Sunday, 3 November 2019

Intelligence and Security Committee Report ~ Russia

On 17 October, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) sent a report to the Prime Minister - see ISC 17 October Russia.

Downing Street has been accused of sitting on the report which examined allegations that Kremlin-sponsored activity distorted the result of the 2016 EU referendum.

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) was first established by the Intelligence Services Act 1994 to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). 

The Justice and Security Act 2013 reformed
the ISC: making it a Committee of Parliament; providing greater powers; and increasing its remit (including oversight of operational activity and the wider intelligence and security activities of Government). Other than the three intelligence and security Agencies, the ISC examines the intelligence-related work of the Cabinet Office including: the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); the Assessments Staff; and the National Security Secretariat. The Committee also provides oversight of Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office. The Committee may also make reports to the Prime Minister on matters which are national security sensitive.

The nine members of the ISC are appointed by Parliament and the Committee reports directly to Parliament. Ministers of the Crown may not be members. 

The Members are subject to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 and have access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The Committee takes evidence from Cabinet Ministers and senior officials – all of which is used to formulate its reports.

The Report "Russia" has not been published and the Chair of the Committee - Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP - is calling for its publication - The Guardian 2 November 2019.  Mr Grieve has said that the report contains knowledge "germane" to voters.

Reports from the committee have to be sent to the Prime Minister - Justice and Security Act 2013 s.3.  
Note s3(4) by which any matter can be excluded from the report by the Prime Minister on one of the specified grounds - e.g. the matter would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Security Service. Mr Grieve states that the Prime Minister's involvement should take 10 days.  The government claims that 6 weeks is required - Sky News 2 November 2019

It is believed that the report contains information concerning Russian interference in British political processes.  An article published by The Guardian 1 November reports that -

"The cross-party committee has been examining Russian interference in British politics for more than a year. It took evidence from both the UK’s spy agencies and experts on Kremlin intelligence and disinformation tactics ..... Members examined claims that the Kremlin tried to distort the result of the 2016 EU referendum, starting work after the former prime minister Theresa May had warned that Russia was sowing discord by “weaponising information” in the UK.

Mr Grieve was one of 21 Conservative MPs who lost their party whip earlier this year although 10 of them have since been reinstated.  Mr Grieve has stated that he will stand as an Independent Candidate in the December general election.

The dissolution of Parliament will terminate the ISC which will have to be reappointed by the new Parliament. Also, its report cannot be laid before Parliament once Parliament is dissolved.

Urgent Question 5 November:

The House of Commons considered an Urgent Question concerning the government not publishing a report prepared by the Intelligence and Security Committee.  See Hansard 5 November 2019 . In the House of Lords there was a Statement about the report - see Hansard House of Lords 5 November.

Media Links:

CNN 9 November - UK inquiry was warned of Russian infilitration, leaked testimony shows

Evening Standard - Make report on Russian meddling public now, says former MI5 chief

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