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Leading Tory MP calls for reconstitution of key intelligence oversight body

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 6:00 PM  [ Last Update: Tuesday, 23 June 2020 6:11 PM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Tobias Ellwood speaks for a group of influential Tory MPs who traditionally stake out a tough position on national security affairs

The government’s failure to properly reconstitute the House of Commons’ Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has provoked a sharp rebuke from an influential faction of the ruling Tory party.

The ISC is a parliamentary committee tasked with the statutory responsibility to oversee the actions and performance of the UK intelligence community.

In what is being seen as a challenge to the government, senior Tory Tobias Ellwood has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “understand the urgency” of the requirement to swiftly reconstitute the powerful oversight body.

Talking to Sky News, former army officer Ellwood, who is the Conservative MP for the Bournemouth East constituency, stressed the urgency of the situation in the context of prevailing national security threats, notably terrorism and espionage by hostile states.

“I would hate to see the government somehow having anything to hide, or perhaps too distracted to complete this appointment, or even doesn’t value it’s [the ISC’s] role”, Ellwood said.

Saturday’s alleged terror attack in Reading has galvanized sections of Parliament to demand the urgent revival of the ISC.

The previous ISC – like all parliamentary select committees – was disbanded just before last December’s general election.

The ISC was disbanded after its previous chair – dissident Tory Dominic Grieve – oversaw an extensive investigation into suspected Russian interference in British politics.

The ISC produced a report based on its findings but the PM has continually refused to release the report into the public domain.

In addition to terrorism, the alleged threat to British national security by hostile powers like Russia and China is often cited as another pressing reason for maintaining robust oversight over the British intelligence community.

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