Today in Parliament is an opportunity for the Government to begin to deliver on a promise that they made to people throughout the country several months ago. It is of course vital that our Sussex MPs will all vote to support this activity. One of the reasons why this clearly matters so much to Sussex residents is reflected in the number of signatures on a petition which reached a 100,000 three weeks ago on the 27th June. The subject is the re-establishing of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) which will enable a number of matters to be addressed that have not taken place since the General Election last December. A very significant one which was the theme of the petition was the publication of a report which examines Russian activity including allegations of espionage, subversion and interference in elections and also the European Referendum. The previous ISC was proposing to publish the report before the General Election but the Prime Minister delayed this until after Parliament was dissolved on 5th November 2019. This happened even though he was handed the report on 17th October. The petition was established in early March and by the second week of March it had passed the 10,000 signatures. At that point the Government responded by stating very clearly
“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 that concept of a normal pace is that about 23 weeks after a General Election, that an ISC would be formed. If this was taken seriously the current ISC would have been formed on the 21st May and assuming that the Russian report had been published a few days later, there would have been enough time to extend the EU transition if the report had raised any concerns about the basis of our 2016 Referendum. Sadly however the ISC is yet to be formed but today we have been promised is the day when Parliament can set out to approve this. There are 14 Sussex constituencies that have expressed more support for this petition than the average across the UK. The most significant number is in Brighton Pavilion, but then the next two largest support areas are Hove and Lewes. There are a number of other areas that have also made it very clear that they wish this report to be published and called for this many weeks ago. However along with the need for ISC to publish the report, it can also begin to deal with other issues including the proposed challenge of the Ministry of Defence by Dominic Cummings which is something that needs to be handled much more appropriately than the way the Prime Minister is responding at present.
Of course if the MPs in Sussex are not convinced by the number of signatures in the petition and by the promise from the Government on 11th March as reproduced above, there has been a large number of questions and responses raised in the House of Commons and House of Lords. There was a question at the end of March when the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, Lord True stated “Once a new Committee has been established, it will be up to them to choose when they wish to publish it. The process to establish a new Committee has already begun.” And then again at the beginning of May he was asked a similar question and stated “Members are appointed by the Houses of Parliament (having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition). The Committee is being formed in the normal way and as quickly as current circumstances allow.” Then seven weeks later on 25th June just before the petition hit its 100,000 number Jacob Rees-Mogg responded to a question with “The ISC is going through the normal processes and we look forward to its being set up in due course.” So it now appears that once the committee is formed, assuming that the votes that take place today, that it can deliver on the issue that our residents have been calling for, over several months for the report. It would be fantastic if one or more of our local MPs were invited to join the Committee but whatever the case we now need the Government to deliver on its claim going back many months. Once done there are a significant number of other petitions to be addressed!