Minister refuses to guarantee political independence of Intelligence and Security Committee

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs, Alistair Carmichael, has today voiced concern about the political independence of the Intelligence Security Committee after the government refused to answer questions from Julian Lewis MP, and repeated by Mr Carmichael, about allegations of political interference. Mr Carmichael also noted the importance of launching a full investigation of Russian interference to ensure confidence in electoral integrity.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:

“It was not lost on the House that the Minister did not answer the question given by the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Will he now do so please?”

Responding for the government, James Brokenshire MP said:

“I was very clear as to the weight and the importance of the independent scrutiny that the ISC provides and why from my perspective and the government’s perspective we will always reflect carefully on the incredibly important work and the importance of that being conducted in an independent way that the ISC has always fulfilled its role and I am quite clear that that will continue into the future.”

Speaking after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“I’m disappointed that the minister dodged this vital question again. The government needs to understand that many of us – on all sides of the political divide – are truly worried about the implications of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report. The idea that having interfered in elections before and after, Russia decided to ignore the EU referendum is simply not credible, and the idea that successive Conservative governments have chosen not to investigate this for political reasons is frankly shameful. The Prime Minister said today that there was no smoking gun. You will not find evidence if you do not look for it.

“If we do not investigate this issue fully we send a message to Russia and to any other foreign power that seeks to influence our democracy that we will turn a blind eye – as long as that foreign interference is convenient to Boris Johnson and his cronies.”

He continued:

“Let me be clear – this is not about overturning the referendum result of 2016. We have left the EU; that time has passed. It is absolutely vital for all of us – whether we voted leave or remain, whatever our position on independence or any other issue – that our elections are secure and that we can have confidence in their integrity. If the government does not take action on this and enact the recommendations within the ISC report in full then we risk a long term corrosion of our politics.”

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