Covert Human Intelligence Sources

5th October 2020

Andrew Mitchell intervenes in the debate on the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill.


We have had discussions on the points of concern to me, and my right hon. Friend has given answers to three written questions today, which were helpful indeed. He will understand the importance of the point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty): that these are significant powers for us to grant in a democratic society. I believe my right hon. Friend has made the point in the past, but will he confirm today that the Human Rights Act trumps the provisions in this Bill which the hon. Gentleman and I are most concerned about?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention. Again, I intend to draw out this point during my contribution in the House this evening. He rightly highlights the import and implication of the Human Rights Act and what that then imports in terms of the convention rights, which we are clear provide restrictions and inhibitions on how agencies are able to operate.


I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is being generous. At what level will the original authorisation take place in the various organisations? From reading the Bill, it seems to me that the level in the police is a relatively junior police officer. In view of the seriousness that such authorisation leads to, should it not be given at chief constable level, and why can it not be given through a warrant overseen by a judge?

I have responded to the latter point on the judgment that we have made in relation to this regime and how we believe that deep retrospective oversight is the right approach. This is distinct from phones or cameras. The use of CHIS requires deep expertise and close consideration of the personal qualities of that CHIS, which then enables very precise and safe tasking. There are different elements to how this operates, and the experience and highly trained nature of the authorising officer in some ways informs the relevant authorising level that is specified within the guidance. Robust retrospective oversight is provided equally by the commissioner himself, to give further assurance.