Yesterday, the Tories were accused of suppressing a report alleging Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 general election.
The BBC describes the report as one that:
Examines Russian activity including allegations of espionage, subversion and interference in elections and includes evidence from UK intelligence services such as GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 concerning covert Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum and 2017 general election.BBC News 05 November 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50300551
Senior Cabinet member Michael Gove claimed the report on alleged Russian interference in our democracy was just going through “procedures.”
However, the Government has been accused of refusing to release the report that was written by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. Dominic Grieve, the chairman of the Committee, said the process was usually completed within 10 working days and the report should be released.
The Government has claimed these delaying processes are about consultation with national security agencies. But Mr Grieve told Parliament on 05 November:
“The agencies and national security secretariat indicated that they were happy that the published form would not damage any operational capabilities of the agencies.”Former Tory MP, Dominic Grieve, Hansard 05 November 2019 https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-11-05/debates/AABC4DE9-4D70-4937-9AF5-D58CE7B0601D/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeReportOnRussia
He further quoted his committee’s secretariat that:
“It is unprecedented that we should have had no response at all explaining why any further delay is required in this case.”Former Tory MP, Dominic Grieve, Hansard 05 November 2019 https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-11-05/debates/AABC4DE9-4D70-4937-9AF5-D58CE7B0601D/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeReportOnRussia
So why is it that the government is claiming the report is being delayed for consultation on issues of national security when those very agencies have publicly stated that the report will have no threat to their function?
The report has been given security clearance to be released and former director-general of Security Service MI5, Lord Evans told the Today programme:
“In principle, I think it should be released…Part of the reason for having an Intelligence and Security Committee is that the issues of public concern can be properly considered and the public can be informed through the publication of the reports once they have gone through the security process.”Former Director-General of Security Service MI5, Lord Evans, BBC News 05 November 2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50300551
Lord David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who asked an urgent question in the House of Lords on this, said:
“This unjustified delay undermines the ISC [Intelligence and Security Committee] and, I am afraid, invites suspicion of the Government and their motives.”Lord Anderson of Ipswich, Hansard, 4 November 2019, c. 1098, https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2019-11-04/debates/A065C38E-954A-4F33-86DD-4835FDDD976A/IntelligenceAndSecurityCommitteeOfParliamentSpecialReport
Even the Conservative chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, has also called for it to be published.
Given this, why is the Government attempting to suppress the truth? What are the Tories so worried about? And why would they not welcome the publication of this vital report?
The Guardian, reporting on the Government’s delay, suggested that the “Russian meddling in British politics includes fresh evidence of attempts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Conservatives by a senior Russian diplomat suspected of espionage, who spent five years in London cultivating leading Tories including Johnson himself.”
The report says:
“It can now be revealed that Sergey Nalobin – who once described the future prime minister as “our good friend” – lives in a Moscow apartment block known as the “FSB house” because it houses so many employees from the Kremlins main spy agency.”The Guardian 04 November 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/nov/04/no-10-blocks-russia-eu-referendum-report-until-after-election
This alarming report builds on further reporting from 2017 that:
“Nalobin had long been a person of interest. In 2012, he was the key figure at the heart of an organisation called Conservative Friends of Russia, a high-profile new group that threw a high-profile launch in the Russian Ambassador’s garden.”The Guardian, 04 November 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/04/brexit-ministers-spy-russia-uk-brexit
So the question remains – why has the government not published this important report?