Exclusive: Green co-leader Caroline Lucas suggests ‘astonishing’ delay in publication is down to reluctance to criticise Saudi Arabia
A report on the foreign funding of extremism in the UK was given to Downing Street last year, it has been revealed, but Theresa May is still to decide whether to make its findings public.
The Green party co-leader, Caroline Lucas, said the delay in publishing the Home Office investigation, believed to focus on Saudi Arabia, “leaves question marks over whether their decision is influenced by our diplomatic ties”.
Since the beginning of her premiership, May has sought to deepen the UK’s relationship with the Gulf, visiting Saudi Arabia as one of her first trips after triggering the formal Brexit process in March, a highly symbolic move.
The whereabouts of the report into foreign funding of extremism and radicalisation in the UK became a controversial issue in the final days of the general election after the terror attacks in Manchester and London Bridge.
It was commissioned by David Cameron and approved by May as part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats to secure the party’s support before a crucial vote on airstrikes in Syria in December 2015.
In written answers to Lucas this week, both the Home Office and Downing Street said the prime minister was personally responsible for deciding whether to release the report.
The Home Office minister Sarah Newton said: “The review into the funding of Islamist extremism in the UK was commissioned by the former prime minister and reported to the home secretary and the prime minister in 2016.
“The review has improved the government’s understanding of the nature, scale and sources of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK. Publication of the review is a decision for the prime minister.”
This week, Lucas resubmitted her parliamentary question on the review’s whereabouts to May, who wrote back to confirm ministers were still “considering advice on what is able to be published and will report to parliament with an update in due course”.
Lucas called the delay “astonishing” and said the government should reveal the advice which has prevented the publication of the report – and whether it was for diplomatic reasons. “The government is sitting on this report but refusing to publish it or give any reason for their continued secrecy,” she said.
The Brighton Pavilion MP said it was crucial to determine if the report’s delay was linked to whether it was critical of Saudi Arabia. “To defeat terror it’s vital that politicians have full view of the facts, even if they are inconvenient for the government,” she said.
During the election, the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said Cameron had committed to publishing the report by spring 2016, but the Home Office later suggested it would never be published, calling the contents “very sensitive”.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also demanded that the report be published, while the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, Tom Brake, wrote to May restating the party’s demand for it to be made public.
However, despite Farron’s insistence that publication had been part of the deal, both the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said the report may never be seen in public.
Lucas said the terror attacks in London Bridge and the Manchester Arena said people were “quite rightly asking questions about routes to radicalisation, and the funding of terror is central to this.
“I urge Theresa May to reveal immediately whose advice they are following as to whether or not to publish this report, and to do all they can to put the facts into the public domain if it is safe to do so.”
Farron said the written statement showed the power was in May’s hands to release the report. “It is a scandal that the government are suppressing this report. The only conclusion you can draw is that they are worried about what it actually says,” he said.
“We hear regularly about the Saudi arms deals or ministers going to Riyadh to kowtow before their royal family, but yet, our government won’t release a report that will clearly criticise Saudi Arabia.
“All this government seems to care about is cosying up to one of the most extreme, nasty and oppressive regimes in the world. You would think our security would be more important, but it appears not. For that Theresa May should be ashamed of herself.”
Source: The Guardian