Russia report committee to be set up

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The Intelligence and Security Committee is made up of MPs from all the main parties in Westminster

MPs will vote next week to re-establish Parliament’s powerful Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

The committee – which is due to publish a delayed report on alleged Russian interference in UK politics – hasn’t met since before the 2019 election.

Opposition parties have previously accused the government of trying to escape scrutiny.

MPs will be asked to approve the committee’s new membership on Monday.

Membership of the committee has to be approved by the prime minister, and No 10 has now cleared the list of MPs it wishes to appoint, meaning it can go to a vote in the Commons.

The BBC understands the list includes five Tory MPs, which would the government majority control of the nine-member committee. It could raise questions about the committee’s independence and ability to scrutinise government decisions.

Our political correspondent Nick Eardley says the Conservative members put forward by Downing Street are Chris Grayling, John Hayes, Julian Lewis, Mark Pritchard, and Theresa Villiers.

The Labour MPs on the committee are set to be Kevan Jones and Dame Diana Johnson, and the SNP will have one representative – Stewart Hosie, A member of the House of Lords will also be nominated.

The ISC oversees the UK’s intelligence community, but it has not met for well over six months – the longest hiatus since it was established in 1994.

Eight months after it was completed, the report into alleged Russian interference in the UK remains unpublished.

The results of the inquiry were passed to Boris Johnson in October last year. The inquiry began in November 2017.

A government spokesman said Boris Johnson approved the report for publication in December 2019.

But it was up to the committee, whose previous members investigated and wrote the report, to publish it.

This process has been controversial and lengthy.

Opposition parties have regularly complained about how long it has taken to establish the committee.

They sent their nominations months ago and believe No 10 has been stalling.

Even some Conservatives have been frustrated about the delays and confusion about who will and won’t be on it.

It’s even been claimed some were threatened with removal from the Conservative list for disloyalty.

But now – seven months after the election – the committee should be confirmed early next week.

I hear from sources that former transport secretary Chris Grayling is the most likely chair, but some are very opposed to him getting the job.

This all means the Russia Report can be published soon. No 10 said this morning encouraged the committee to do so as soon as possible.

On Wednesday, MPs on the Petitions Committee called on the PM to take action after 100,000 people signed a petition on the issue.

The committee chairwoman Catherine McKinnell urged Mr Johnson to “expedite the establishment” of the Intelligence and Security Committee to enable the report’s publication.

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse said the delayed report must be published “before the summer recess” parliamentary break (22 July) so MPs can scrutinise it.

“A failure to do so would damage the UK’s standing in the world and continue to raise further questions about the Conservative Party’s deep connections to Russian oligarchs,” she said.

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