The government’s apparent refusal to release a report into Russian infiltration in the UK and to delay establishing a key scrutiny committee has been condemned as unprecedented and “utterly reprehensible”.
The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has not met since before the general election in December – its longest break since it was established in 1994 – and critics say the government has sat on the committee’s report into Russian interference for nine months.
The former chair of the committee Dominic Grieve said the report had been sent to Downing Street on 17 October and was ready for publication once it had been signed off, a process that usually takes up to 10 days.
The Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson, 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.
Thirty cross-party MPs wrote to the prime minister earlier this week urging for the reconstitution of the committee, saying the refusal to publish the report raised serious questions about the “transparency and integrity” of the democratic process.
It said: “The publication last month of the latest donations to the Conservative party has highlighted once again the party’s deep connections to Russian oligarchs, raising further questions as to why you are so reluctant to reconstitute the ISC.
“According to the Hansard Society, ‘at nearly six months, the time taken to appoint the ISC on this occasion has now exceeded that taken to appoint the committee after every previous general election since the committee was established in 1994’.
“It is untenable for you to continue to block the publication of the Russia report. The situation is an affront to democracy.”
The ISC is one of the most important committees in parliament, overseeing seven agencies and departments involved in UK intelligence.
Conor McGinn, the shadow Home Office minister, tweeted: “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.”