Britain’s government refused again Tuesday to publish a report into possible Russian interference in U.K. elections, arguing that Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s government needs more time to properly scrutinize the document.
The Intelligence and Security Committee report was sent to the prime minister on Oct. 17, and it needs government approval before it is made public. Unless the report is released by early Wednesday when Parliament is dissolved, it won’t be made public before the December general election.
Lawmakers from a range of parties, including the Johnson’s Conservatives, urged the government to publish the report during a debate in the House of Commons. But Foreign Office minister Christopher Pincher argued it was “not unusual” for the review of such reports to “take some time.”
“It’s not as if the prime minister has not had one or two other things to do during the last several weeks,” he told the House of Commons. “It’s not unusual that the turnaround time is what it is.”
Opposition lawmaker Emily Thornberry accused the government of failing to disclose the report because it would lead to other questions about the links between Russia and the campaign to leave the European Union, which had been spearheaded by Johnson.
“If the minister of state is going to dismiss all this as conspiracy theories or smears and say it has nothing to do with the delay of this report, then I say back to him, prove it,” she said. “Publish this report and let us see for ourselves otherwise there is only one question: what have you got to hide?”
Earlier Wednesday, the former head of the U.K. domestic spy agency urged the government to publish the report. Jonathan Evans, who was director-general of MI5 from 2007-2013, said part of the reason to have a committee was to inform the public.
“If the government have a reason why this should not be published before the election, then I think they should make it very clear what that reason is,” he told the BBC
Johnson’s Downing Street office says the report has not yet gone through the clearance process necessary for publication.