Why we voted against the Tories’ crime authorisation Bill

Today, Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael led cross-party opposition to the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, calling a vote against the legislation in the House of Commons.

Writing in the Independent ahead of the debate, Alistair set out our concerns:

“The Bill gives vast powers not only to the security agencies but also to a questionable collection of public bodies. There are no real limits, weak safeguards and inadequate oversight.

The Bill has no limits on the types of crime that could be authorised. Murder, torture – it is all on the table as written. Nor is there any independent approval of a decision to authorise a crime – or even a requirement for police or prosecutors to be informed about it at all…

It is essential that there is a clear legal basis for the actions of government agents. It has been lacking for far too long.

The Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do

This Bill, however, is not fit for purpose. Parliament must stand up to this disturbing government overreach, and anyone who cares about the rule of law must oppose this Bill as it stands.”

The Liberal Democrats voted against Third Reading, but most Conservative MPs backed it and Labour abstained, so the Bill passed by 313 votes to 98.

Following the vote, Alistair said:

This is a dangerous Bill from a Conservative Government that is careless with our rights and freedoms.

“We all understand the need for MI5 and the police to authorise undercover agents to do things that would, in normal circumstances, be illegal. If the Government had restricted itself to that, it would have resounding cross-party support.

“Instead, the Tories are using their majority to ram through things that no responsible Government should do. They are trying to award far too broad powers to far too many parts of government, with virtually no safeguards.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats worked cross-party to try and fix this law. With the Government blocking our amendments, we had no choice but to vote against the Bill.”