistency, which would cast the doubt to which I have referred. The Solicitor-General assured them that
“the legal position is already that the belief must be reasonable, as a matter of public law.”—[Official Report, Commons, 27/1/21; col. 425.]
We have therefore come to the pragmatic solution that the statutory code of practice at paragraph 3.10 should not, as it says in the draft of the code, say that it is expected there should be reasonable belief. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, commented pithily that nothing could be less desirable. A mere expectation should not satisfy the Solicitor-General either. It is to be replaced by the words the Minister has quoted; I would be grateful if she could ensure that Hansard knows there are to be quotation marks around them, because they could have sounded descriptive rather than the text—the same changes are to be made at paragraph 6.4 of the code of practice. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has commented, the police will rely on the code of practice—I hope I have not stolen his line.
On civil redress, during the passage of the Bill there have been different approaches to ensure that someone injured during the course of authorised conduct should be entitled to redress. We were repeatedly assured that no amendment was necessary; the Minister said the Bill did not “in practice” interfere with the criminal injuries compensation scheme, a term which I queried.
The cross-party amendment led on by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, was agreed by the House by a very substantial majority. We now have a Commons reason that it would be
“inappropriate to create an exception to the effect of”
CCAs, which rather makes our point that an amendment is necessary, but I understand the sometimes slightly obscure process of coming to the formulation of reasons. We welcome this amendment, and we are pleased that the Government have found a form of words to cover the issue that they can live with and with which we are happy to live.
Finally, with regards to children and vulnerable adults, I appreciate that a lot of people have put a lot of work in to get to this point. The House was very clear, as shown by the substantial majority in the Division, about its concern to safeguard children. Under-18s are technically juveniles, but that sounds diversionary. I admit that, then and now, I am very uneasy that we could not have achieved a complete prohibition, but we welcome the change to the Bill—though I do have some questions.
The first is on the term “exceptional circumstances”, to which the Minister has referred. We believe that any authorisation given to a child should be exceptional, but that does not seem to be quite how the clause works. Can the Minister confirm that, first, the authorising officer will consider whether there are exceptional circumstances requiring the use of a child, and that, if it is reasonably foreseeable that granting an authorisation could lead to harm to the child, it should not be granted? I believe that the same approach should apply to vulnerable adults, because each such adult and each child is an individual with individual characteristics and in individual situations.
Secondly, on the definition of “harm”, the amendment refers to physical injury or psychological distress. I asked the Minister this question privately last week, so I hope that she can help with it: does psychological distress include injury? There may be an authority in case law for that. Certainly, in everyday language “distress” does not cover the damage we know can be caused by an extreme experience. I expect we may be told that there will be a trauma-informed approach, but I would like to understand how this works for both children and vulnerable adults.
Finally, on appropriate adults and appropriate arrangements, the amendment deals with meetings to represent a child’s interests and do whatever is necessary for the child’s welfare—these are the terms used in the amendment. Is it not necessary for there to be more than a presence at meetings? I assume that an adult can intervene at a meeting, but what is the extent of the intervention permitted? Can the adult discuss the situation with the child outside the meeting, or is the term “meeting” expandable? Can the adult advise the child? Can the adult have access to discuss the matter with an authorising officer? I welcome the provision, but I am sorry that it will not apply automatically to all 16 and 17 year-olds. In the case of a child, the authorising officer must believe that the authorisation would be “compatible” with safeguarding the needs and promoting the best interests of the child. In the case of a vulnerable adult, these matters need only to be “taken into account”. The obvious question is, why the distinction? It must be that it is not required to withhold authorisation in the case of an adult if it is incompatible. I am concerned about this because we do not—and I am sure the Government do not—want to see a tick-box exercise.
We remain very uncomfortable with the thought of using any of the individuals I have referred to as spies, but I appreciate that that is not what the Bill is about. My final question to the Minister is this: will the Government consider applying these safeguards to all children used as covert sources and making that a formality, either through secondary legislation or at least through the code of practice?
My Lords, I shall speak to Motions A, C and E on the basis that each of them relates in some way to an earlier amendment in my name.
Motion A concerns Amendment 1, which I originally moved in Committee. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I would have preferred the requirement that belief be reasonable to have been included in the Bill. However, I welcome the fact that it will at least now be plainly stated in the code of practice at paragraphs 3.10 and 6.4 in terms that improve significantly on the earlier suggested amendment—memorably described by my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd as the “worst of both worlds”. The new paragraphs will say plainly that
“the person granting the authorisation must hold a reasonable belief that the authorisation is necessary and proportionate.”
Something similar has been said from the Dispatch Box, but authorising officers will perhaps have the code of practice more readily to hand than the Official Report. I welcome the new wording and, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee—who, with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, took over this amendment on Report—I do not oppose Motion A.
I turn to Motion C on the availability of compensation for the victims of authorised crimes. Lords Amendment 3, which your Lordships passed on Report by a majority of 91, provided that there was no bar to the criminal injuries compensation schemes in Great Britain and Northern Ireland being available to victims of authorised crimes. Without such a clause, it was at least possible that Section 27 of RIPA, which renders authorised activity lawful for all purposes, would have prevented such recourse. The Commons rejected that amendment, with the stated basis being that it was
“inappropriate to create an exception to the effect of criminal conduct authorisations.”
I am pleased that the Government have thought again. Their new clause is, so far as I can see, simply a competently drafted version of mine. It will mean that, should an act of violence ever be authorised, the innocent victim will not be disqualified from compensation by the fact that the perpetrator was a CHIS. It improves the Bill in a specific but potentially significant way.
Finally, Motion E originates in an amendment from my noble and learned friend Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. That amendment would have improved my own Amendment 5 on real-time notification, which now constitutes Clause 3 of the Bill, by underlining what I believe in any event would be the practical reality: that the disapproval of a judicial commissioner will normally result in the cessation of all further activities undertaken pursuant to an authorisation. My noble and learned friend’s amendment was not agreed to in the other place, but he has negotiated in its place an acceptable alternative in the form of an amendment to the code of practice. It begins:
“Where a judicial commissioner makes observations in relation to a notification, it is for the authorising officer to determine what action should be taken”—
not whether any action should be taken, but what action should be taken, which implies that some action will be taken.
IPCO must then be informed of that action as soon as reasonably practicable, and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner retains full discretion to take what further steps may be thought appropriate—including, as the Minister expressly confirmed on Report, passing the file on to the Director of Public Prosecutions or his equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the Minister clarified on 11 January, at cols. 497-98 of the Official Report of your Lordships’ House, if the authorisation is determined not to have met the statutory requirements of necessity and proportionality, nothing in this Bill or in RIPA itself prevents the prosecution either of those responsible for authorising the crime or of the person who committed it.
The consequences for anyone who has unlawfully issued a criminal conduct authorisation are therefore real and give the lie to any suggestion that the real-time notification procedure is without teeth. Successive Investigatory Powers Commissioners have been among our highest-ranking and most experienced judges, well capable of deploying both the bark and the bite. This Bill, read with its code of practice, equips them for both.
In short, we have a solution on each of these three amendments which is largely satisfactory. I thank the Bill team and the Minister for their constructive and courteous engagement with operational partners over many months. The Bill is not perfect—given the intractable subject matter, that is not surprising—but it has been very significantly improved by your Lordships. We can fairly say that we have done our job, and I look forward to seeing the Bill on the statute book.
My Lords, I will speak to the two Motions on which the House will divide. Motion B asks that this House do not insist on its Amendment 2, which placed in the Bill a list of offences that a criminal conduct authorisation could not authorise. This amendment was suggested by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and was championed by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The Commons disagree because doing this
“would place sources, and the wider public, at risk.”
As the Minister explained, the argument goes that sources could be tested against such a list to discover whether they were a CHIS and, further, that pursuant of testing to see if a person was a source, they would ask other people who were not CHIS to commit crimes listed in Lords Amendment 2.
Those arguments were demolished by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, in Committee—and the Government have, to date, failed to address them. Australia, Canada and the United States of America have similar lists and they do not present the sort of difficulty in those countries that the Government claim would occur here. In a blatant act of whataboutery, the Minister responded that these countries were different because we have the Human Rights Act and they do not. On Report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, comprehensively demolished the argument that the Human Rights Act was sufficient, but that is not why the Commons disagrees with Amendment 2.
What has the Human Rights Act got to do with the Commons disagreement? A list is published in each of the countries—Australia, Canada and the USA—of offences that CHIS cannot be authorised to commit, and the reasons the Commons has given for rejecting this amendment do not arise in those countries. Their CHIS are not tested against the list and there is no evidence that others are tested against it either. We are not talking about a hypothetical situation of “What if there was a list of prohibited offences?” but about the fact that this has been tried in practice for many years in similar jurisdictions and the Commons’ stated concerns do not exist.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, then went on to explain why he believed publishing a list is not a problem in those jurisdictions and why it would not be a problem here. If a gang tested a member by asking them to rape and the gang member refused, it could be that the gang member has scruples that he is not prepared to set aside. I could add to the noble Lord’s example and say that the gang member may be incapable of performing an act of rape in front of an audience or that his sexuality gets in the way of his being able to rape the man or woman he is being asked to rape. There are a host of more likely explanations as to why the gang member might not commit a serious crime other than that he might be a covert human intelligence source refusing to do so simply because he is a CHIS.
To paraphrase the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, a former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, also with direct experience of Northern Ireland, he said he found it hard to understand why a shortlist bearing no relation to the types of crime that would routinely be authorised should increase the risk to a CHIS or other members of the public or make it more likely that he would be successfully outed as a CHIS by the criminal group in which he is embedded. As a police officer of over 30 years’ experience, including direct experience of managing police informants, I do not understand either.
If the House is not convinced by our failure to understand the Commons reason, it simply needs to look at the experience of Australia, Canada and the United States to see that it does not hold water. We will be supporting the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, when she divides the House on Motion B1.
The history of Motion E1 is as follows. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, just said, he proposed—and the Government accepted—that when a criminal conduct authorisation is granted, the person granting it must give notice to a judicial commissioner as soon as practicable and in any event within seven days. As the noble Lord just said, a judicial commissioner is a current or former High Court judge especially trained to deal with the authorisation of investigatory powers such as this. Indeed, the police and the security services cannot tap someone’s phone, for example, without prior authority from a judicial commissioner and a Secretary of State. In the case of the police and the security services telling a source to commit a crime, no independent prior authority is required from anyone. Anything the police or the security services authorise the source to do is lawful for all purposes. Not only can they authorise someone to commit a crime, they can also grant complete legal immunity to that person. In Committee, my noble friend Lady Hamwee and I asked, “So what? What happens next? Once the judicial commissioner has received notice that a criminal conduct authorisation has been granted, what happens then?” We tabled an amendment in Committee to try to establish the answer.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, took up the cause on Report, requiring the judicial commissioner to inform the person who granted the authorisation to cease all further activity if the independent senior judge determined that the authorisation should not have been granted. The noble and learned Lord even allowed for the activity to continue for a while if that was necessary for the purpose of safely disengaging the CHIS. The Commons objected to a judicial commissioner—an independent senior judge—stopping a CHIS committing a crime when that judicial commissioner had decided that such activity was illegal. Let us just think about that for a minute.
Instead, the Government are proposing that it is for the authorising officer in the police or the security services to determine what action, if any, should be taken once he has been told by an independent senior judge that what he has authorised is against the law. The authorising officer is required only to write back to the judicial commissioner to say what he has decided to do, and that is a requirement only in the codes of practice, not in the Bill. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson says—that because it says that the authorising officer needs to say what action he intends to take and therefore no action is not an option—the action that the authorising officer could decide to take is simply to consult a senior officer and write back to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to say that they will carry on regardless.
Not only can the police or security services continue to task a source to commit a crime against the independent determination of a senior judge, but that source has complete legal immunity, despite the judicial commissioner saying that the criminal conduct authority should never have been granted. If ever there was evidence of a Government simply giving operational partners whatever they asked for, whatever the consequences, this Bill is it.
Our amendment to Motion E requires that if the judicial commissioner determines that the authorisation should not have been granted, he must inform the person who granted the criminal conduct authority of his decision. He must also inform the relevant prosecuting authority and all further activity that will or might be undertaken under the authority of that criminal conduct authority ceases to be lawful for all purposes. Contrary to what the Minister said, this does not interfere with the operational decision to deploy the CHIS or with tasking the CHIS to commit crime. The judicial commissioner cannot stop the activity but he can prevent further activity being immune from prosecution.
The Minister, I respectfully suggest, has misinterpreted our amendment and it is disappointing that she did not offer an opportunity to discuss it and clarify her understanding of it. In such a scenario, the situation simply reverts to the existing system, whereby the actions of the CHIS are referred to the CPS after the event to decide whether it is in the public interest to prosecute, rather than the CHIS being given prior legal immunity. That would happen if, and only if, the judicial commissioner determines that the criminal conduct authority should not have been given.
I intend to move Motion E1 at the appropriate point to test the opinion of the House.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Motion D, the government amendment in lieu of Lords Amendment 4. I, too, thank the Minister for her time and the care that she showed when we met. I wish also to recognise Stella Creasy MP, who has done so much to advance this issue.
I warmly welcome the enhanced protections, most particularly on the definition of exceptional circumstances. Experts have made clear to me that if that is applied rigorously, coupled with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, it will indeed make a real difference on the ground. Asking children to undertake illegal activities on behalf of the authorities is a place that none of us wants to be in, but as the Bill does precisely that, by formalising and giving permission to instruct child operatives to commit crime, it must be to the highest order of protection. It is the question of what a child is that I wish to raise once more.
A child of 16 or 17 is still a child, as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in our laws, and treated in our communities and families as a child—by right, by law and by practice—and yet the Bill does not afford 16 and 17 year-olds the protections due to children. While under-16s have the absolute right to have an appropriate adult with them when they meet a relevant person, in the case of 16 and 17 year-olds, a relevant person can decide that there are
“circumstances which justify the absence of an appropriate adult”,
even when that is a meeting that will lead to the child undertaking illegal activity on behalf of the authorities. This introduces an extraordinary conflict of interest that structurally undermines the Bill’s other requirement to act in the best interest of the child because it denies a 16 or 17 year-old child the automatic right to the presence of an adult who has the child’s interests as their unfettered concern.
Moreover, while I know the Minister’s assurance that more than one person must be involved, those circumstances can happen at the beginning of a child’s use as a CHIS, during their term as a CHIS and again under proposed new article 10 concerning the renewal of each four-month term, thereby making it possible for a child to be introduced, managed and repeatedly renewed as a CHIS, with no appropriate adult present at any time.
When we last debated this matter, a number of colleagues robustly criticised the amendment in my name, arguing that we should ban child CHIS altogether. However, while my heart is entirely with them, I had accepted the Government’s argument that if gang leaders knew beyond doubt that a child could not be a CHIS, it would drive further recruitment and exploitation of children by gangs. My, albeit reluctant, view was that the best way in which to protect children from being exploited by gangs was to allow the possibility of a child CHIS but to shroud the process in robust protections. We have failed to do that for 16 and 17 year-olds.
This is a failure of which the Front Bench of the Official Opposition in the other place should be ashamed, given that they have not fought for it. I am further disappointed that the Government have used their majority to walk through the Lobby rather than to protect the citizens they are elected to serve—in this case, vulnerable children being made more vulnerable at the behest of the state. All that is being asked here is that every child has an appropriate adult whose role is to make sure that what the child is being asked to do meets the bar of exceptional circumstances, and is understood, agreed to without pressure and in their best interests.
I do not doubt the principled behaviour of many in the enforcement community. I will work alongside officers in the UK and internationally whose commitment to exploited children online is nothing short of humbling. However, history is littered with examples of people in authority who have abused their position. In creating this glaring loophole, not only are we clearly exposing these children to the possibility of abuse by those in authority, we are also exposing those in authority to suspicion, and the Home Office itself to reputational and legal risk from even one bad apple.
Therefore, while the Bill is all but done, I still have some practical questions on both safeguarding and arrangements for meeting, as set out in proposed new Clause 29C(3)(b)(ii) and proposed new subsection (3)(c), where the word “believes” is the bar. In spite of the Minister’s assurance, that still appears to allow a relevant person to say that he or she thought that there was no harm in asking the child to do something illegal. Can she confirm that the guidance will include an objective test for both issues? Similarly, does the IPCO have to work out whether the officer “believed” that the illegal activity was in the child’s best interests or will they be looking to establish whether the action was “compatible” with the child’s best interests? In the event that the IPCO does not like the explanation, how quickly and by what process would it be challenged, bearing in mind that all the while a child is acting as a CHIS with no support? If the final port of call is reporting to Parliament, as we have heard, what level of detail is the IPCO to provide to Parliament? If, God forbid, something went wrong, is there an expectation that the police would reveal that a child was acting as an informant to serious case review, and would that automatically trigger an investigation?
The guidance, the code of conduct or, as the Minister rightly suggested, secondary legislation may be the last port of call for these children. Perhaps she can say when it will be ready, what form it will take and whether she would consider sharing it in advance so that parliamentarians with an interest in this matter can comment and input. Will the guidance be subject to a child rights impact assessment? I understand that it is frustrating to have to deal with so many questions at this late stage but almost every child CHIS has been or will be 16 or 17 years old. If the Bill fails this age group, it will have failed children overall.
In these extraordinary times, we have byzantine rules that make it difficult for colleagues to participate, so I want to put on the record that while the form of expression is mine, the view I am expressing is shared by scores of noble Lords on the Government Benches, the Opposition Benches and my own Benches, and a veritable flock of Bishops, who regret the lack of opportunity to make their views known.
Finally, I would remind the House that we are talking about children who have already been let down by the institutions of state, their families and their peers. These are not children who have a clear idea of where their best interests lie, otherwise they would not be available for this task. The least we can offer, and the most we still have available, is robust and thoughtful guidance that puts the best interests of all children beyond doubt.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Motion E. I have nothing to add to the eloquent observations made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, on Motion A.
First, I thank the Minister, and in particular the Bill team, for the constructive discussions I have had since tabling my amendment. Its purpose is to add to the real-time notification a mechanism to ensure that action is taken if the judicial commissioner has made adverse comments or found that the authorisation should not have been granted. In the debate on Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller said:
“It is difficult for me to imagine that if a judicial commissioner raised a serious concern about an authorisation, it would continue. But it might not be able to stop immediately. There would have to be some discussion, because the safety of the covert human intelligence source would be paramount.”—[Official Report, 11/1/21; col. 538.]
I believe that she was right to say what would happen if a judicial commissioner expressed that view.
However, I took the view then, and still take it, that there must be something which operates as a mechanism to ensure that something does happen: that in some cases the authorisation should be discontinued or unwound in an orderly manner. An amendment to the Bill would have been the better course, and I much regret my own failure to try to persuade the security services that it would be in their own interests to have it in the Bill. But taking into account what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said in the same debate in relation to the utility of codes of practice, and my objective, I am glad that the Minister has agreed to insert into the code of practice the wording that she has read out.
It achieves a number of purposes. First, it goes slightly wider than my proposed amendment, in that it will apply to all observations, not merely saying that the authorisation should not have been granted. Secondly, it requires the person who gave the authorisation to take action, but to work out what to do. If that person gets himself or herself into the position of doing something that should not have been done, they should be responsible for working out how to get out of it. Thirdly, it requires a more senior officer to be notified of what is intended. It has always been my worry that a person in the position of an authorising officer whose action is disapproved of might try to cover up what has happened. Finally, it requires the office of the IPC to be notified of the intended action—that is, before the action is taken, save in cases such as urgency or where the action taken is simply to stop the activity. It enables the IPC to express a view and, if there is a difficulty, to work out what should happen in a collaborative manner.
As I have said, it would have been far better if there was a legislative provision of the type proposed, but as a matter of practical reality, I would hope that this insertion into the code of practice should ensure that if the judicial commissioner does not approve of the authorisation or of what has happened, or criticises it, there is a clear mechanism in place to stop the activity or modify it accordingly in a manner that protects the CHIS.
The IPC is a body with very great authority, comprised as it is of senior judges. It has been my experience throughout my former judicial career that remarks made in such circumstances as this are ignored only at the peril of the person concerned. I would hope and expect, therefore, that the observations will be acted on immediately and that the office of the IPC is notified of any intended action. If, contrary to my expectations, this does not work, the people who will suffer real damage will be the police and the security services; to them, the damage will be immense. What I hope would happen is that this provision will strengthen the view that before making an authorisation in unusual and not simply routine circumstances—most of these authorisations apply to routine circumstances—the police and the security services would serve their own interests far better by going to the office of the IPC before they authorise an action rather than afterwards.
The following Members in the Chamber have indicated that they wish to speak: the noble Lords, Lord West of Spithead, Lord Young of Cookham, Lord Russell of Liverpool and Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. If any other Members in the Chamber wish to speak, I ask them to contact the clerk as soon as possible.
My Lords, I felt initially that in Amendment 1 it was necessary and sensible to have the term “reasonable belief” in the Bill, but the inconsistency with RIPA 2000, the Solicitor-General’s statement in the other place and the changes that have been made to some of the paragraphs have now persuaded me that it is not necessary.
I view Amendment 2 in a much more serious light. We should be proud of the fact that our nation is at last putting our covert human intelligence agents’ behaviour on a statutory basis. We must not lose sight of the fact that agents save lives. In working undercover, 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 at all to say that they could be killed. My experience in Northern Ireland certainly backs that up. Their handlers must be able to authorise them to break the law in certain circumstances and subject to specific safeguards. These safeguards have been strengthened by the work of this House, and we should be proud of that.
It will not help anyone if we put checklists of offences on the face of the Bill—nothing at all would be gained by that. The safety of CHIS should be central to the decisions of this House. We must not forget that they are very important individuals who are doing important things for us. I am afraid that this amendment also ignores that fact. Drawing parallels with the United States and Australia is dangerous and totally irrelevant. If there is a Division on the amendment, I will vote with the Government on this issue.
The Government have been somewhat vague about why they have opposed Lords Amendment 3 on the issue of criminal compensation but have now brought forward their own Amendment 3B, which shows that they have absolutely understood its necessity. The point was well argued by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. I am happy to support government Amendment 3B. It meets the concerns of the House and provides assurances on the matter in the Bill, which is good.
On Amendment 4, I have thought long and hard about the use of adolescents. When one heard about this initially, one was taken aback, but I have come to realise that, to some extent, the concern about juveniles in relation to the Bill is due to the conflation of the broader question of whether under-18s should be used as CHIS at all. That of course is not the matter at hand that we are discussing, rather it is the narrower issue of whether those involved should be able to participate in criminality and with what safeguards, which is what the Bill addresses. On those CHIS below the age of 16, I now believe that, in very exceptional circumstances, we should use them. The government amendments will put appropriate safeguards in place which will ensure that that can be done with maximum gain and minimum risk.
The other place quite rightly accepted the core element of Lords Amendment 5, which requires all CCAs to be notified to judicial commissioners as soon as possible, and within seven days of being granted. The Government have come back with Amendment 5A, which would require any such activity to stop immediately, except where the judicial commissioner had allowed specific activities to continue for the purpose of discontinuing the authorisation, and they have of course amended the code of practice.
In the other place, the Solicitor-General said:
“On the extremely rare occasions where a judicial commissioner may find issue with an authorisation, the public authority will consult with the commissioner and may indeed stop, or not commence, the activity that they planned to commence. However, this should not be at the expense of the safety of the CHIS.”—[Official Report, Commons, 27/1/21; cols. 428-29.]
This final sentence is compelling for me. To take a hypothetical example, if MI5 authorised activity that was considered essential to the maintenance of a CHIS’s cover, requiring this activity to stop immediately could very well blow that cover and put their safety at risk. As I have said a number of times, the safety of CHIS has been central to the way this House has considered the Bill, and that is important.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, appreciated that fact, and his Amendment 5B would not require activity to cease immediately. However, I cannot support his amendment as I believe—indeed, I know—that the notification of prosecuting authorities will cause real problems from a practical and operational point of view, particularly for the agencies and their ability to run CHIS.
In summary, I believe the House should be proud of what it has done on the Bill by putting it on a statutory basis. Anything in this area is always unpleasant, but I believe that the Bill is necessary and a useful piece of legislation.
My Lords, I will speak very briefly to Amendment 4, which deals with juveniles and vulnerable adults, and the government amendments to that part of the Bill. The background to this is the debate we had on 13 January, when a group of amendments, led by Amendment 12 in my name, sought to remove children aged under 18 and vulnerable adults from the Bill’s scope entirely. While this secured support from all sides of the House, it was clear that without support from the Official Opposition it was doomed. Therefore, I withdrew it.
The House then coalesced around Amendment 24, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, whose impact on this debate has been substantial. I pay tribute to that. I also supported her amendment, although it did not go quite as far as Amendment 12. Her amendment trumped government Amendment 26 in the same group by offering additional safeguards. Although the Government described these as unworkable, the House supported Amendment 24 in a Division by 339 to 235. As we heard, this was rejected in another place and we now have the government amendments we debate today.
My view, which is shared by the Children’s Commissioner, is unchanged—namely, that we should exempt children and vulnerable adults—but I accept that that will not happen. What we now have is a welcome improvement on government Amendment 26, and I am grateful to my noble friend for listening to the concerns and meeting them where she felt she could. I also pay tribute to the work of Stella Creasy in taking the debate forward.
Some relevant questions on the government amendments have been raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Kidron. I hope my noble friend will feel able to continue the dialogue once the Bill reaches the statute book, to focus again on the code of practice, in particular to consider extending the protections in the Bill to all children used as CHIS, not just those authorised to commit criminal conduct, and to reconsider the issue of appropriate adults for those aged under 18. In the meantime, I am happy to support the government amendments.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Young, I will also speak very briefly to Motion D. I thank all noble Lords who have been part of a chorus of voices speaking on behalf of children, young people and vulnerable adults. It is very good news that their voices have been heard.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, who first tabled the amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, then took on. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, because the initiative he brought forward to have greater involvement by IPCO has been and is extremely welcome. Stella Creasy has probably got enough plaudits without needing any more; it will doubtless go to her head. I thank the charity Just for Kids Law, which has been very active, helpful and constructive in realising what is and is not realistic.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, asked all the questions that I would have asked, and probably rather better than I would have. I am sure the Minister will deal with them when she comes to respond. I quickly looked up whether a flock of Bishops is the right collective noun. It is actually a Bench of Bishops or a sea of Bishops, but unfortunately we do not have any with us today.
I also pay tribute to the Minister’s colleague, James Brokenshire, who has been extremely influential in listening very carefully to all these voices. I thank the Bill team, but I also thank the Minister for the very useful initiative that has been brought into action during the passage of the Bill: the meetings with the operational partners. It is extremely helpful for us to listen directly to the experiences of people on the front line dealing with this. Equally, I think it is very effective the other way. It is very good for them to hear from us, unfiltered, why we are concerned and what sort of questions we are asking. It is an excellent initiative and I hope it will continue.
In the meantime, I thank the Government. They are perhaps not very often thanked by the Cross Benches, but on this particular occasion, on behalf of a great many of us, I thank the Government for listening and for acting.
My Lords, the Government have clearly moved on most of the contentious issues. We expect nothing less of the Minister, whom we hold in very high regard. The fundamental issue that is outstanding—you could argue that the use of under-18s is fundamental, but at least the Government have moved on that, although as it happens I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that under-18s should not be used—which the Government have not moved on and which we wish to press the Minister on is Amendment 2. I have listened to the debates, but I have not participated in them until now. We are at the crucial moment of whether the House will insist on its amendment, so it is reasonable for people to express a view on this crucial point.
The crucial question is the one put by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti. We are talking about very weighty matters in Amendment 2 as to whether authorisations can be given in respect of murder, rape and torture. I thought the Minister equivocated on this in the example she gave in opening the debate. Can she say categorically when she replies that murder, rape, torture and their authorisation by agents of the state would contravene the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act?
If she is saying that, then it is a complete mystery why the Government will not accept Amendment 2. As my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti so rightly said, Amendment 2 cannot be both dangerous and superfluous. If it is indeed superfluous because the authorisation of murder, rape and torture, even in the circumstances the Minister gave where it might somehow protect an agent’s cover, would itself contravene convention rights and the Human Rights Act, then how can we not be prepared to put it in the Bill? The only reason not to do so is to equivocate on whether murder, rape and torture are indeed against the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. This point seems fundamental.
I so rarely disagree with my noble friend Lord West, even on the need for more frigates; I generally agree with him even on the long list he has of further naval equipment that we need. In this case, I thought that he was in danger of simply parroting the lines of those people who clearly support having no legal safeguards at all in this respect. He said, slightly glibly, if I may say so, that we were talking about a checklist that it would be unreasonable for agents of the state to observe. We are talking not about a shopping list, but about specific exceptions for the most heinous crimes, which I do not believe that my noble friend, whom I know and trust greatly, would grant authorisations for.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, gave a very powerful speech; he has himself operated and manged agents and is not coming to this as a kind of naive human rights lawyer. But when he gave chapter and verse on other jurisdictions and how they have dealt with precisely the same issue, my noble friend said that Australia and the United States are—I noted down his phrase—“dangerous and irrelevant.” I was then waiting for him to expand on why they were dangerous and irrelevant, but he stopped at that point; he did not tell us why, somehow, the experience of the United States and Australia—not countries that play fast and loose with their own security—was not relevant to us here.
That leads on to the powerful points made by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti about the role of the House and, if I may say so, the role of my party, the Labour Party. Those of us who engage in public life do so because we think that our parties express our values. My noble friend pointed out that these provisions were in no party’s manifesto. The Salisbury convention, which rightly governs our conduct, states that we should not insist on amendments in respect of a matter that the governing party has put in its manifesto and on which it has therefore had the explicit endorsement of the people. However, this issue is not covered by those arrangements.
Therefore, there is an important question of judgment as to why we are placed here: whether the House of Lords, as a second Chamber, should seek to insist on amendments concerning an issue in respect of which the Salisbury convention is not operating. Normally, we would not, and normally, I do not, because I am very conscious, as we all are in this place, that we are nominated and the other House is elected. But my noble friend made a very powerful point: that fundamental protections for human rights and the constitution are issues in respect of which, if the Government do not have explicit Salisbury convention mandates, we should be prepared to insist on amendments. The Parliament Acts themselves recognise that, because they except from the power of the House of Commons to override this House Bills to extend the life of Parliament. That was specifically put in to provide a constitutional protection, and in our enlarged understanding of the sphere of proper constitutional protections since the Parliament Act 1911, it is reasonable that fundamental human rights should be a part of that.
If this House does not exist to see that murder, rape and torture cannot be committed by agents of the state, then I am at a loss to understand why we are here at all.
My Lords, I am not shy about admitting that I am critical of this Government, whose majority in the other place has made them quite shameless. They have, on occasion, asked your Lordships’ House to break the law, and this is another such occasion. Sometimes we are tough and we refuse; I hope that that is what will happen today.
It was superb listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. Of course, both Greens will be voting for the amendments because this is about the rule of law and human rights. I do not very often agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis —probably never, in fact—but on this occasion I agreed with every single word he said, and I wish I had said it first.
On the enhanced protections for children, I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the noble Lords, Lord Russell and Lord Young of Cookham, feel that something is better than nothing. But quite honestly, this is child abuse. It is child abuse by the Government—using children as spies. I cannot see how any Government who care about the rule of law could put this in legislation. It is obvious that this Government do not care about the rule of law; they protect their own while throwing others to the dogs.
This Bill provides blanket legal protection for undercover police and their informants—who could be criminals—for crimes with pre-authorised immunity. Similarly, the forthcoming overseas operations Bill creates new protections against prosecution for military personnel acting overseas. The Government have fought strongly for these protections against prosecution for the police and the military. They fought against any attempt by your Lordships’ House to reduce or check these protections.
Yet, having granted such broad protections to the police and military, even in cases of fundamental wrongdoing, the Government then refuse what is a comparatively far more limited legal defence for survivors of domestic abuse—usually women. A public inquiry is under way examining the 40-year history of government agents abusing their power while spying on trade unions, green campaigners and those in the black community fighting for justice. Police officers were using sexual relations with women as a deliberate strategy, although we are now told that it was unlawful all the time. We see this Government protecting their own from the law while allowing the abuse of vulnerable people and women. That is what this Government do.
I do not want to pile in on the noble Lord, Lord West, who said that the safety of CHIS should be paramount, but quite honestly, I thought the rule of law and the safety of the realm were meant to be paramount. If you continue to break the law as a Government, you are not increasing the safety of the realm; you are actually making it more dangerous for us all. I very much hope that noble Lords will vote for these amendments today and refuse again to let the Government abuse the law.
I thank the Minister for her opening statement setting out the Government’s position on these motions. I also thank her for the helpful meetings that have taken place throughout the passage of this Bill.
On Motion A on Lords Amendment 1, we welcome the Government’s willingness to address this issue in the code of practice by including in the code the words, “that the person granting the authorisation must hold a reasonable belief that the authorisation is necessary and proportionate.”
On Motion B and Lords Amendment 2, we note that the Commons disagreed with the Lords amendment on the basis, as has been said, that it would place sources and the wider public at risk. The Minister repeated that view when she said that the Government would not support the amendment and implored this House to accept the advice of operational experts and do the same. We are disappointed that the Lords amendment has not been accepted. As my colleague, the Member for St Helens North, said in the Commons:
“if countries that are our allies, with similar criminal justice systems and with whom we co-operate on security matters, can do this, the Government need to set out a little more forcefully why we should not.”—[Official Report, Commons, 27/1/21; col. 431.]
I thank noble Lords who have raised their concerns today.
The Lords amendment was originally carried in this House by a small majority. We have already asked the elected House to think again on this issue, and it has not accepted the view we expressed. There was no indication, when it was debated and voted upon in the Commons, that our amendment had sufficient support to lead to a change in the Government’s position. We do not believe that sending the same amendment back a further time will produce any change in the legislation. For these reasons, we will not support the amendment to Motion B should the House divide, as it appears it will.
Motion C in respect of Lords Amendment 3 relates to the criminal injuries compensation scheme. We welcome the fact that on Report, the Government listened to the views of this House on redress for victims and have brought forward an amendment in lieu making it clear that an individual can access the scheme where appropriate. I pay tribute to the work done on the issue of redress for victims by the Joint Committee on Human Rights during its consideration of the Bill, and, in particular, by my noble friends Lord Dubs and Lady Massey of Darwen.
Motion D on Lords Amendment 4 relates to the authorisation of juveniles and vulnerable adults. I endorse the Minister’s comments on the involvement of noble Lords who have been particularly engaged with this issue—including my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Stella Creasy MP—and pay particular tribute to the noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Hornsey and Lady Kidron, who tabled amendments that we supported throughout the Bill. The Minister will have heard the remaining concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. On this issue, we have not achieved everything that was asked for but we welcome the government amendments in lieu, which go further than previous government amendments on this issue.
Motion E on Lords Amendment 5 relates to real-time notification to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. We believe that this safeguard is a major improvement in the Bill and pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, for his work on it. The Commons supported the amendment, with the exception of the additional amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, which stated that if a judicial commissioner determines that the authorisation should not have been granted, the person who granted it must immediately be informed and all further activities that might be undertaken must cease forthwith. As I understand it, it has been confirmed today, following further discussions with the noble and learned Lord, that the Government will add wording to the code of practice stating that
“where a judicial commissioner makes observations in relation to a notification, it is for the authorising officer to determine what action should be taken. Having consulted with a more senior officer, they must, as soon as reasonably practical, notify the office of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner of the intended action, or where action has been taken, for example in urgent cases of the action.”
I understand from what has been said that these words are acceptable to the noble and learned Lord.
On the amendment to Motion E from the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, we recognise the safeguards that he seeks and believe that a mechanism to allow prosecution where an authorisation should not have been granted already exists. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner can, if it is felt that an authorisation has been improperly granted, refer a case to the appropriate authorities, including the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS could then, if it so decided, invite the courts to decide whether an authorisation was improperly granted; if the courts did so decide, immunity from prosecution would cease in respect of both the covert human intelligence source and the authorising officer or body. In the light of those considerations, we will not support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord.
This is not the Bill that we would have passed but we believe that it is significantly improved by the changes achieved by noble Lords across all Benches.
My Lords, I again thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful and detailed contributions to today’s debate and the lead-up to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, pointed out, we have found a new way to work as a closed Committee without having to go through any of the bureaucracy of setting one up; I was very pleased to hear from him and other noble Lords that those sessions were very useful indeed. I have had many discussions with noble Lords, which have been very helpful. To echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, we have made the Bill better, as we often do in your Lordships’ House.
The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, regretted that he could not have a meeting on his amendment. I thought that I had squared off all meetings that I possibly could. I spoke to him and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, at the end of last week. It is unfortunate that he feels that his amendment could have been discussed further.
I also heard comment that the Bishops wanted to be here. The advancement of modern technology means that everybody can be here, remotely or otherwise, should they want to.
I particularly thank three noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, summarised the amendments very succinctly. The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, in typical forensic style, did similarly, as did the noble Lord, Lord Russell. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, went into this Bill with some degree of scepticism. It is a tribute to the way in which our engagement has worked that they all feel that the Bill is better now that we have dealt with it than it was initially.
I want to start with the various responses and comments. First, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I can confirm that the code of practice will state that
“the person granting the authorisation must hold a reasonable belief that the authorisation is necessary and proportionate.”
The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, raised the reporting of the recent Court of Appeal hearing as to whether MI5 had authorised offences as serious as murder; the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, also mentioned this. I have been clear throughout that the Bill does not provide a licence to kill and that our commitment to the safeguards in this Bill is firm. All authorisations issued under the Bill must comply with the Human Rights Act or they will be unlawful. I can therefore confirm and place on record that the Human Rights Act binds all authorised activity of undercover agents, alongside the state itself.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked me a specific question to which he required a specific answer: could I commit to there being no authorisation of murder, torture or rape? Obviously, I cannot be drawn on the crimes that can or cannot be authorised, for reasons that have been stated throughout the course of this Bill, but I note that all authorisations must be necessary and proportionate and must comply with the Human Rights Act. The independent IPC will be notified and see every authorisation in as close to real time as possible.
To clarify, the context of the remarks in the Court of Appeal—to which the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, referred—was a legal discussion that was solely about the existing vires for the Security Service to operate a policy that authorises its agents to participate in conduct that might, or would be, criminal. The First Treasury Counsel said that there is a power to authorise the commission of a crime under the Security Service Act and under the royal prerogative before that, although the power conferred no immunity from prosecution. The comment that the noble Baroness refers to concerns an entirely hypothetical question regarding the narrow point of whether the vires is limited to the commission of some crimes but not others. It was not and is not. That discussion is quite distinct from the question of whether an authorisation or subsequent conduct might be a breach of other law such as the Human Rights Act. I also note that the First Treasury Counsel said nothing about whether any particular type of conduct would or would not be authorised in practice or indeed compatible with a policy that requires it to be necessary and proportionate in any event.
The issue of whether certain conduct or types of conduct should be off limits has deliberately not been discussed in open court proceedings, for the same reasons as I have been unable to discuss these issues on the Floor of the House. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the legal proceedings further. What I can say and what I have been consistently clear about is that, under the new regime introduced by the Bill, the necessity and proportionality test and the Human Rights Act provide legal limits to the conduct that can be authorised—and I say that again now.
On the subject of juvenile CHIS, I shall response to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on the government amendments. She is right that the amendment will prevent an authorisation being granted when the authorisation would put the juvenile in a position of reasonably foreseeable harm. In response to her question about injuries of a psychological nature, I reassure her that the definition of injury in the Bill includes that.
On the subject of the appropriate adult, they are there to support the young person to make informed decisions in relation to any tasking and nothing prevents them from playing an active part in the meetings that take place. The role of the appropriate adult in this setting differs from their role in a custody suite or an interview; they can have discussions with the CHIS and authorising officer outside those meetings, subject to any arrangements that the authorising officer may put in place to ensure that the safety of the CHIS and the adult themselves is assured at all times.
As to whether a juvenile CHIS would be used when other alternatives are available, they are used only in exceptional circumstances and, more importantly, when it is compatible with the best interests of that child. All authorisations must meet the proportionality threshold so, when using an adult could achieve the same outcome as using a child, that could be the correct option. However, even when an adult may be available, there may be occasions when the authorisation of a specific child is the only way in which to remove the child from a harmful situation.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, I pay tribute to her role in shaping the debate on this issue. This is a difficult and emotive area, and we all want to ensure that the well-being of a child is the priority of any authorisation, including for 16 and 17 year-olds. There is a presumption that there will be an appropriate adult in place for all meetings with CHIS aged 16 to 18 years. The justification for not having one will be available for IPCO to scrutinise and comment on; he or she will look at all aspects of an authorisation to ensure that all the enhanced safeguards have been applied, and they have stated that they pay particular attention to the welfare of the juvenile.
I assure the noble Baroness that the CHIS code of practice will be updated following the passage of the Bill and will provide the detail that underpins the authorisation process. There will be a public consultation on the updated code, followed by a debate and vote in both Houses. I encourage all noble Lords, as I have said previously, to feed into that process, and I certainly welcome any contribution from the noble Baroness and will make officials and operational partners available for any further discussion.
The noble Baroness asked about the level of detail given to Parliament. Clearly, there will be open and closed parts. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary will look at the closed part, and the open parts will, of course, be shared with colleagues.
As I said in my opening remarks, all criminal conduct authorisation will be the subject of rigorous independent oversight, which includes CCAs for juvenile CHIS, with the Investigatory Powers Commissioner seeing all authorisations in real time and being required to keep under review in particular the safeguards relating to juvenile or vulnerable individuals. The updated code will provide guidance on how the notification process will work and the enhanced safeguards that will apply to juvenile CHIS CCAs to supplement the detailed safeguards that we are bringing forward in the Bill.
I turn to the amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, with regard to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, on what happens if a judicial commissioner provides comments on an authorisation. Again, I offer reassurance on what would happen if the IPC or a judicial commissioner did not agree with an authorisation when notified of its grant. A judicial commissioner would flag it to the authorising officer, and would work collaboratively to address such concerns; it would not be the case that a public authority would simply ignore feedback from IPCO. This is collaborative, and the views of the commissioners carry very serious weight, but the commissioners have the power to refer an issue to the prosecution services if they felt it was necessary and, ultimately, it would then be for a court to determine the lawfulness and validity of an authorisation.
These have been very thoughtful debates, and I have welcomed the opportunity to engage extensively with noble Lords on the important issues that the Bill raises. I have been consistently clear that the Government have been willing to consider amendments that provide reassurance on the concerns that have been raised while ensuring that the regime remains workable for our operational partners, and I hope that I have demonstrated that approach through the Motions tabled today. Therefore, I ask noble Lords on all sides of the House to support these Motions and ensure that the Bill can enter the statute book and provide this important legal framework for a critical tool that will keep us all safe.
Finally, just before I stood up, I noticed a message from my right honourable friend James Brokenshire. I note the comment from the noble Lord, Lord Russell of Liverpool, and I shall certainly send his regards. I want to thank him for the way in which he has worked with me and other noble Lords to ensure that this Bill has left this place in a very good state.
I have received a single request to speak after the Minister. I call the noble Lord, Lord Adonis.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for the lengthy reply she has given. However, unless I misheard her, she did not in fact give a direct reply to my very fundamental question on Amendment 2. It was: would the authorisation by agents of the state of murder, rape and torture be against the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights? If I understood her correctly, she said that nothing could be authorised that was against the Human Rights Act. Well, is it against the Human Rights Act or not? That is a straight question, but I noticed that she did not mention the European Convention on Human Rights at all in her reply. Can she say whether the authorisation of murder, rape and torture would be against that convention?
I think that, like other noble Lords, the noble Lord will know that throughout the passage of the Bill I have very consistently said that I cannot be drawn on the crimes that can and cannot be authorised, for the reasons that I have stated consistently throughout the passage of the Bill. But I will say that all authorisations must be necessary and proportionate, and they must comply with the Human Rights Act. I will go no further than that.
Motion A agreed.
2A: Because the Commons consider specifying types of conduct which criminal conduct authorisations could not authorise on the face of Part 2 of RIPA would place sources, and the wider public, at risk.
I understand from the clerks that the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has already indicated that she wishes to press her amendment.
Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)
Motion B agreed.
3A: Because the Commons consider it is inappropriate to create an exception to the effect of criminal conduct authorisations.
3B: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Criminal injuries compensation
After section 27 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (lawful surveillance etc.) insert—
“27A Section 27: criminal injuries compensation for s. 29B conduct
For the purposes of—
(a) the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995,
(b) the Scheme made under that Act,
(c) the Criminal Injuries Compensation (Northern Ireland)
Order 2002 (S.I. 2002/796 (N.I. 1)), and
(d) the Scheme made under that Order, section 27(1) has no effect in relation to conduct authorised under section 29B.””
Motion C agreed.
4A: Because the Commons consider aspects of the safeguards for juveniles and vulnerable individuals provided for by this amendment to be unworkable.
4B: Clause 1, page 3, line 14, after “(4)” insert “and sections 29C and 29D”
4C: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Criminal conduct authorisations: safeguards for juveniles
(1) After section 29B of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (inserted by section 1(5)) insert—
“29C Criminal conduct authorisations: safeguards for juveniles
(1) This section applies in relation to the grant of a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation.
(2) “A juvenile criminal conduct authorisation” is an authorisation under section 29B for criminal conduct in the course of, or otherwise in connection with, the conduct of a covert human intelligence source where that source is under the age of 18 (“the juvenile source”).
(3) In addition to satisfying the requirements of section 29B, a person may grant a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation only if—
(a) the person has considered the results of an appropriate risk assessment;
(b) there are exceptional circumstances such that—
(i) it is not reasonably foreseeable in the circumstances as the person believes them to be that any harm to the juvenile source would result from the grant of the authorisation, and
(ii) the person believes the authorisation would be compatible with the need to safeguard and promote the best interests of the juvenile source; and
(c) the person believes that appropriate arrangements for meetings are in force.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3)(a), “an appropriate risk assessment” means an assessment which—
(a) identifies and evaluates the nature and magnitude of the risks of harm to the juvenile source arising in the course of, or as result of, the conduct authorised by the authorisation; and
(b) is carried out in accordance with provision made by the Secretary of State by regulations under this paragraph.
(5) In subsections (3)(b)(i) and (4)(a), “harm” means—
(a) physical injury; or
(b) psychological distress.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (3)(c), “appropriate arrangements for meetings” are such arrangements for the juvenile source’s case as are necessary for ensuring—
(a) that, at all times when the juvenile source is under the age of 16, there will be a relevant person who will have responsibility for ensuring that an appropriate adult is present at all meetings in relation to the authorisation which take place between the source and a person representing a relevant investigating authority; and
(b) that, at all times when the juvenile source is 16 or 17 years old, there will be a relevant person who will have responsibility for—
(i) ensuring that an appropriate adult is present at all meetings in relation to the authorisation which take place between the source and a person representing a relevant investigating authority, other than any such meeting in relation to which a relevant person decides there are circumstances which justify the absence of an appropriate adult, and
(ii) maintaining a record of the reasons for each such decision that there are circumstances in relation to a meeting which justify the absence of an appropriate adult.
(7) In subsection (6)—
“appropriate adult”, in relation to a juvenile source, means—
(a) the parent or guardian of the juvenile source; or
(b) any other person who—
(i) has for the time being assumed responsibility for the juvenile source’s welfare, or
(ii) is otherwise qualified to represent the interests of the juvenile source;
“relevant investigating authority”, in relation to a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation, means the public authority, or (as the case may be) one of the public authorities, for whose benefit the activities of the juvenile source as a covert human intelligence source are to take place;
“relevant person”, in relation to a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation, means a person holding an office, rank or position with a relevant investigating authority in relation to the authorisation;
and in this subsection, “guardian”, in relation to a juvenile source, has the same meaning as “guardian of a child” in the Children Act 1989 (see section 105 of that Act).
(8) No provision made by or under this section affects the power to make additional provision by order under section 29B(4)(c) or (10) in relation to the grant of a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation.”
(2) The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) Order 2000 (S.I. 2000/ 2793) is amended in accordance with subsections (3) to (8).
(3) In article 2 (interpretation)—
(a) in the definition of “relevant investigating authority”, after “authority”” insert “, in relation to an authorisation under section 29 of the 2000 Act,”;
(b) after that definition insert—
““relevant investigating authority”, in relation to an authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act, means the public authority, or (as the case may be) one of the public authorities, for whose benefit the activities as a source of the source to whom the authorisation relates are to take place;
“relevant person”, in relation to an authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act, means a person holding an office, rank or position with a relevant investigating authority in relation to the authorisation;”.
(4) Before article 3 insert—
“Authorisations under section 29 of the 2000 Act”.
(5) In article 3 (sources under 16: prohibition), after “authorisation” insert “under section 29 of the 2000 Act”.
(6) In article 5 (sources under 18: risk assessments etc.), after “An authorisation” insert “under section 29 of the 2000 Act”.
(7) In article 6 (sources under 18: duration of authorisations), after “an authorisation” insert “under section 29 of the 2000 Act”.
(8) After article 6 insert—
“Authorisations under section 29B of the 2000 Act
7 Sources under 16: prohibition
(1) No authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act may be granted authorising criminal conduct in the course of, or otherwise in connection with, the conduct of a source if—
(a) the source is under the age of 16; and
(b) the relationship to which the relevant conduct would relate is between the source and—
(i) the source’s parent, or
(ii) any person who has parental responsibility for the source.
(2) “The relevant conduct” means the conduct of the source which the authorised conduct would be in the course of or otherwise in connection with.
8 Sources under 18: additional requirements
(1) An authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act may not be granted or renewed in any case where the source to whom the authorisation relates is under the age of 18 at the time of the grant or renewal unless the person granting or renewing the authorisation—
(a) has considered whether the relationship to which the relevant conduct would relate is between the source and—
(i) a relative or guardian of the source, or
(ii) a person who has for the time being assumed responsibility for the source’s welfare; and
(b) where the relationship would so relate, has taken that fact into account as a particular consideration.
(2) In paragraph (1)(a), “the relevant conduct” has the same meaning as in article 7.
9 Sources under 18: arrangements regarding best interests of the source
Where the source to whom an authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act relates is under the age of 18, the arrangements referred to in section 29B(4)(c) of the 2000 Act must be such that there is at all times a relevant person who has responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the best interests of the source.
10 Sources under 18: duration of authorisations
In relation to an authorisation under section 29B of the 2000 Act where the source to whom the authorisation relates is under the age of 18 at the time the authorisation is granted or renewed, section 43(3) of the 2000 Act is to have effect as if the period specified in paragraph (b) of that subsection were four months instead of twelve months.”
(9) The amendments made by subsections (3) to (8) to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Juveniles) Order 2000 (S.I. 2000/2793) are to be treated as having been made under section 29B(4)(c) or (10) or section 43(8) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 as the case may be (and may be amended or revoked under those powers accordingly).”
4D: Insert the following new Clause—
“Criminal conduct authorisations: safeguards for vulnerable adults
After section 29C of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (inserted by section (Criminal conduct authorisations: safeguards for juveniles)) insert—
“29D Criminal conduct authorisations: safeguards for vulnerable adults
(1) This section applies in relation to the grant of a vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisation.
(2) “A vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisation” is an authorisation under section 29B for criminal conduct in the course of, or otherwise in connection with, the conduct of a covert human intelligence source where that source is a vulnerable adult (“the vulnerable adult source”).
(3) For the purposes of this section, a “vulnerable adult” is a person aged 18 or over who by reason of mental disorder or vulnerability, disability, age or illness, is or may be unable to take care of themselves or to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.
(4) In addition to satisfying the requirements of section 29B, a person may grant a vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisation only if the person—
(a) has considered the results of an appropriate risk assessment;
(b) believes that the risks of harm identified by that risk assessment have been properly explained to and understood by the vulnerable adult source; and
(c) has taken into account the need to safeguard and promote the best interests of the vulnerable adult source.
(5) “An appropriate risk assessment” means an assessment which—
(a) identifies and evaluates the nature and magnitude of the risks of harm to the vulnerable adult source arising in the course of, or as result of, the conduct authorised by the authorisation; and
(b) is carried out in accordance with provision made by the Secretary of State by regulations under this paragraph.
(6) For the purposes of subsections (3), (4)(b) and (5)(a), “harm” means—
(a) physical injury; or
(b) psychological distress.
(7) No provision made by or under this section affects the power to make additional provision by order under section 29B(4)(c) or (10) in relation to the grant of a vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisation.””
4E: Clause 4, page 5, line 7, after “grant” insert “or renew”
4F: Clause 4, page 5, line 10, insert—
“(4B) In keeping under review the exercise of the power mentioned in subsection (4A), the Investigatory Powers Commissioner must, in particular, keep under review whether public authorities are complying with any requirements imposed on them by virtue of Part 2 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in relation to juvenile criminal conduct authorisations and vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisations.
(4C) For the purposes of subsection (4B)—
(a) “a juvenile criminal conduct authorisation” is an authorisation under section 29B of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 where the covert human intelligence source to whom the authorisation relates is under the age of 18; and
(b) “a vulnerable adult criminal conduct authorisation” is an authorisation under section 29B of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 where the covert human intelligence source to whom the authorisation relates is a vulnerable adult within the meaning of section 29D(3) of that Act.”
4G: Clause 4, page 5, line 13, after “grant” insert “or renew”
4H: Schedule 2, page 10, line 1, leave out ““; or” and insert “—
“(ba) in the case of an authorisation under section 29B where the source is under the age of 18 (“the juvenile source”), the person—
(i) becomes aware of circumstances in which it is reasonably foreseeable that harm, within the meaning of section 29C(5), to the juvenile source would result from the authorisation,
(ii) is satisfied that the authorisation would no longer be compatible with the need to safeguard and promote the best interests of the juvenile source, or
(iii) is satisfied that arrangements for the juvenile source’s case that satisfy the requirements of subsection (3)(c) of section 29C no longer exist; or”
4J: Schedule 2, page 10, line 2, leave out “an” and insert “any”
Motion D agreed.
5A: Leave out lines 27 to 35.
Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)
5B: Leave out lines 27 to 35 and insert—
“(6) If upon notification under subsection (3) a Judicial Commissioner determines that the authorisation should not have been granted—
(a) the person who granted the authorisation must be immediately informed,
(b) the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland must be immediately informed, and
(c) all further activities that will or might be undertaken pursuant to the authorisation are not “lawful for all purposes” under section 27(1).””
Motion E agreed.