MPs back bill to authorise MI5 and police crimes
MPs have backed the latest stage of a bill to allow undercover agents to commit crimes on operations, despite opposition questioning the move on human and civil rights grounds.
Former Tory minister David Davis has warned the bill, which the government says will give a ‘sound legal footing’ for those who work to protect the public, could ‘impinge on innocent people’.
The legislation would explicitly authorise MI5, the police, the National Crime Agency and other agencies that use informants or undercover agents to commit a specific crime as part of an operation. As such, it will require MI5 officers and others to show the crime is ‘necessary and proportionate’, but security officials will not say which crimes they will consider authorising, as it could lead to terrorists and other serious criminals working out who is undercover.
However, the legislation stresses agencies must not breach the Human Rights Act, which requires the government to protect life.
During a debate on the bill, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour would not oppose it at this stage, but said that the party would ‘seek to improve [it] on the vital issue of safeguards, so the public can have confidence in the process and our law enforcement bodies can carry out that vital work of keeping us all safe’.
Other Labour MPs are expected to break party orders to abstain on the vote, with both Apsana Begum and Zarah Sultana tweeting to say they would vote against it.
New director general of MI5, Ken McCallum, has previously commented that such operations had thwarted 27 terror attacks in the country since March 2017.