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Mon, 6 April 2020

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Conservative anger as Boris Johnson makes Chris Grayling chair of intelligence committee

Conservative anger as Boris Johnson makes Chris Grayling chair of intelligence committee
3 min read

Conservative MPs have reacted with anger after Chris Grayling was handed a seat on Parliament's prestigious Intelligence and Security Committee.


The Sun reports that Boris Johnson will order Tory members of the powerful body - which scrutinises the work of the UK's intelligence agencies - to elect the former Cabinet minister its new chairman.

The move could raise eyebrows because of Mr Grayling's association with a string of controversial government projects, including a now-scrapped shake-up of the probation service and his stint as Transport Secretary during the botched rollout of new railway timetables. 

The former Cabinet minister was also among the most high-profile backers of Mr Johnson's Conservative leadership campaign.

One Tory MP told the paper: "Giving Grayling the ISC job is going down very badly, and is being seen as a blatant ‘jobs for the boys’.

"There were some eminently more qualified candidates to chair it, but clearly Boris owes him one."

The reported move has already been condemned by the Liberal Democrats.

The party's acting leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This is yet another blatant power grab by Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings. They are trying to prevent anyone from holding them to account in a meaningful way.

“The Intelligence and Security Committee does crucial work holding the Government and security services to account. It scrutinises evidence deemed too sensitive for the rest of us to see.”

And he added: “The public needs to have confidence that the Committee is independent of Government. Installing a lackey of the Prime Minister – especially one with as little credibility as Chris Grayling – badly undermines that confidence.

“Principled Conservative MPs should refuse to go along with this latest authoritarian move.”

RUSSIA REPORT

The ISC can grill ministers, security chiefs and senior officials as part of its work.

It is made up of nine members, who are all bound by the Official Secrets Act and given access to highly classified material. 

Its previous chair was former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who was a fierce critic of the Government's approach to Brexit.

Other MPs reportedly in line for a place on the committee include ex-ministers Theresa Villiers and Sir John Hayes.

The newly-formed ISC's first job will be to publish a long-delayed report on Russian interference in UK democracy.

The inquiry is said to have taken evidence from members of the intelligence services and looked into claims that the Kremlin tried to influence the outcome of the EU referendum in 2016 as well as the following year's general election.

But its findings were not made public before the general election, sparking anger Dominic Grieve, who pointed out that the report had been sent to Number 10 for clearance in October. 

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