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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Boris Johnson under fire over spy report delays

The intelligence and security Ccommittee has called out Boris Johnson over government delays preventing the publication of its annual report on Britain’s spy agencies.

MPs and peers on the powerful committee have demanded Downing Street take action so their audit of the intelligence and security agencies can be released before Parliament rises for Christmas recess on Dec 16.

In a statement posted on the ISC website this week, the committee disclosed that it handed its annual report to Mr Johnson on Oct 25.

While legislation maintains that the Prime Minister “must consider whether there is any information in the report which, if published, would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the security and intelligence agencies”, the period allocated for this review is 10 days.

The committee highlighted that this deadline for No 10 redacting material from their report fell on Nov 8.

It said: “The committee is still hopeful that the Prime Minister will provide notification by Nov 26 – the last possible day if the report (which has already been delayed for six months by late returns by the Government) is to be published before the House rises for Christmas recess.”

It comes in the wake of another major row erupting previously over Mr Johnson’s administration blocking for nine months the publication of an ISC report on Russian interference in UK politics and elections.

That delay, branded “utterly reprehensible” by MPs, led to suspicion that Downing Street was attempting to “sit on” the dossier on the basis of its contents.

Once published, the 50-page document found that the British government and intelligence agencies did not conduct a thorough assessment of Kremlin attempts to meddle with the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Campaigners later launched action to try to compel Mr Johnson to launch an inquiry into Moscow interference in UK elections, but the High Court rejected the attempt.

The ISC also produced two reports in the five domestic terror incidents that took place in 2017 at Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Finsbury Park, and Parsons Green.

Its annual report offers an update on the often clandestine activities of Britain’s intelligence and security agencies. 

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