Controversial Russia report into alleged UK election meddling to be released within days

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
Boris Johnson and Russian president Vladimir Putin pictured at a peace summit on Libya in Berlin in January. A House of Commons committee is set to release a report on alleged Russian interference in UK politics. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson and Russian president Vladimir Putin pictured at a summit in Berlin in January. (Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The House of Commons intelligence and security committee (ISC) is set to publish its eagerly anticipated report on alleged Russian interference in UK politics.

The ISC said it will be published before parliament rises for the summer on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson was heavily criticised for blocking its publication ahead of the general election in December last year.

So, why is the report important and why has there been such a long delay? Yahoo News UK explains...

What will be in the report?

The 50-page document will address claims of Russian meddling in British politics following an 18-month inquiry by the ISC.

There has been no indication about the exact contents of the report, though one key topic is expected to be the 2016 EU referendum.

When was it meant to be published?

There was never a set date, with the government able to choose when it is released.

However, we do know the ISC submitted it to Johnson on 17 October last year, meaning it has already been in existence for nine months.

ISC reports are handed to the government before publication to ensure no sensitive information is inadvertently made public.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 06: Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks onstage at the launch of the Conservative Party's General Election campaign at the National Exhibition Centre on November 6, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson visited HM The Queen earlier today to officially dissolve Parliament before heading to the West Midlands to launch the Conservative Party general election campaign. The British people will go to the polls on December 12th for the first winter election in nearly a century. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson refused to publish the Russia report before the 2019 general election. (Getty Images)

For it to be published, however, parliament has to be sitting – and it dissolved on 6 November ahead of the election.

On the day before dissolution, opposition MPs had demanded its release. Labour’s then-shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry asked: “What on earth do they have to hide?”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab insisted ISC reports “go through a number of different stages of clearance” and Johnson ultimately refused to publish the report ahead of the election.

So why wasn’t it published when Parliament returned after the general election?

The prime minister signed off the report on 16 December, four days after his landslide election win.

However, it could only be published when the ISC reformed in the new parliament – and that only happened on Monday.

In February, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused Johnson of an “intentional delay” in convening the ISC.

Even the PM’s Conservative ally, David Davis, said last month: “Six months is far too long a hiatus in the oversight.”

Under the stewardship of new chair Dr Julian Lewis – who beat Johnson’s favoured candidate Chris Grayling to the role on Wednesday and was subsequently removed from the Tory Party whip – the ISC announced on Thursday that the report will finally be published before the summer recess.

It came as Raab said in a written statement that the government “is almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 general election through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents”.

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What has Johnson said about the report?

During last year’s election campaign, Johnson insisted there was “no evidence” of Russian interference.

On 15 November, he said: “There’s no evidence of that and you’ve got to be very careful before you... you simply can’t cast aspersions on everybody who comes from a certain country, just because of their nationality.”

On 22 November, he said: “There is absolutely no evidence that I know of to show any interference in any British electoral event.”