Delay in release of Russian influence report 'not normal', says Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Sir Malcolm agrees with comments made by Hillary Clinton. Picture: PA/AFP/Getty Images
Sir Malcolm agrees with comments made by Hillary Clinton. Picture: PA/AFP/Getty Images
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The delay in the release of a report examining Russian influence in British politics is "not normal", a former chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has said.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind said "it is an absurd position that Number 10 Downing Street have put themselves in".

His comments came after Hillary Clinton said it was "inexplicable and shameful" that the UK Government will not publish the report until after the General Election on December 12.

The House of Commons was previously told a report by the ISC was sent to the Prime Minister for approval on October 17.

Sir Malcolm, a former foreign secretary and MP for Kensington, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When you have a report on whether there's been Russian interference in our elections, in our domestic politics and we have a General Election coming up, which means that the ISC is dissolved as Parliament is dissolved, then as - Hillary Clinton is entirely correct, it is an absurd position that Number 10 Downing Street have put themselves in."

He said there was a "lot of speculation", adding: "The proper course of action would have been to - for the Prime Minister to invite the chair of the committee Dominic Grieve on a Privy Council basis, to have a private conversation as to why unfortunately it's not possible to release the report, then Grieve could come to his own view as to whether that was reasonable or not, now that has not happened."

Sir Malcolm said the delay could be two to three months, which made it all the more intolerable.

He said: "The Prime Minister has been totally in support of sanctions because sanctions are imposed on Russia as a result of the Crimea and matters of that kind.

"So there's no self-interest that the Prime Minister could have, if some individuals in the Conservative Party have been receiving money from Russians.

"He would be as anxious as the rest of us to see that exposed and be grateful to the committee for identifying them if that's what they do."

Although there has been no indication of the precise contents of the report, it will assess the threat posed by Moscow to Britain's democratic processes following an 18-month inquiry into illicit Russian activities in Britain.

The Sunday Times previously claimed nine Russian business people who have donated money to the Conservative Party were named in the dossier.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who has seen the report, has stressed its publication is essential ahead of the General Election, as it contains information "germane" to voters.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has written to Boris Johnson demanding publication of the report.

The bureau said the letter makes clear that if he fails to release it, lawyers have been instructed to challenge that decision by way of an urgent application for judicial review.

They said they were giving the Prime Minister six days to respond.