PM 'parachuting in' Chris Grayling to head intelligence watchdog

Boris Johnson is accused of ‘parachuting in’ loyalist ex-Cabinet minister Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling to head Commons intelligence watchdog

  • Chris Grayling is expected to be installed as chair of the intelligence watchdog 
  • Boris Johnson accused of ‘parachuting in’ the ex-Cabinet minister to key role
  • Committee’s first task to be publishing long-held report on Russian interference

Boris Johnson has been accused of ‘parachuting in’ loyalist ex-Cabinet minister Chris Grayling as chair of the Commons intelligence watchdog.

The former transport secretary is expected to be put forward to head the crucial Intelligence and Security Committee when the membership is decided next week.

The body has not met for more than six months as it has not yet got up and running after the election, with the PM facing claims he is dragging his heels due to a long-delayed report into allegations of Russian interference in UK politics.

MPs will be asked to approve a motion confirming the ISC’s new membership on Monday, ahead of a similar procedure in the Lords on Tuesday.

But SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said that the ‘shameful’ delays were compounded by the decision to ‘parachute’ Mr Grayling into the top post. 


Boris Johnson (left) has been accused of ‘parachuting in’ loyalist ex-Cabinet minister Chris Grayling (right) as chair of the Commons intelligence watchdog

‘Its impartiality from government is critical to its ability to function effectively,’ he said.

‘It is then deeply concerning that the latest plan devised by Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson will aim to parachute Chris Grayling as chair of the committee by putting forward favourable Tory members who will vote him through as chair. 

‘The chair of the ISC has long been appointed by consensus and this move does nothing less than undermine the role of the ISC and breach its independence.’

Labour MP Peter Dowd said: ‘Oh dear. I expect he’ll want to privatise the Intelligence and Security Committee next. Maybe even sell it off to the Russians?’ 

Politicians from across the spectrum, including Conservative former cabinet member David Davis, have been urging the Government to allow the ISC to re-form to publish the Russia report.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The publication will be a matter for the new committee but we will encourage them to publish it as soon as possible.’

The Commons petitions committee wrote to the PM last week urging him to set up the ISC after ‘extensive delays’ and a petition calling for the move received over 100,000 signatures.

Mr Davis previously said there is ‘no acceptable reason for further delay’ and the Government ‘needs to remember that parliamentary accountability is not an optional extra’.

Mr Grayling has been dubbed ‘failing Grayling’ for his involvement in numerous controversies, to chair the ISC.

He is among the MPs nominated for the ISC, and although the committee’s members vote to decide who chairs it there is a Tory majority built in.

Other MPs nominated to the body include Tories Sir John Hayes, Julian Lewis, Mark Pritchard and Theresa Villiers; Labour’s Dame Diana Johnson and Kevan Jones, and the SNP’s Stewart Hosie.

Dominic Grieve, former Tory Cabinet minister and chairman of the ISC, said any new chair would need to hold cross-party ‘respect’. 

Mr Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The whole point about this committee is it is non-partisan. 

Another former Cabinet minister, Theresa Villiers (pictured), has also been nominated to join the key committee

‘The Prime Minister nor anybody should be seeking to tell the committee who should be the chair, it is for the committee to decide under the statute which sets it up.’ 

Asked whether Mr Grayling was a suitable candidate for chair, Mr Grieve said: ‘I don’t have a view for who the right chair should be apart from the fact I’m absolutely clear in my mind it should be a matter for the committee and that the committee should not be put under party political pressure as to who the chair should be.’ 

He added: ‘The chair should be somebody who is respected on a cross-party basis.’ 

Mr Grieve said the release of a long-delayed report into allegations of Russian interference into UK politics could still be weeks away from publication as the committee would need to be inducted and then understand and approve the content of the previous membership’s report for which the evidence dated back to late 2018. 

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