Baroness Clark of Kilwinning tabled an Oral Question to ask HMG what assessment they have made of the progress of the Undercover Policing Inquiry into police surveillance, established in 2015.
I said: My Lords, the chair of the inquiry has ruled that the Special Branch registry files, which could give more information about the work of undercover officers, will not be part of the inquiry. That means that the truth will be very filtered, which makes it hard for core participants, who feel that they will not get justice. Would the Minister agree to a meeting with me and perhaps a member of each of the opposition parties to discuss the major flaws in the inquiry and why the core participants are so upset?
One year ago Parliament passed the biggest infringements to our rights and civil liberties that this country has ever witnessed. We were promised that there would be meaningful reviews of the provisions and that the Government would repeal anything that was not absolutely necessary and proportionate. A couple of days later, the Government published the real rules in the lockdown regulations, which imposed even tighter restrictions than were ever anticipated in the Coronavirus Act.
When a survivor of domestic abuse reaches out for help, they should be treated as a human being and given the help that they need unconditionally. What is the Government’s priority? Do they care more about helping survivors of domestic abuse end that abuse and making them safe, or about catching and deporting migrants?
This is about ethics, morality, having a clear conscience and making sure that we behave as a democracy should, by abhorring genocide and people being murdered, tortured and imprisoned. This is about operating as an enlightened nation and when we talk about genocide, we ought to talk as well about ecocide—large-scale environmental destruction and ecological damage. Although it is not as obvious, it is a slow genocide. It drives people away from their land, makes them poor and gives them fewer opportunities and terrible lives. We should accept that we do that sort of damage, and that we do it in virtually every act of our lives. In some way, we impact on our environment and the rest of the world and, by doing that, we can damage the health and well-being of other nations and people who live in the places where we get our food or the minerals for our phones. So we ought to think very carefully about how we operate as individuals and as a nation.
During the Policing and Security APPG on 14th Dec 2020 I asked you what investigations were happening within the Met on the issue of the historic unlawful sexual relations between undercover police officers and their targets.
You told me that there were no ongoing investigations, yet the HoL Minister has made it clear in the debate on the CHIS Bill that such interactions are now and always have been unlawful. It seems remiss not to examine previous instructions to establish wrongdoing by senior officers.
Can you please therefore outline, in full, the Met’s position on whether these sexual relations were lawful. Could you also please explain when and why the Met decided to take no further action on the issue?
My amendment 75A would introduce a requirement for the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to refer potentially unlawful or improper conduct undertaken through a criminal conduct authorisation to the police for investigation.
The Government say that amendments such as these are not necessary, because of the complex legal web of proportionality and the Human Rights Act. That argument might carry more weight if the Government were not constantly fighting a culture war against human rights lawyers. However, one does not need to be a human rights lawyer to understand that rape, murder and torture are never justified, so these restrictions have to be in the Bill.
The big problem with this Bill is that the legal tests are too wishy-washy. They give the authorising bodies free rein. If we do not contract those processes in some way, there will be mistakes – there are bound to be. It will become very difficult to challenge even the most obviously wrong authorisations.