Labour still not opposing Spy Cops Bill

Probably the most dangerous legislation I’ve seen in my lifetime is back in the Lords today for amendment and despite the determined efforts of Shami Chakrabarti, until now Labour peers have mostly sat on their hands. On Monday, Labour abstained on the big vote of replacing blanket immunity for Covert Human Intelligence Sources with the existing system of a public interest test and legal defence. The government has promoted this Bill as merely putting the status quo into law, but this Bill goes way beyond that. Laws passed by Parliament and developed over time through case law, can now be by-passed by over 500 senior police officers who can authorise officers, civilian employees and criminals to commit crimes, with immunity.

It is remarkable how Shami Chakrabarti, an ex-director of Liberty and Labour’s shadow Attorney General for four years under Corbyn, has been side-lined. Keir Starmer is rapidly heading back to the authoritarian approach to public order and civil liberties that we saw under Tony Blair and Jack Straw, when Labour brought in a whole set of oppressive legislation to allow state surveillance and restrict public protest. Many of the spycops abuses highlighted at the current public inquiry took place when Labour were in power.

What is really shocking is how Labour abstained on several key amendments in a clear betrayal of trade unionists and campaigners who have suffered from state intrusion during the last forty years. Why Labour would refuse to back the prohibition of agent provocateurs is beyond me. There is documented evidence that the police have acted in this way, so they can’t claim it is unnecessary.

Even if Labour are going along with the government spin that this legislation is aimed at paedophiles and terrorists, there was no reason for Labour to abstain on requiring “serious” crime or “serious” disorder to justify criminal conduct authorisation. This amendment was an attempt to get the police to focus upon the real problem, rather than waste their time and taxpayers’ money spying on Doreen Lawrence, or campaigners against McDonalds. As Peter Hain pointed out, the police spied on him for campaigning against apartheid in South Africa, but didn’t put the same energy stopping the regime’s supporters who sent letter bombs to his home.

With more votes happening today it is important to encourage Labour to do the right thing. On Monday, they did vote for an amendment that would have introduced judicial oversight and approval for criminal conduct authorisations, but it was narrowly defeated. They also supported a successful amendment that would ask if the police had made a decision that could be seen as ‘reasonable’ by those outside.

The most winnable vote today is by a Conservative peer who has expressed disbelief that we would use children as spies. As the ex-undercover officer, Neil Woods, has pointed out, this is an arms race between violent drugs gangs and the police. The police have been very successful in using undercover operatives under existing guidelines and as a result, the drug gangs employed children as a safer option. If the police use under-age spies, then this exposes those children to extreme violence in their daily life. There are other means of catching the bad guys.

I come from a working class family who voted Labour all their lives, thinking the Party would always do the right thing for ordinary people. But this legislation will ensure that the future is littered with numerous examples of abuse, corruption and official cover ups. The history of the last forty years will repeat itself, but with a whole new level of consequences. Unless Labour dramatically change their position in the next few weeks, then they will be complicit in all these mistakes and deliberate acts of state oppression.

Reform of leasehold and Community Land Trusts

Can the Minister confirm two things: first, that reform of leasehold means moving towards commonhold, and secondly, that the reforms will exempt community land trusts, which use this system in a very productive way?

Answering for HMG, Lord Greenhalgh said: I will not make such a statement today in the House but a statement will be made very shortly. Community land trusts are a separate policy matter. I agree with the noble Baroness that community land trusts are a way forward—not always the right way but one way to use land for the benefit of a particular community.

Read the whole debate on Hansard

Today I wrote to Cressida Dick regarding unlawful sexual relations between undercover police officers and their targets

Dear Commissioner

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?

The EU Trade Deal

I will be voting with my Green Party colleagues against the Trade Agreement this government has negotiated with the EU. I resent the loss of democracy in the way that Parliament is being expected to rubber stamp a deal with minimum scrutiny and no ability to amend, nor even seriously question Ministers. This is not the UK Parliament taking back control, it is a power grab by the executive and we must renegotiate the terms of the agreement, once a general election has given the public their say. I reject the minimal guarantees on standards for the environment and the loss of freedom of movement. Our young people will miss the advantages of travel and study with the Erasmus scheme. And we have all gained an additional set of expenses for health insurance and other costs every time we take a trip across the English Channel.

I voted for Brexit, but I cannot vote for this disastrous deal that leaves British people far worse off. Instead of creating 50,000 jobs to deal with the growing crisis of the climate emergency, this government has created 50,000 custom agents to check over the estimated 211 million extra forms that exporters will need. Above all, I am not prepared to vote for lower environmental standards and less rigorous enforcement of them. This government have the numbers to pass their deal, but this is nowhere near the best deal and I won’t legitimise what our Government has negotiated by voting for it.

HS2: why greens oppose

Cancel HS2 and reallocate all public funds to a zero carbontransport future – below is an explaination of why the Green Party voted to oppose HS2. Useful when arguing with those who express environmental concerns, but don’t understand the detail of this destructive project.

HS2 is bad value for money and very bad news for the environment. It’s also hoovering up all the funding that we desperately need for investment in high quality public transport at a local and regional level.

We must stop HS2, prevent any more destruction of ancient woodlands and reallocate the billions of pounds to projects that will reduce air pollution andCo2 emissions at a local level.

Covid has already transformed the way that millions of people use digital networking instead of long distance travelling; the government needs to catch upwith how a modern economy works and see that HS2 is the white elephant that the Green Party always knew it was.Our opposition is based on 6 main areas of concern:

1. The project is not in conformity with clear national guidance on Transport Appraisal Guidance. Guidance is clear that for any transport project the exact nature of the problem to be solved must be stated and a wide range of options examined before selecting the best performing option. This was not done

2. HS2 is the most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history and is set to destroy 108 ancient woodlands, 693 wildlife sites, 33 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 5 Internationally important wildlife sites, protected by UK law, 2000 homes and businesses and 19,500 permanent, proper jobs.

3. The project will not reduce transport’s carbon emissions. Only 5% of predicted journeys are transfers from road and air and 69% are transfers from classic rail which has a lower CO2 per passenger kilometer emission factor than HS2.

4. Rail professionals at a conference in York University in 2016 identified a number of engineering upgrades at key pinch points to increase capacity on the existing rail route. A totally new line was not needed.

5. The total cost is estimated to be over £100 billion (note 3) and at £403 million per mile is 15 times more expensive than the French TGV6. The Uk very urgently needs a major upgrade to rail services as a whole including electrification of lines currently served by dirty, polluting, climate damaging diesel trains and a major upgrade to city-region public transport so that all our cities can be improved tothe standards to be found in Vienna, Frankfurt or Zurich. HS2 is a very low priority compared to projects that have proven impacts on reducing transport carbon and serve the majority of the population and all income groups and get people out of cars

Justice for Ella can pave the way for new Clean Air Act

The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah has put a child’s face on a huge public health emergency. The struggle by her brave mother, Rosamund, to get air pollution recognised as the killer of her daughter can pave the way for a new Clean Air Act that will end the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. Continue reading “Justice for Ella can pave the way for new Clean Air Act”

The Trade Bill: Report Stage – ISDS

If you wanted to convince the public that international trade agreements are a way to let multinational companies get rich at the expense of ordinary people, this is what you would do: give foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever a government passes a law to, say, discourage smoking, protect the environment or prevent a nuclear catastrophe… a process known as ‘investor-state dispute settlement‘, or ISDS.
(The Economist, October 2014)

This Trade Bill the government has written includes ISDS…

Continue reading “The Trade Bill: Report Stage – ISDS”

HS2 Bill – Third Reading

I would like to take this opportunity to thank and celebrate all the campaigners who have been trying to stop HS2. Many of them have put their personal safety, their personal finances and a lot of other things on hold because they were so dedicated to trying to stop HS2. They had physical, personal and financial problems because of all the things they were doing. There are people like Sarah Green in Colne Valley, who has just been a beacon of hope actually trying to mitigate the worst of HS2’s damage to that beautiful area. Then, of course, there are other organisations and individuals, from the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trust and parish councils to communities all along the route and concerned residents, who all gave their time and efforts to do what they know is right for their area.

Continue reading “HS2 Bill – Third Reading”