Russia meddling report: Government accused of cover-up as it refuses to release documents
5 November 2019, 09:04 | Updated: 5 November 2019, 19:38
The government is standing firm on not publishing a report on the Russian threat to UK politics, prompting Labour claims of a cover-up.
Responding to an urgent question in the Commons, minister of state Christopher Pincher said it was "not unusual" that the prime minister was still considering the intelligence and security committee (ISC) report.
"We cannot rush this process at the risk of undermining our national security," he said.
Sky's defence and security correspondent Alistair Bunkall has been told by security sources that security services have seen the report and do not have an issue with it being published.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who is chair of the ISC, said it was "unprecedented" for there to have been no response from Boris Johnson "at all".
He added: "So for what purpose is the prime minister still considering it?"
In a statement on Tuesday night, Mr Grieve added: "I am extremely disappointed, and baffled as to why the government has not given a reason why the report cannot be published. There has been a great deal of talk of usual time frames.
"The usual timeframe for confirmation from the prime minister is 10 working days.
"Number 10's talk of the prime minister usually taking six weeks is including the time the committee itself usually takes to print the report and prepare for a press conference - that has nothing to do with the time within which the prime minister provides confirmation.
"With parliament shortly to be dissolved we had made arrangements to print and lay the report within an hour of confirmation on this occasion.
"This has been a standard process, right up until the point that the prime minister - against the advice of the agencies themselves - stopped us from publishing.
"This must not be allowed to happen again. We cannot have a situation in which a committee of parliament is not able to share its findings with parliament and the wider public.
"I expect our successors on the committee will want to rewrite the procedures to ensure this does not occur in future."
Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said it was "utterly unjustifiable, unprecedented and clearly politically motivated".
She said: "This is nothing less than an attempt to suppress the truth from the public and from parliament and it is an affront to our democracy.
"So we are bound to ask, what is Downing Street worried about?
"I fear that it is because they realise this report will lead to other questions about the links between Russia and Brexit and with the current leadership of the Tory party, which risks derailing their election campaign."
Michael Gove earlier denied Number 10 was "sitting" on the document and would only say it will be "published in due course".
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It comes after senior politicians and peers said the delay for clearance by Downing Street was unusual, with the UK's former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation Lord Anderson warning it "invites suspicion... of the government and its motives".
The report was submitted to Number 10 on 17 October, following sign-off from security services, but needs the green light from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be officially released.
Normally that takes 10 days, but with parliament shutting down tonight in the run-up to the 12 December election, the report will almost certainly now not be published before voters head to the polls.
Mr Gove defended the hold-up, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's going through appropriate procedures, I think it's been lodged with Number 10 and it will be published in due course."
Asked whether voters would be able to read the report before the election, he admitted: "I don't know - I think it's going to go through appropriate procedures."
When it was pointed out if had completed all previous appropriate procedures, Mr Gove said: "I'm not on the ISC - I haven't seen the report.
"I'm not sitting on anything… I don't have anything to do with this report."
Russia is accused of using unconventional forms of warfare to attack Western democracies, including in the UK.
This includes allegations of spreading fake news and disinformation to exploit divisions during the Brexit referendum.
Security agencies in the US believe the Kremlin launched an influence operation against then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election.
The disinformation attack also worked to promote then candidate Donald Trump.
Britain blames Russia's GRU military intelligence agency for the attempted poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury using a novichok nerve agent.
Whitehall sources said on Monday the report would not be published before parliament officially shuts down at 12:01am on Wednesday morning.