Constituency (CLP) and branch Labour parties have begun tabling motions condemning the abstentionism of Keir Starmer’s Labour.
A motion submitted by Streatham CLP describes the damage done by the ‘Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, condemns Starmer’s decision to whip MPs to abstain in the votes on it, thanks those MPs who ignored him and voted against it – and pledges members to campaign both against the legislation and for victims of criminal conduct by security forces:
Motion on the “SpyCops Bill”
This CLP notes:
The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 15th October 2020.
The Bill would amend Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to create a new process of ‘Criminal Conduct Authorisations’, constituting an express power for MI5, police forces and a range of other public authorities to authorise their agents and informants (“Covert Human Intelligence Sources” “CHIS”) to commit criminal offences.
This legislation would license offences, committed during cover operations, for a wide range of public authorities, from the intelligence services and the police, to the Gambling Commission and the Food Standards Agency.
Unlike comparable legislation in the USA, the Bill places no limits on the types of crimes which can be authorised, with no express prohibition on human rights violations, including murder, torture, kidnap, or sexual offences.
In placing current guidelines on a statutory footing, the Bill would give legal basis to the infiltration of trade unions, as grounds for criminal conduct would include not only ‘national security’, but also ‘preventing disorder’.
Not only does this Bill make it impossible to prosecute such crimes, it gives prior authorisation to commit them and with no judicial oversight. Such is weaker than comparable laws for phone-tapping, despite involving potentially far more harmful conduct.
That past victims of such covert operations include Pat Finucane, the Orgreave picketers, the Hillsborough victims, and multiple women who were abused as the result of state infiltration of environmental and social justice campaign groups.
The Labour Party issued a one-line whip to abstain on the third reading of the Bill. Our MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, opposed this Bill, along with 33 other MPs.
This CLP believes:
1. This Bill is part of a wider project by this government to wrest key scrutiny powers away from parliament and the judiciary.
2. This Bill is contrary to the rule of law.
3. This Bill has alarming and destructive implications for the development of progressive movements in the UK as well as the trade union movement in general.
4. There was no legitimate basis for abstaining on this Bill and the Labour Party’s strategy of abstention is unconscionable.
5. The prohibition against torture, sexual violence and murder on behalf of the British state must be absolute.
This CLP resolves:
1. That the Labour Party should oppose this Government’s ongoing project to place British authorities above the law.
2. To condemn the decision to abstain against Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill and call on the leadership to now unreservedly oppose it.
3. To thank the 34 Labour MPs, including our own Bell Ribeiro-Addy.
4. To publicly campaign against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.
5. To publicly campaign on behalf of victims of covert operations, and support the Pat Finucane Centre, the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, and Police Spies Out of Lives in their work to expose covert criminality by the British state.
Hampstead and Kilburn tabled a letter to its MP challenging her to explain why she had abstained on a bill that will allow the government to undermine unions and blacklist their activists as well as permitting crimes up to and including murder, torture and rape by security forces and even their civilian sources:
Letter to Tulip Siddiq MP CHIS bill.
As members of The Labour party and or Trade Unions we are shocked and angered at the fact our MP Tulip Siddiq, along with the majority of the PLP abstained on and allowed the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, to pass through parliament with ease. This bill was opposed by 14 Trade unions and dozens of campaigning organisations, but, for reasons unclear, the vast majority of the PLP did not oppose it.
As our MP, we ask that you offer an explanation as to your decision not to vote against this abhorrent legislation. With the values of the Labour Party at stake, as well as people’s lives, we ask why on this occasion, you felt unable to defy the whip?
We are also at a loss as to why Keir Starmer, Leader of the LP and a former Human Rights barrister, has been intent on supporting this bill. We applaud the principled decision of Labour MPs who voted against the bill, such as Dan Carden MP, who resigned from his position as Shadow Financial Secretary on a matter of principle.
The “CHIS” Bill would allow state spies to commit crimes in the UK and overseas with impunity, without exempting crimes like murder, torture, and sexual offences. These extreme powers would be handed to a broad range of agencies, including MI5, the Department of Health, and even the Food Standards Agency. Many well-regarded experts on Human Rights, including those in the legal profession, have expressed their grave concerns about this bill becoming law, including Shami Chakrabarti, The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Liberty, and Amnesty International.
There are too many examples of blacklisted workers surveilled unionists and LP members have ended up blacklisted because undercover police officers were directed to infiltrate their organisations.
The bill enshrines in law the state’s capacity to commit these acts, making it even more difficult for victims or suspected victims of police spying such as Environmental, Animal Rights and Anti War activists, to hold the state to account.
Many others express their immense concerns such as the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, the Hillsborough Justice campaigns, the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Justice4Grenfell, Police Spies Out of Lives, The Blacklist Support Group, The Pat Finucane Centre and many more.
We understand the need to protect citizens of this country from criminal elements and that undercover work is often essential. However, the CHIS bill is a massive attack on our civil liberties. We warn against the danger of its political application, and how it can be used to undermine any opposition, as proven by the surveillance of Jeremy Corbyn MP and at least eight other Labour MPs, under the Met Police’s now disbanded ‘Special Demonstration Squad’.
Michael Mansfield QC, an eminent barrister and leading Silk in civil liberties and human rights, recently described as “The king of human rights work” by The Legal 500, has also expressed his concerns. Mansfield worked on many prominent cases, including representing families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster, Jean Charles de Menezes, and Stephen Lawrence, all of whom were surveilled by the police or suspected of. As a result of his work on Orgreave, Hillsborough, and the Shrewsbury pickets, Mansfield stated he himself is “under no illusion as to the extent to which agencies in the state have taken an interest in me.”
In 2014, The Ellison inquiry found Scotland Yard had spied on the grieving family of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered by a racist white gang. Both Theresa May and David Cameron described the revelations as “profoundly shocking” and, shortly after, May launched the Undercover Policing inquiry. While two convictions have been secured in relation to this murder, others involved have yet to be convicted, many closely informed on this scandal, firmly believe the decision to spy on the grieving family, has contributed to the lack of convictions for all involved: therefore a lack of justice for Stephen and the Lawrence family remains.
One child is known to be born through the common practice of spying on activists by the Met Police Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.
Now an adult, descibed by some as a product of ‘state endorsed rape’ and in absolute violations of his and his mothers human rights, such as Article 8 ECHR right “to a private and family life”‘.
Both he and his mother, have endured psychological trauma, from when an undercover police officer suddenly abandoned the animal rights activist and their two year old son, to the discovery of the true nature of her ‘relationship’ with police spy Bob Lambert, the fight to find out the true identity of his father, not having a relationship with his father for most of his life, to having no choice to take the Met Police to court to ensure that they finally admit wrongdoing, make an apology and finally get all of their questions answered.
While these injustices remain, there is no peace, too often this is the case for decades after. Not only will this bill permit such injustices to continue burning, it ‘spits in the face’ of all those still awaiting some form of justice, as this bill would prevent victims of state spying and crimes, from seeking redress; by protecting those who commit authorised crimes from civil liability forever.
In the year 2020, when the message of the Black Lives Matter movement went Global after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of USA police, for many, trust in policing is already at an all time low, at home and abroad; in particular for black communities and others who are disproportionately targeted, harmed, over-policed and or spied on.
Furthermore, in making this bill law, the implications of it in practice, alongside the severe funding cuts to legal aid and legal aid services, are far reaching and will likely compound injustice, for some of the most powerless members of society.
We call on our MP and branch to work towards reflecting on the actions of the PLP, who failed to vote against this under scrutinised rushed through bill, then seek to reverse it and oppose it, under Labour policy; democratically as members.
Siddiq is understood to have excused herself from the meeting about an hour after the letter was circulated.
Other CLPs and branches around the country are preparing their own motions of condemnation, including some pledging not to campaign for any candidate who does not support the immediate repeal of the bill and condemn the abstention.
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