The committee behind a classified report into Russian interference in UK elections is expected to reconvene shortly, but Number 10’s choice of chair could be rejected by MPs.
Chris Grayling – the former transport minister – could be rejected as chair of the The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in a vote by opposition MPs on the panel.
A motion on the membership of the committee – which has not sat since December, the longest period in its history – is being put to parliament on Monday and Grayling’s name has been touted to lead it.
If successful, it could pave the way for the release of the long-delay Russia report.
Boris Johnson has kept the report under lock and key for ten months, arguing it could not be released without the permission of the committee.
The December general election added a delay to the reformation of the committee.
According to the Times, a further delay can partially be explained by the removal Tory MP Theresa Villiers, a provisional member, by No 10 for disloyalty. Villiers defied the party whip on an amendment that would have banned the import of chlorinated chicken in any US trade deal.
The ISC is one of the most important committees in parliament, overseeing seven agencies and departments involved in UK intelligence.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tweeted: ‘Seven months to form a committee that has a critical role to play is unacceptable. With so many new members the committee go through an induction process before it is up and running. Who will be Tory appointments and the Tory imposed chair, this committee has to be independent.’
Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said: ‘With the threat of coronavirus, people are rightly worried and need a government they can trust. Boris Johnson has failed to do that with his conspicuous delay to reconvening the intelligence committee.
‘After months of pressure from Liberal Democrats and others, I am glad the committee is due to be restored. However, it should never have needed this fight. The prime minister has a lot to do to claw back public confidence.
‘At the top of the list for the intelligence committee must be forcing the government to publish the report into Russian interference of our democracy, and before the summer recess so MPs can scrutinise it.
‘A failure to do so would damage the UK’s standing in the world and continue to raise further questions about the Conservative Party’s deep connections to Russian oligarchs.’