Corbyn defies whip on MI5 Bill
Former Labour leader sounds warning over legal protection for undercover ops
09 October, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn
ISLINGTON North MP Jeremy Corbyn has defied the Labour Party whip in the House of Commons for the second time in as many weeks, as he refused to abstain on a vote that would allow the British secret service to commit crimes during covert operations.
The former party leader was one of 20 MPs to vote against the government’s so-called MI5 Bill.
Labour had issued a one line whip for its MPs to abstain from the vote.
Similarly, it asked its MPs to abstain in a vote on the Overseas Operation Bill last month, legislation which aims to limit the scope of prosecutors to pursue UK troops.
Mr Corbyn said: “I have grave concerns regarding the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (MI5) Bill and therefore voted against it. For example, it could enable unnecessary and unlawful interference with the legitimate activities of trade unions, environmentalists, anti-racists and other campaigners.”
He added: “We must always stand up for human rights.”
The bill passed the second vote in the Commons by 182 votes to 21 on Monday.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
New Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, has been criticised by members on the left of the party who disagree with the decision to abstain on both votes.
MI5, as well as the Met Police, have long had a policy of allowing officers and informants to participate in criminal activity if the offences involved are proportionate to the evidence gained.
But at the end of last year a court ruled only narrowly that this was legal.
This lead to an attempt to get a bill through parliament which could give a clearer definition of the law and the freedoms of secret service personnel.
The Met Police previously faced criticism after women blew the whistle on undercover officers who had become involved with them sexually during the course of their investigations – some even going as far as having children and marrying their targets.
Critics say officers committing these crimes will be protected if the new bill passes the final stages in parliament unamended.
Speaking during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, James Brokenshire, the government’s security minister, said: “I know there are concerns about somehow providing a licence to kill or to commit torture.
“Let me be clear, there are upper limits to the activity that could be authorised under this bill and these are contained in the Human Rights Act.”