Spy Cops Bill passes latest stage

16 Oct 2020

MPs vote 313 to 98 as legislation progresses into the Lords despite efforts of unions, campaign groups and rebel Labour MPs to stop the controversial legislation.

Yesterday (15) MPs voted to pass the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, also known as CHIS and the Spy Cops Bill, into the next stage of the legislative process.

PCS joined numerous trade unions, MPs and campaigning organisations in calling for the ‘Spy Cops’ Bill or CHIS to be scrapped due to the legislation's proposals which would give greater freedoms to state agents who infiltrate organisations. Within the draft legislation, which will now begin its legislative journey in the House of Lords, are measures which would, some argue, effectively give state agents a ‘license to kill’ without fear of reprimand or prosecution.

Since the Bill's first appearance on the floor of the House of Commons it has courted controversy, mainly due to Labour’s decision to whip its MPs to abstain in a vote – a move which resulted in over 20 MPs rebelling and voting for it to be stopped at its second reading.  With third reading and a vote taking place in Parliament yesterday, unions and campaigning organisations have written to Ministers urging them to scrap the legislation or heavily amend it. In the letter, which was signed by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and fellow members of the Trade Union-Coordinating Group, unions highlighted their concerns, which included:

  • The vague definition of “economic wellbeing” being susceptible to interpretations which would implicate aspects of legitimate trade union activity
  • The failure to expressly rule out the authorisation of murder, torture or sexual violence by a CHIS
  • The lack of any provision to compensate innocent victims of criminal conduct undertaken by a CHIS
  • The unnecessarily broad range of agencies able to authorise unlawful conduct

Unions are also concerned that passing such legislation may impact the outcomes of the Mitting Inquiry which is currently ongoing and are therefore asking the government to await the final findings of this important public inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers.

At the early stages of the Bill three Labour MPs resigned their positions as junior shadow ministers/PPS in response to the leadership's request to abstain on voting and yesterday (15) Dan Carden MP, Margaret Greenwood MP, Kim Johnson MP and Nivendu Mishra MP have followed, resigning from their shadow and PPS posts.

PCS will continue working with sister unions and campaigning organisation to fight against this deplorable legislation as it progresses through the Lords in the coming weeks.

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