Boris Johnson accused of dodging scrutiny by failing to set up committee behind Russia report
PUBLISHED: 16:23 20 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:58 20 June 2020
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The formation of parliament’s intelligence watchdog has been delayed again after reports Boris Johnson has removed a provisional member for disloyalty.
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The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has still not convened six months after the general election - and almost nine months after a report into allegations of Russian interference in British democracy was made ready.
Downing Street did not deny a report in The Times that former environment secretary Theresa Villiers was said to have been barred from becoming a member by defying the Tory whip in a vote aimed at banning the import of chlorinated chicken in a trade deal with the US.
This is said to have delayed the formation even further - with opposition MPs calling for the committee to be re-established so the intelligence community can be scrutinised and the Russia report can be made public.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael 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.
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“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.”
Labour’s shadow security minister Conor McGinn said: “It is deeply worrying that the government is preventing the Intelligence and Security Committee from doing its vital work. It must be allowed to publish the delayed Russia report and get on with its important role overseeing UK intelligence.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the government of “repeatedly and intentionally failing to establish Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee to escape scrutiny on important security matters”.
The PM hasd reportedly lined up former cabinet minister Chris Grayling, who has been dubbed “failing Grayling” for his involvement in numerous controversies, to chair the committee.
One of the new chairman’s first tasks will be to publish the report compiled by the ISC in the last parliament on Russian interference in the UK.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Work to establish the committee is ongoing and as quickly as current circumstances allow, and further announcements will be made in due course.
“The Investigatory Powers Act allows the UK to maintain one of the most stringent scrutiny regimes in the world through the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and both executive and judicial oversight.”
A source close to Villiers said she has received indications that she is likely to be nominated for the committee as planned, despite Johnson’s attempts to bar her.
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