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11 March 2020

Why Chris Grayling will not necessarily be in charge of the Russian interference report

It is not in Boris Johnson’s power to automatically appoint Grayling as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

By George Grylls

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) is an arcane parliamentary body. Its members are appointed, not elected, with spaces reserved for three Conservative MPs, three Labour MPs, an SNP MP and two peers. These members are vetted by the security services and never leak information – often it would be a criminal offence to do so.

The ISC has recently been thrust into the limelight owing to the report into alleged Russian interference in UK democracy, which was authored by the last parliament’s committee but will be released by this one’s. Today, the Sun has revealed the names of the three Tory MPs that Boris Johnson has appointed to the committee: Theresa Villiers, John Hayes and Chris Grayling. Grayling has been nominated by Johnson as committee chair.

Cue opprobrium from pundits and politicians alike, who point to Grayling’s patchy record at the justice and transport departments and wonder how he can manage one of the most serious jobs in Westminster. 

But at this juncture it is worth issuing a necessary and technical corrective. Johnson has whipped Tory MPs to vote for Grayling to be chair. But the ISC elects its chair in internal elections. Grayling might be the favourite at this early stage, but there are six other members of the committee who might vote for an alternative chair. Watch this space.

[See also: Will Boris Johnson release the Russian interference report after the cabinet reshuffle?]

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