LONDON — The U.K. government is refusing to release a report into Russian interference in British politics until after the election.
The government has come under sustained pressure to clear the report, which was prepared by parliament’s intelligence and security committee, for publication. No. 10 Downing Street has said it will not do this until after the election.
The report was completed in March, revised and sent to the government on October 17. It is based on information from the British intelligence agencies and third-party experts, and requires clearance from the prime minister before it can be made public.
Former Tory MP Dominic Grieve, who chairs the intelligence and security committee, was granted an urgent question in the House of Commons on the issue on Tuesday.
“My secretariat tell me that it is unprecedented that we should have no response at all explaining why any further delay is required in this case,” Grieve said. “For what purpose is the prime minister still considering it? It certainly can’t be the risk to national security because the [intelligence] agencies themselves have said there is none.”
Labour said the report’s delay was “unjustifiable, unprecedented and clearly politically motivated.”
Christopher Pincher, the minister for Europe, replied that the delay was not abnormal. “It is not unusual for such reports to take six weeks to turn around, anywhere between three and four weeks for a response from the government to be forthcoming,” he told MPs.
Pincher said in his concluding statement that the prime minister had a duty to look “carefully and considerately at such reports” and that there was “no set timeline for a response.”
But several Conservative MPs pressed the government to clear the release of the report for transparency purposes and to prevent the promotion of conspiracy theories.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said that by not releasing the report, “all [the minister] does is create a vacuum for the paranoid fantasies from the opposition benches to fill.”
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Keith Simpson, a Conservative MP and member of the intelligence and security committee, said it was “a question of principle as much as anything else” and asked why the report would not be released before parliament broke up for the election.
Tory MP Richard Benyon said withholding its publication had “created the climate which has allowed some quite bizarre conspiracy theories to be peddled,” adding that “it would be much better to publish what has been written.”
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said the report’s delay was “unjustifiable, unprecedented and clearly politically motivated.”
Earlier, former Director General of MI5 Jonathan Evans also backed calls for the report to be released.
If the report is not cleared for publication before parliament is dissolved midnight Tuesday, it will not be released until after the December 12 election.
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