Long awaited report into alleged Russian interference in UK democracy to be published

16 July 2020, 12:04 | Updated: 16 July 2020, 12:09

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Government has announced it will publish the long-awaited report into alleged Russian interference in UK democracy.

LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood revealed on air that the newly formed Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) would publish the report into Russian interference in UK democracy before the summer recess.

The report was written and passed to Number 10 in October after being cleared by the security services for publication, but Downing Street blocked its publication due to the General Election.

The committee has now agreed to publish an eagerly anticipated report on alleged Russian interference in UK politics by the end of next week.

Mr Johnson was heavily criticised for blocking its publication ahead of last December's general election.

The report, which was prepared by the previous membership of the ISC in the last parliament, will be released before the House of Commons rises for its summer recess on July 22.

Theo pointed out that the time between the General Election and now has been the "longest period since the 1990s for the formation" of the committee so there was no chance of publication until now.

The move comes after a Tory MP who beat ex-Cabinet minister Chris Grayling to the chairmanship of Parliament's intelligence watchdog has had the Tory whip dramatically removed.

Dr Julian Lewis secured the role despite widespread expectation that Mr Grayling would receive the backing of the Conservative-dominated Intelligence and Security Committee.

In a move that caught Westminster by surprise, the Tory leadership then took disciplinary action against Dr Lewis as sources said the MP had "acted with the opposition for his own advantage".

Theo's conversation with James O'Brien was an eye-opening look into the workings of Westminster.

In a statement MP Julian Lewis said: "Because the ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee) is a special committee, I feel constrained in what I can say.

"However, the following points are relevant:

1) The 2013 Justice and Security Act explicitly removed the right of the Prime Minister to choose the ISC chairman and gave it to the committee members. I remember this well, as I served on the committee from 2010 to 2015 and took part of the legislation through the Commons myself on behalf of the committee. There is no other Conservative MP in the House of Commons with any past experience of working on the ISC.

2) It was only yesterday afternoon that I received a text asking me to confirm that I would be voting for the Prime Minister's preferred candidate for the ISC chair. I did not reply as I considered it an improper request. At no earlier stage did I give any undertaking to vote for any particular candidate.

3) In recent days, the official No 10 spokesman explicitly denied that the Government was seeking to 'parachute' a preferred candidate in to the chair, stating that it was a matter for the senior parliamentarians on the committee to decide.

"It is therefore strange to have the whip removed for failing to vote for the Government's preferred candidate."

Previously, Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy said: "Remarkable. It doesn't stop Julian being chair of committee or sympathy for him across house. It does make it more likely the long-overdue report into Russian interference in our political system is published. A set of own goals of which even Sunderland would be proud ...."

While, Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: "Completely self-defeating act that bears the hallmark of a Government so arrogant it really believes it is above scrutiny. What is in the Russia report that Johnson doesn't want to see the light of day?"

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