Tory minister says 'we should be concerned' about Russian election interference, but report on Russian interference cannot be published before election

Ashley Cowburn
Sky News

A Tory minister has said “we obviously should be concerned” over Russian interference in the general election, despite Boris Johnson’s government blocking a report into the state’s alleged involvement in British politics ahead of next week’s poll.

It comes in light of claims that official UK government documents leaked online – detailing plans for a post-Brexit US trade deal – may have been posted by a Russian interference campaign.

The 451-page document was unveiled by Jeremy Corbyn at a Westminster press conference last month, as he claimed it was evidence the NHS was “on the table” in UK-US trade talks post Brexit.

The Labour leader said that under Mr Johnson’s Conservative government the NHS will be “up for sale”, adding: “He tried to cover it up in a secret agenda and today it has been exposed”.

Addressing its origin, Reddit, a social media platform which a user used to distribute the dossier, said in statement last night: “We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK.

“We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it, and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.

Pressed on the claims by Reddit, the cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said “we obviously should be concerned”, claiming: “Those who seem to know more, who follow when information like this is published, are asserting that this has the hallmarks of Russian interference.

She added: “It’s something we have to be alive to and watch in terms of our democratic processes. As you say the content already – the prime minister had made very clear that actually does not reflect government policy, the NHS is absolutely not for sale, not on the table.

“If this is the result of overseas interference, trying to influence elections, then obviously that is a real concern and it’s good to call these things out as quickly as possible.”

In November, Mr Johnson insisted there was “absolutely” nothing to hide in a report by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) into possible Russian interference in the UK democratic process, which will not be released ahead of the general election in five days’ time.

At the time, the chair of the committee and former Tory minister, Dominic Grieve, attacked the government over its refusal to publish the report, describing it as “jaw dropping”.

Pressed on why the government was not releasing the ISC report, Ms Morgan claimed said the “speed of which parliament was dissolved” once the election was called – to hold a vote on 12 December – meant it was not possible. “There has to be a parliament to publish that report to,” she added.

Earlier, Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said it would be “perfectly legitimate” for the government to launch an inquiry into the leak and any Russian links.

But he went on: “If we want to get to the bottom of the extent to which the Russian state interferes in elections, can we please publish the Intelligence and Security Committee Report?”

“Let’s get that out there,” he added. “That should have been published ages ago.”

The Reddit post, titled “Official-sensitive: Great Britain is practically standing on her knees working on a trade agreement with the US”, were only seen by a handful of users before Mr Corbyn came forward with them.

“I suspect that this publication will make some noise, so that’s why you probably don’t have much time to look through the internal secret documents that contain specific details of the upcoming FTA between the UK and the US,” the Reddit user wrote.

“Three years, six bilateral meetings of the UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG), 12 chapter-level discussions, 451 pages of reports. A detailed analysis and processing of such an amount of material will require a lot of time, knowledge and definitely more than one pair of eyes, so I’m dumping this here.”

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