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This CHIS (Spycops) bill represents their Tory jackboot on your neck! It signals a disturbing return to being criminalized for fighting tooth and nail for the most basic paltry demands, the requirement of survivable wages, safe living and working conditions and for us all to be included in the democratic process and treated with humanity. What is at stake are the core rights hard won by Trade Unions and enshrined in EU Law, all too soon to be rapidly stripped away after crash-out Brexit. This gives the stamp of approval to the authoritarian excesses of the new Tory Dictatorship, but Labour “under new Leadership” is veering in the wrong direction; the Captain of Capitulation, Keir Starmer, will in his continuing demonstration of self-serving cowardice order Labour MPs into another noncommittal abstention vote. That will only succeed if we fail to persuade all MPs and certainly those in the Labour Party that this is a disgusting betrayal of the all sectors of our population and these cowardly abstentions will never be forgotten by voters.
Earlier today referring to the Video of Tomlinson’s telling his story in my post I wrote that: “What I found so shocking in his video presentation was the incredibly meagre and perfectly reasonable working conditions and basic safety measures the Unions were fighting for back then. This makes the extraordinary lengths employers used to intimidate, silence and blacklist Union Organizers in order to continue exploiting workers seem downright obscene. However, that is exactly where the Tories want to regress workers rights to after we crash-out of the EU.” This is way the Unite Union has teamed up with Momentum to send a clear message to Keir Starmer regarding the Labour vote on this vital issue: The CHIS Spycops Bill must be voted down on Thursday’s third reading in the Commons and we must all do our part in supporting this demand by contacting our MPs. I received the following email containing a Link to a preformatted letter of appeal to be sent to MPs; I hope you will agree that this action is necessary.
MOMENTUM report that: “In parliament, the Tories are trying to push through a bill that could have severe ramifications for trade union organising and campaigns for justice. The CHIS bill – otherwise known as the SpyCops Bill – would give power to undercover state agents to commit crimes as extreme as murder, torture and sexual violence in the pursuit of ‘preventing disorder’ and maintaining ‘economic wellbeing’. But now our movement is shifting into gear to resist it.” They include a Link to, “read more about our joint letter with Unite” and another Link to, “Click here to read the Guardian story.”
Momentum explain that, “Our movement is fighting against a huge opponent – a system that is run in the interests of the rich and powerful and that values profit above all else. But everything we’ve ever won in this struggle has come from ordinary people deciding that enough is enough. That’s why when they attack our right to organise, we can’t abstain. But the Labour leadership is talking about doing just that. We can’t let it stand. The Labour party exists to defend the interests of the many – and in this case, that means fighting the authoritarian implications of this bill every step of the way. We need to mobilise to put pressure on our MPs to back essential amendments tabled by the Socialist Campaign Group. If those amendments are unsuccessful, then every Labour MP should vote against this hard-right Tory bill when it goes to a vote on Thursday. You can use Unite’s template in the Link below to quickly and easily send an email to your MP listing your demands.”
Momentum have included a Link to: “Send an email to your MP demanding they oppose the SpyCops Bill.” This goes to the same Unite Union page as a second Link with space to enter your postcode in order to send an email message using their provided Template to help facilitate this process. Momentum have teamed up with the Unite Union for this campaign and they remind us that, “These are the moments when we as the labour movement can show our strength. If we stick together – Labour members, the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, and the trade unions can push the Labour leadership to take a stand.” They sign off by urging recipients to act as, “United, we can win, In Solidarity, Team Momentum.”
The Unite Union are urging all their members to contact their MP and demand that they, “Block the SpyCops Bill.” Unite warn that,
“The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill (CHIS), otherwise known as the SpyCops Bill, is currently being rushed through parliament. Its purpose is to provide the legal basis for the conduct of undercover agents such as police officers, but in reality, it will go much further. There has been a well-documented history of state surveillance of lawful trade union activity and justice campaigns in recent years, including links with the criminal blacklisting of trade union members. These revelations have been admitted by the police, as has the appalling conduct of undercover police in pursuing surveillance of legitimate civil society organisations, including anti-racist, family justice and environmental groups. These are still subject to a public inquiry.”
Unite outline the reasons for their opposition to the CHIS Spycops Bill by stating that, “Our concerns about CHIS include:
• It allows state agents to commit crimes to stay undercover.
• There’s no limit to what crimes they can commit, including murder, torture or sexual violence
• They can commit crimes to ‘prevent disorder’ or maintain ‘economic well-being’.
• It threatens trade union activity and justice campaigns.
• There is no provision for innocent victims to get compensation.
• It allows a wide range of agencies like the Food Standards Agency to spy on people and commit crimes.
• It does not protect human rights.
• It lacks prior judicial authorisation to commit a crime.”
Unite remind us of the urgency of our taking immediate action by noting that, “Amendments to the bill are being debated by MPs this week (Thursday 15 October) and Unite is concerned that this is not only being done with undue haste and insufficient scrutiny, but that it risks compromising and undermining legal proceedings through which the victims of previous criminal conduct by undercover agents, are seeking justice.”
Unite have facilitated this urgent action offering, “Please use our tool below to email your MP today, to ask them to support the amendments submitted by the Labour front bench, that would establish vital safeguards and ensure that serious crimes such as murder, torture and rape would be explicitly ruled out, as would trade union infiltration and blacklisting.” They warn that, “If these amendments are unsuccessful then the Bill cannot be supported. In this case, please ask your MP to lobby the government to withdraw the Bill, and to oppose it at 3rd reading if it is not withdrawn.” There is a space to enter your Postcode in order to target your specific MP.
Another brave Labour Lioness stands ready to enter the fray, proving that we do not need “stale, male and pale” elitists to drag us into the wilderness with their lack of courage in voting to protect our rights. Jeremy Corbyn is leading the revolt as Starmer once again fails to offer true Labour Opposition. The Captain of Capitulation repeatedly orders his MPs to abstain from voting. We didn’t come out to vote in the pre-Christmas cold so that MPs would be empowered to do nothing! The Covert 2019 Rigged Election was a fraud that we must continue to reject, expose and Investigate, but our enfeebled numbers do not need to be further weakened by the impotent lack of leadership offered by Starmer. Labour abstentions will facilitate Tory authoritarian rule for several decades to come if Labour allows this Tory Trojan horse to continue running roughshod over the will of our MPs to vote with their conscience in vigorously apposing tyranny. So Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana rose to challenge the Tory imposition of injustice.
Zarah Sultana said, “As I am making the final Back-Bench speech, I will not be taking any interventions, apologies.” She began by relaying a horrific true story from the time of ‘the Troubles’ in Ireland saying, “On 12 February 1989, Pat Finucane, an Irish lawyer in Belfast, sat at his kitchen table to have dinner with his wife and three children. As they ate, two gunmen burst through the door, entered the room and shot Mr Finucane 14 times. He was killed by a loyalist paramilitary group that, as the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, admitted in 2012, was acting in complicity with British security services. Far from stopping Mr Finnigan’s murder, the Prime Minister described the ‘shocking levels of state collusion’—[Official Report, 12 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 296] in Mr Finucane’s murder. His family are still owed a public inquiry into the murder.”
Sultana continued, “Deeply troubling acts of state agents such as those in the Finucane case are not isolated. In 2010, it came to light that for 40 years, Britain’s police had run covert operations spying on thousands of civilians. More than 1,000 political groups were spied on. Overwhelmingly, it was left-wing, anti-racist and climate justice groups that were spied on, with just three far-right groups included on the list. The spy cops revelations have shown that police operatives deceived women into sexual relationships and even spied on grieving families seeking justice, including the parents of Stephen Lawrence.
Sultana adroitly explained why, “This Bill must be opposed. It places no limits on the crimes that state agents can be authorised to commit. It does not prohibit torture. It does not prohibit murder. It does not prohibit sexual violence. Instead, all it requires is that authorising officers themselves believe that the conduct is appropriate, necessary by broadly defined criteria and meets requirements that may be imposed by an order made by the Secretary of State. Even the FBI expressly bans operatives from certain criminal conduct, but this Bill does not ban any type of criminal conduct for British state agents. The grounds upon which the authorisations can be granted are ill-defined and wide-ranging. They include not only national security but “preventing disorder” and to promote “the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.”
Sultana warned of what was at stake, “That has rightly raised alarm bells for trade unions such as my union, Unite, and justice campaigns such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, who fear that these powers could be used to interfere with the legitimate activities of trade unions. The Bill grants these powers to a dizzying array of agencies—not just intelligence agencies and the police, but the Competition and Markets Authority, the Gambling Commission and the Environment Agency, just to name a few. The oversight for authorisation of potentially serious crimes is scandalously weak. There are no provisions in the Bill for warrants or independent judicial approval. Instead, authorisation will be granted internally, which means that incredibly serious crimes could be authorised with less oversight than is currently required for phone tapping or police searches.”
Sultana noted that, “As the human rights group Reprieve has noted, survivors of the spy cops scandal have sought justice through the courts for abuses they suffered, but this Bill will block future claims being brought forward, since it outlaws civil action against authorised activities. That is utterly unconscionable. In the Bill’s defence, the Government claim that public authorities are bound by the Human Rights Act, and for that reason, the prohibition of crimes such as torture is guarded. In reality, that offers no protection against agent criminality, because in the Government’s view, the Human Rights Act does not apply to crimes committed by covert agents. The Government told the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in November 2019 that, in tasking agents, the state ‘is not the instigator of that activity and cannot be treated as responsible for it’. According to the Government’s own standards, the Bill will therefore not place any limits on the crimes that agents could be authorised to commit—not on torture, not on murder and not on sexual violence.”
Sultana was then interrupted by Tory MP Mrs. Miller who requested, Will the hon. Lady give way? But Zarah Sultana stubbornly held her ground saying, “I must make progress. This Bill marks the latest step in a frightening descent into authoritarianism by this Government. In the past two weeks, they have proposed the effective decriminalisation of torture by British soldiers overseas, the shipping of asylum seekers more than 4,000 miles away to be imprisoned on Ascension Island, the ban on anti-capitalist teaching materials in schools and now this—licensing undercover agents to commit torture, sexual violence and murder. This descent into authoritarianism should be a concern to us all. It must be resisted.” Sultana’s speech was bold, impactful and succinct; it should by nagging the consciences of her less courageous colleagues on the Labour benches and those in the Shadow Cabinet of shame. This bright young Labour Lioness is one of the 2019 intake, surely one to watch with the courage to fearlessly combat injustice.
A Reel News Video of Ricky Tomlinson speaking at “Voices of the Spied on” public meeting, University of London almost four years ago was included in the latest Canary Article on the CHIS Spycops Bill. Reel News say of Ricky Tomlinson, “before we knew him as Jim Royle or Brookside’s Bobby Grant – was a construction worker and trade unionist. In 1972 he took an active part in the first ever national building workers’ strike. Tomlinson was among 24 people arrested for picketing in Shrewsbury. Government papers now show collusion between police, security services and politicians to ensure these people were prosecuted. Six, including Tomlinson, were jailed. He is one of several high-profile figures who, despite concrete evidence of being targeted by spycops, has been denied ‘core participant’ status at the Pitchford Inquiry. Voices of the spied on: Ricky Tomlinson: Real News.
Other Voices of the Spied on include several women deliberately targeted by Spycops who entrapped them in sexual relationships while hiding their true identity and the disreputable scope of their job assignment. Channel 4 interview a young lad who grew up not knowing that his father was an undercover cop and his attempts to form a relationship after discovering the truth. “BBC Panorama featured a program covering the abuse by undercover police officers on environmental campaigns” a 2018 RT News Report, “Victims launch legal action over undercover cops inquiry” and RT’s Going Underground Afshin Rattansi interviewed Rick Tomlinson in, “Dirty Tricks, Spying and Corruption: Ricky Tomlinson on the Shrewsbury 24 Papers Star of the Royle Family and member of the Shrewsbury 24, Ricky Tomlinson tells Going Underground why, 44 years on the government refuses to release the secret documents they have on him. Plus why he is not being allowed to participate in Lord Pitchford’s inquiry into undercover policing.
In a 6th of October Evening Standard Article they reported that, “Labour civil war: Corbyn and Starmer in bitter dispute over ‘spy’ bill as MPs defy whip. Jeremy Corbyn has led a Labour rebellion against party leader Sir Keir Starmer over a controversial new bill that would allow undercover agents to legally commit crimes. The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Criminal Conduct Bill was put before MPs yesterday, though it will have to return for further stages on October 15. Sir Starmer had ordered his party via a whip to abstain from voting while the party pushed for amendments to be made. However, around 20 MPs are reported to have defied this order and instead voted against the bill. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted yesterday evening: ‘I have grave concerns regarding the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill. It could enable unnecessary and unlawful interference with the legitimate activities of trade unions, environmentalists, anti-racists & other campaigners. ‘We must always stand up for human rights’.”
The Standard say, “Mr Corbyn was joined by a number of senior Labour members. Diane Abbott was one of the MPs who rebelled alongside Mr Corbyn. She said after the vote: “Pleased to have voted against the government’s #spycops bill. Abstention would have been wrong. ‘Labour Party has to stick to its values.’ Can’t be neutral on ‘undercover policing abuses.’ The bill was ultimately backed in this latest stage, however. Proponents say it will give ‘sound legal footing’ for undercover agents. Keir Starmer had ordered Labour MPs to abstain from voting. But critics are wary of what the bill would allow such agents to do, while also being vague in its scope.” They report that, “Such critics are not exclusive to the Labour party. Tory MP David Davis said the bill could “impinge on innocent people”. Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper called the bill “very vague and very broad”.
The Standard report that, “Labour’s Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, said the bill could even clash against the Human Rights Act. She wrote on Twitter: ‘I’ve voted against government plans that would allow undercover state agents to commit even murder, torture, and sexual violence’.” In defence of the CHIS Spycops Bill they say, “The government’s security minister James Brokenshire has claimed the bill is not the same as a ‘licence to kill’, as it would enforce rules within the scope of the European convention on human rights. He said at the start of the MPs’ debate: ‘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.’ Despite the concerns, MPs voted in favour of the bill by 182 to 20.”
Sadly, this clearly demonstrates that had Starmer encouraged Labour MPs vote against the CHIS Bill it would have been defeated. In the dystopian future ahead of us Starmer’s truly disgraceful cowardice will be used as a weapon against the Labour Party. The Standard note, “It is not the first time in recent weeks Labour has faced a rebellion over a bill vote. Three frontbench MPs were fired last month after they joined Jeremy Corbyn in voting against an armed forces bill. The party whip again called for MPs to abstain. Mr Corbyn was joined by senior Labour figures Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey in defying this. One MP who voted against the law, Nadia Whittome, called the bill ‘anti-veteran, anti-human rights,’ and added it would ‘effectively decriminalise torture’.” We cannot condone Labour MPs failure to vote under an excuse of following the orders of new Leadership; these repeated abstentions on critical Human Rights issues demonstrate a dire absence of leadership: Starmer has to go! DO NOT MOVE ON!