M-2: Russian Interference

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Eva Phillips
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M-2: Russian Interference

Post by Eva Phillips »

Motion: That this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to implement in full the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee concerning Russian interference in British politics before the next General Election.

Proposer(s): Eva Phillips MP and Hilda Harrington MP
Eva Phillips MP
Member of Parliament for Barking (1997 - )
Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health and Social Care (2010 - 2015)
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Eva Phillips
Labour MP
Labour MP
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:39 pm
Constituency: Barking
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Re: M-2: Russian Interference

Post by Eva Phillips »

Mr Speaker,

I rise today to introduce a motion which will commit the government to implementing in full the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee which is currently reviewing allegations of interference by the Russian Federation into British elections and British politics in general. In recent years, many Western democracies have faced growing incidences of Russian aggression and there can be no more serious example of this than the interference of foreign parties into our elections. We have seen a new boldness in the way these incidences occur and indeed, I am sure the whole House would join me in expressing condemnation once again of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

The Skripal case is of particular relevance to this motion Mr Speaker because it relates directly to allegations of Russian interference in both the last General Election and in the Brexit Referendum. In September 2015 during the annual UKIP conference at Doncaster, Andy Wigmore met Alexander Udod, a Russian intelligence officer, now expelled from the UK following the Skripal poisoning. I know that the Intelligence and Security Committee are investigating the links Mr Udod had to British political activists such as Mr Wigmore, in particular, in relation to Arron Banks who of course played a large part in the Vote Leave campaign in 2016. I will not comment on this particular case any further out of respect for the Committee and the work it is undertaking but I would draw the House’s attention to the fact that Mr Banks is also being investigated by the National Crime Agency upon referral from the Electoral Commission.

I should also like to highlight two further examples however which should cause this House grave concern. Firstly we know from the Digital, Culture and Sport Committee’s investigation into disinformation that Russian state media channel RT offered, and I am quoting here, “systematically one-sided coverage”. The Committee has seen research estimating the value of this at between £1.4m and £4.4m. Promotion of fake claims of election fraud via Russia Today were documented during the referendum on Scottish Independence in 2014 and photo shopped images and fake stories were also used to amplify the public impact of terrorist attacks in this country since that time. The aim of this is clearly to undermine public trust in our institutions and must be condemned.

But social media too has become a significant outlet for the spread of disinformation. The Internet Research Agency has identified 3,841 Twitter accounts of Russian origin which contributed to a third of all tweets during the EU Referendum being shared. Needless to say, these tweets endorsed the Leave campaign. The University of Exeter believes this to be consistent with tactics used by Russian troll farms which have been identified as being active in other elections in other countries including the 2016 US Presidential Election. It is clear that Britain faces a serious threat of interference in our electoral process and political life by the Russian Federation and I look forward to the recommendations which will be outlined in the report due for publication by the Intelligence and Security Committee.

However Mr Speaker, this Committee will have been wasting it’s time if we do not see a firm commitment to implementing the recommendations it makes. This is, I am sure we can all agree, time sensitive and steps must be taken before the next General Election. I know that we all remain committed to delivering free and fair elections for the people of this country and where we identify anything which acts a barrier to the smooth running of our electoral process and other political institutions, we must take action. This motion therefore calls for the government to make a firm commitment to take such action before the next General Election, a proposal I am certain will receive support from all sides of this House.
Eva Phillips MP
Member of Parliament for Barking (1997 - )
Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health and Social Care (2010 - 2015)
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