Thank you for contacting me regarding the Covert Human Intelligence Bill.
I can assure you that it is not acceptable for an undercover operative to form an intimate sexual relationship with those they are employed to infiltrate and target or those they may encounter during a deployment. The Government has stated clearly that this conduct will never be authorised, nor must it ever be used as a tactic in deployment. This is also made clear through the code of ethics for the police as well as the updated law enforcement agency undercover operative authorised professional practice.
I am aware of the suggestion that listing specific crimes permitted or prohibited would be a way of offering extra safeguards. I do not believe this would be appropriate. This approach would place in the hands of criminals, terrorists and hostile states a means of identifying agents and sources, creating a potential checklist for suspected CHIS to be tested against. This would place CHIS at personal risk and therefore not something I can support.
I understand your concerns regarding the bodies authorised to grant a criminal conduct authorisation. Wider public authorities also have a role in investigating and preventing serious criminal activity. The Environment Agency investigates the illegal dumping of toxic waste that can permanently harm our environment. The Serious Fraud Office investigates complex fraud cases that risk costing the public millions of pounds. The Food Standards Agency investigates deliberate mislabelling and the sale of unsafe food to the public. HMRC tackles the money laundering and trafficking of illicit goods that would risk significant damage to the economy. As I am sure you will agree, these are serious crimes and need to be tackled.
On the point you raise regarding the impact of this legislation on Trade Unions. It is correct that that economic wellbeing is one of the established statutory purposes for which the covert investigatory powers may be deployed by public authorities. However, let me be clear, it is not the intention in the Bill to prevent legitimate and lawful activity, including activity by trade union organisations. Ministers have said that preventing such activity would not be necessary for the purpose of economic wellbeing.