It is lovely that Members of Parliament have had a few days break which began on Wednesday night, 20th May, but now they are back at work today with some real challenges. One of these is the incompetent approach of bringing all of the 650 MPs back into Central London from all over the UK, forcing many to stay with colleagues in second homes. This is clearly a failure to respond to the requirements set out by the Government for people to remain in their primary residences. Then there is the fact that they are not working from their main homes which again is a call from Boris Johnson, as recently as Wednesday 27th May. It is very simple in that all MPs could be home based with a small number coordinating debates from Westminster. Most parts of the UK have got used to video conferencing and this has been happening in Parliament since their return from the previous recession. They began using the video conferencing arrangement on 27th April and it has worked reasonably well. Later on in May they added in the facility for digital voting and that allows all MPs to vote without having to queue for many minutes in Westminster and given that only 50 or so MPs can enter the Chamber at any one time, the majority will not be able to take part in any debates unless the video conferencing arrangement is set up again.
Whatever their decisions about working from home or not, and voting using technology or using the arrangement that Jacob Rees-Mogg has insisted on which goes back several centuries, there is also the requirement for MPs to debate some of the Petitions that have been signed over recent months and that have not yet been debated, even though to date there are 17 that have passed the 100,000 mark. However alongside these 17 petitions this one which on Saturday passed the 60,000 mark and of course this means it is a long way from 100,000 given that it was started in March. However the publication of this report is something that Parliament should do through the Intelligence and Security Committee and given that it could have been published back in November or December and we are now 6 months on from that point, there is surely no reason for it to be delayed. As their website points out:
The Committee has produced a report on the Russian threat to the UK. The report was still awaiting confirmation from the Prime Minister that it could be published when Parliament was dissolved for the 2019 General Election. The Committee has also produced an Annual Report for 2018-2019 which is similarly awaiting confirmation.
In addition, the Committee was in the process of a further four Inquiries at the time of dissolution:
- an Inquiry into national security issues relating to China;
- an Inquiry into Right Wing Terrorism;
- an examination of the current threat from Northern Ireland-Related Terrorism; and
- a case study on GCHQ procurement.
On 13 December No. 10 wrote to the Committee Secretariat to notify it that the Prime Minister has now confirmed that there is no material in the Committee’s Russia Report which, if published, would be prejudicial to the discharge of the functions of the security and intelligence Agencies, and that therefore the Report may be published once the new Committee is appointed.
A few days after this petition was formed and began to gain some numbers it was made public that Chris Grayling was going to be appointed as Chair of the ISC. This was around the 11th March when there were 50,000 signatures. A week later on the 19th March the Government responded to the petition as it had gone way past the 10,000 signatures. It stated the following comments:
The Prime Minister cleared the ISC’s Russia report on 13 December 2019. The Russia Report is the property of the ISC and is for them to publish once the normal reappointment process is complete……Once the new Committee has been re-appointed, it will be for the ISC to decide when the Russia report should be published. Members of the ISC are appointed by Parliament having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The new Committee is being formed in the normal way and at the normal pace. Following the 8 June 2017 General Election, the Committee was appointed on 16 November 2017.
So if we take that guidance, the 2017 process took five months and one week to form their new ISC after their General Election. It is five months and three weeks since the last General Election and so there is no excuse for the ISC not to have been formed by now and then for the Russia report along with all of the other matters to be published.