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Intelligence and Security Committee Report on Russia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:35 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Independent, Beaconsfield 12:35 pm, 5th November 2019

Mr Speaker, may I once again warmly congratulate you on your election?

The Intelligence and Security Committee operates on a completely non-partisan basis to try to put information into the public domain in the national interest. This report was completed in March of this year after many months of work. There then began a process of correction and redaction needed to get it published, and that process, which involved the agencies and the Cabinet Office, was completed by early October, when the agencies and the national security secretariat indicated that they were happy that the published form would not damage any operational capabilities of the agencies. That is why, on 17 October, the report was sent to the Prime Minister for final confirmation.

It is a long-standing agreement that the Prime Minister will endeavour to respond within 10 days. The Minister has indicated that there have been instances where further delay has crept in, but my secretariat tells me that it is unprecedented that we should have had no response at all explaining why any further delay is required in this case. The report has to be laid before Parliament when it is sitting. If it is not laid before Parliament ceases to sit this evening, it will not be capable of being laid until the Committee is reformed. In 2017, that took nearly six months.

I ask the Minister, how is it that the Prime Minister has claimed, through the No. 10 spokesman, that there must be further delays for consultation about national security, when the agencies themselves indicated publicly this morning, in response to journalistic inquiries, that publication will not prejudice the discharge of their functions? So for what purpose is the Prime Minister still considering it? It certainly cannot be the risk to national security, as the agencies themselves have said that there is none.

Will the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister does not have carte blanche to alter our reports or remove material from them, and that, if he wishes to exercise a veto over publication, he must give the Committee a credible explanation as to why he is doing so? Will he also explain why No. 10 spokesmen insisted that no publication should take place because weeks of further interdepartmental consultations were needed, when, I have to say to the Minister, this explanation was plainly bogus? Finally, will he explain why No. 10 spokesmen suggested that parts of the report had been leaked by the Committee, when it is plainly obvious to anybody who looks at the journalistic speculations that they have not? Would he now like to take the opportunity of withdrawing that particular slur, which came from No. 10?