Lawmakers were yesterday locked in a stalemate with the government on the definition of spying in their clause-by-clause examination of the covert surveillance bill as the deadline for its enactment looms. Legislators from the democratic camp insisted regulations in the bill be extended to cover clandestine police operations even where there is no use of electronic devices - a demand government officials said went beyond the scope of the Interception of Communications and Surveillance Bill. Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the law would be 'useless' and Hongkongers would be living in a 'very, very horrible society' if people had to live in fear that undercover agents could be present in their offices and homes and they would not be able to do anything about their presence. 'The main purpose of the bill is to ensure that covert surveillance operations are carried out in accordance with ... Article 30 of the Basic Law,' she said. 'That legal procedure must fully protect the rights under Article 30 - we have to offer total protection from infringement by government departments. We would be creating a major loophole and it would be meaningless for us to enact this bill if it does not include regulations for undercover agents.' The proposed bill regulates the use of covert surveillance and bugging by law enforcement agents, but restricts the definition of such surveillance to activities involving the use of devices. Permanent Secretary for Security Stanley Ying Yiu-hong said internal guidelines were in place to govern law enforcement agencies' use of undercover agents. He also said the issue went beyond the scope of the current bill, but could be debated in future meetings. The government is racing to have a law in place before the expiry in August of a grace period granted by High Court judge Mr Justice Michael Hartmann. Mr Justice Hartmann on February 10 ruled that the current covert surveillance regulatory regime was unconstitutional, but suspended the effect of his judgment for six months to give the executive and legislature time to enact a law. Yesterday the bills committee held its 10th meeting on this law. Another 17 are planned, with meetings nearly every other day in June, in a bid to enact the bill by the time Legco goes into recess on July 12.