The Government has failed in its response to the security threat posed to UK democracy by Russia, Labour has said.
Criticism from the opposition comes after a long-delayed report by the influential Commons Intelligence and Security Committee insisted London was too slow to recognise Moscow’s menace to British democratic processes.
Ministers have been accused of failing to probe whether Russia sought to interfere in the EU referendum. MI5 was also criticised for its response to the committee as it investigated whether Moscow sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 Brexit vote.
The committee said: “The UK Government has actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered. We were told that they hadn’t seen any evidence, but that is meaningless if they hadn’t looked for it.”
Speaking ahead of an urgent question in Parliament on Wednesday, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said that “on every level, the Government’s response does not appear to be equal to the threat”.
“The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russia exposes deep systemic failings in Government approach to security,” Mr Thomas-Symonds said.
“This report outlines the scale of the shortcomings of the Government’s response to maintaining our national security in the face of what is clearly a growing and significant threat from Russia.
“The report outlines a litany of hostile state activity, from cyber warfare, interfering in democratic processes, acts of violence on UK soil and illicit finance.
“On every level the Government’s response does not appear to be equal to the threat.”
The committee questioned whether the Government “took its eye off the ball because its focus on counter-terrorism”.
“It was the opinion of the Committee that until recently the Government had badly underestimated the response required to the Russian threat — and is still playing catch up,” they said.
Mr Thomas-Symonds said the Government need to “urgently outline how they will address these systemic failings”.
“While on key issues it is clear that there is no overall strategic response to this challenge – little wonder the Government have been so keen to delay the publication,” he said.
“The UK has world leading security services, yet this report makes clear they have not received the strategic support, the legislative tools or the resources necessary to defend our interests.
“The Government need to urgently outline how they will address these systemic failings.”
In response to the long-awaited report, the Government said: “We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU referendum.”
Downing Street insisted that the result of the 2016 EU referendum was “absolutely” fair.
Pressed on why the Government had not looked for any evidence, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Our intelligence and security agencies produce regular assessments of the threat posed by hostile state activities, including any potential interference in past or current UK democratic processes.”