The government’s failure to release the report into Russian interference in the UK’s democracy has been denounced as “utterly reprehensible underhand behaviour” – as it emerged the latest delay is being blamed on chlorinated chickens.
The intelligence and security select committee (ISC) report into Russian infiltration of the UK was delivered to Downing Street on October 17, and was expected to be presented to parliament within 10 days.
However, more than nine months later the report remains unpublished, primarily because the government has not reconvened the select committee responsible for it – despite the ISC being “one of the most important committees in parliament, overseeing seven agencies and departments involved in UK intelligence,” states the Guardian.
Thirty cross-party MPs wrote to Boris Johnson this week to urge him to reinstate the committee and publish the Russia report, saying the refusal to do so raised questions about the “transparency and integrity” of the UK’s democratic process.
“It is untenable for you to continue to block the publication of the Russia report. The situation is an affront to democracy,” said the MPs in the letter to the PM.
‘PM sat on report for 9 months – raises serious ethical questions,’ says MP
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson, said : “Given the prime minister has for nine months sat on the intelligence committee report into Russian interference of our democracy, his decision to delay nominations to the committee raises serious ethical questions.
“This unprecedented underhand behaviour is utterly reprehensible. It leaves the public in little doubt that Boris Johnson is avoiding the truth about the Tory party’s funding connections to Russian oligarchs.”
Former ISC member Ian Blackford – the leader of the SNP at Westminster – accused the government of “repeatedly and intentionally” trying to “escape scrutiny on important security matters” and added: “The foreign secretary publicly warned of these growing security threats, stating that hostile governments are using the challenges thrown up by the global pandemic to take advantage of ‘a perceived opportunity’.”
Villiers axed for voting to ban chlorinated chickens
The Times reports that Johnson has further delayed reconvening the committee after axing provisional member Theresa Villiers for disloyalty.
Villiers, a former Northern Ireland secretary (2012-16) and environment secretary until February this year – has been punished for voting against the government by voting for an amendment that would ban chlorinated-chicken imports in a future UK-US trade deal.
The delay will be prolonged even further as provisional members of the committee have to be vetted by parliament.
PM’s pick to chair ISC is ‘failing Grayling’
There is further controversy with Johnson’s picks for the committee given the possible appointment of former cabinet minister Chris Grayling – who, it is reported, the prime minister wants to install as chairman of the intelligence and security select committee.
Grayling’s ineptitude as transport secretary – his political gaffes are estimated to have cost £2.7 billion – was such that “failing” was often attached to his name.
Former defence minister Sir Mike Penning removed his name from consideration to be part of the committee “in protest”, the Times states, “at being asked to vote for Mr Grayling as chairman.”
There are also concerns about the government’s failure to reinstate the committee on arms exports controls. Shadow minister for peace and disarmament Fabian Hamilton yesterday (Friday) wrote to Jacob Rees-Mogg about the “worrying” situation caused by the absence of the committee which scrutinises UK arms sales.