MP anger over delays in setting up spy watchdog and release of Russia report

Anger is growing in parliament at an unprecedented delay in finalising a group of MPs charged with scrutinising the UK’s spy agencies and releasing a key report on Russia.

Tobias Ellwood, a senior Conservative MP, urged Boris Johnson to understand the urgency of the need to reconstitute the powerful Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

“I would hate to see the government somehow having anything to hide, or perhaps too distracted to complete this appointment, or even doesn’t value it’s role,” he said in an interview with Sky News’s Mark Austin.

“I’m sure none of those apply in this situation,” he said, adding: “The quicker we can get this committee in place the better.”

The previous committee – like all select committees – was disbanded ahead of last December’s election.

Its chair, Dominic Grieve, an eminent Conservative MP before he fell out with his party over Brexit, oversaw a key investigation into suspected Russian interference in the UK.

A report was produced but Boris Johnson did not give a sign-off required for it to be released before parliament was dissolved despite intense lobbying by Mr Grieve.

The former attorney general subsequently lost his Beaconsfield seat when he ran as an independent.

It has since been reported that the prime minister would like Chris Grayling, a former transport secretary, to become the new ISC chair but the government has yet to announce a full list of Tory members.

It means the committee has not sat for six months – the longest period without parliamentary scrutiny of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ since the committee was first established in 1994.

The absence of such an important body is all the more acute amid an investigation into a stabbing attack on Saturday in Reading that police are treating as a terrorist incident.

The suspected knifeman had been on MI5’s radar briefly last year.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was challenged on the delay in forming the committee as she faced questions in the Commons on the attack.

The SNP’s David Linden (Glasgow East) asked when members would be appointed.

Responding, Ms Patel said: “I understand that the appointments for the committee are under way and when that selection has been completed all members of the House will be notified through usual channels.”

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