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Tory MP blames MI5 and Gordon Brown over Russia interference 'They need to be clear'


Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Mr Seely admitted GCHQ failed to focus on Russia and other enemy states’ activities in the UK until 2015 because it was too focussed on ISIS. But the Tory MP claimed MI5 should have been clearer on the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and added Gordon Brown’s Government failed to recognise the Russian President’s threat of a new cold war back in 2007.

He said: “Firstly, we know that GCHQ only started looking seriously at state activity, state rivals and state enemies, really from about 2014, 2015 onwards because it was so focussed on ISIS and other things.

“So it’s not a mistake but that’s an explainer. Secondly, if anything MI5 needs to be much clearer.

“If it has concerns, if it finds bad things happening, just because it’s happening in the political world that is not a reason for not telling its masters.

“Thirdly, the reason I’m a bit sensitive at criticising this Government, it’s not because this Government is around now and I want to support it, but because Dominic Raab is right when he says things are changing.

“This report was written a year ago but actually the cold war, Putin declared the new cold war at the Munich conference back in February 2007.

“So really, the complacency has been from 2007 through really maybe a year or two years ago when we started being forced to be real about the threat from Russia.”

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Security services are set to be given extra powers to try to prevent foreign interference in British democracy following a damning report from MPs on the potential threat posed by Russia.

It is understood Prime Minister Boris Johnson will strengthen counter-espionage laws in the wake of the bombshell study by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

The move comes with Labour poised to go on the offensive on the issue on Wednesday, Parliament’s final sitting day before the summer recess.

Labour has accused the Government of failing in its response to the security threat posed to UK democracy by Russia, after the long-delayed ISC report insisted London was too slow to recognise Moscow’s menace to British democratic processes.

Speaking ahead of an urgent question in Parliament on Wednesday, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that “on every level, the Government’s response does not appear to be equal to the threat”.

“While on key issues it is clear that there is no overall strategic response to this challenge – little wonder the Government have been so keen to delay the publication.

“The UK has world leading security services, yet this report makes clear they have not received the strategic support, the legislative tools or the resources necessary to defend our interests.

“The Government need to urgently outline how they will address these systemic failings.”

It has been suggested the UK could introduce a “register of foreign agents” like the ones in place in the US and Australia as part of a stronger move against foreign interference in internal affairs.

Under the American system, people who work for foreign governments and officials have to register with US Justice Department and file reports about their activities.

In an explosive commentary, the ISC said the Government was slow to recognise the potential threat posed by Russia to British democratic processes and did not properly consider whether Moscow could interfere in the Brexit referendum until after the event.


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