Friday, 9 October 2020
New Bond movie delayed, but real licence to kill still alive
Letter submitted to The Guardian: I was disappointed to read only 21 Labour MPs had the backbone to oppose the outrageous legislation being pushed through parliament at present. (“Labour rebels ignore whip to voter against MI5 bill,” Guardian, 6 October 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/05/mi5-bill-prompts-second-labour-rebellion-in-two-weeks-jeremy-corbyn) The new James Bond film may have been delayed until next year before it appears in cinemas, but ministers are determined to provide legal cover for British agents to operate outside international law, de facto giving them a right to kill on behalf of Queen and Country. This is outrageous. But the right to kill has been denied by the government. When challenged in the debate by Tory MP, and former Brexit minister, Steve Baker, over whether those in the armed services would be effectively given license, he was told abruptly by the security minister James Brokenshire: “It is difficult to go into detail.” Indeed! Andrew Mitchell MP, a former Conservative cabinet minister, was told by James Brokenshire in a written answer published to co-incide with the Commons second reading debate on the covert human intelligence sources (criminal conduct) bill: “A covert human intelligence source (CHIS) will never be given authority to commit any and all crime. All authorisations must be necessary and proportionate to the criminality they are seeking to prevent and the Authorising Officer must ensure that the level of criminality authorised must be at the lowest level of intrusion possible to achieve the aims of the operation. There are limits to the activity that can be authorised under this Bill and these are contained in the Human Rights Act. This includes the right to life, and prohibition of torture or subjecting someone to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Bill does not list specific crimes which may be authorised, or prohibited, as to do so would place into the hands of criminals, terrorists and hostile states a means of creating a checklist for suspected CHIS to be tested against. This would threaten the future of the CHIS capability, and result in an increased threat to the public.” (https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-09-29/96779) The final paragraph is full of weasel words, allowing ministers in any court hearing to wriggle out of responsibility of anyone killed by an agent in action. On third (final) reading, I would expect the official opposition, led by a senior lawyer who used to be the head of public prosecutions, to whip Labour members to vote against this nasty, dangerous bill.