Political

Lib Dem peers defeat Government again over “Spy Crimes Bill”

A party press release brings this welcome news from the House of Lords:

Liberal Democrat peers have helped to pass cross-party amendments to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, as the number of Government defeats on the controversial new law rose to four.

A cross-party amendment (Amendment 15), co-sponsored by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Paddick, places limits on the types of crimes that can be authorised under the Bill – ruling out murder, torture and sexual assault. It was passed by 299 votes to 284.

It follows a Liberal Democrat amendment (Amendment 6) that was passed on Monday, which raises the test for authorising criminal conduct from “believing” to “reasonably believing” that it is necessary and proportionate to do so. The vote was 282–259.

The Government suffered two further defeats this evening on cross-party amendments (Amendments 22 and 24), both co-sponsored by Liberal Democrat peers, to ensure victims of crimes authorised under the Bill are not barred from seeking compensation, and to protect children and other vulnerable sources from being used to commit crimes.

Following the votes, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Home Affairs Brian Paddick said:

We do need legislation to govern the tasking of police informants to commit crime, but this Bill goes beyond what is reasonable.

The Liberal Democrats have managed to add important safeguards to the Bill, but the sheer number of fundamental issues that have been raised from all sides should force the Government to stop and think again. The Government’s failure to secure agreement with the devolved administrations for provisions in the Bill is telling.

At the very least, the Government must now accept the important improvements made by the House of Lords and not seek to overturn them.

The full text of the amendments is here.

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