Boris Johnson accused of 'sitting on' report into Russian interference in British democracy

PUBLISHED: 16:30 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:43 31 October 2019

Boris Johnson waves a folder as he leaves 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson waves a folder as he leaves 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson has been accused of sitting on a key report assessing the threat posed by Russia to Britain's democracy.

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Former attorney general Dominic Grieve argued voters must have access to the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of parliament, which he chairs, given the imminent election.

He said it was "unacceptable" for the prime minister to "sit on it", informing the Commons that Johnson should have confirmed that no classified matters were remaining in the report.

MPs heard the report was sent to the PM on October 17 and Grieve hopes to publish it next week, noting no explanation for the "apparent delay" has been offered.

Parliament is expected to still sit ahead of dissolution although proceedings could be brought to an end sooner, which may prevent publication.

Raising a point of order, Grieve said: "The committee has been investigating the threat posed to this country by Russia.

"We've produced a report which, in accordance with the Justice and Security Act, we sent to the prime minister on October 17 for him to confirm that there were no classified matters remaining - and there ought not to be because it's already been carefully looked at by the Cabinet Office.

"That confirmation should have been received by today to thus enable publication before the house is dissolved.

MORE: Brexit Party MEPs vote against motion rejecting Russian interference in European politics

"But I regret to say that it has not.

"We thus have a committee of parliament waiting to lay a report before this house which comments directly on what has been seen as a perceived threat to our democratic processes.

"Parliament and the public ought to have, and must have, access to this report in light of the forthcoming election and it's really unacceptable for the prime minister to sit on it and deny them that information."

Speaker John Bercow said ministers would have heard the appeal, adding: "I would hope that as the leader of the house is sitting on the frontbench, we might make progress on this matter - it can be expedited, potentially, and the Leader might be willing to act as a messenger and we'll have to see what the result is."

John Bercow said he hoped it would not be necessary for the MP to have to raise the matter again.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman followed the question by asking: "Are they trying to hide something here?"

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "There are a number of administrative stages and processes which reports such as this, which often contain sensitive information, have to go through before they are published.

"This usually takes several weeks to complete.

"The committee is well informed of this process."

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