UK looks to fresh laws on spies after scary intel report

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in front of a Russian National flag in Sevastopol, Crimea. An influential committee of British lawmakers plans to publish its findings Tuesday July 21, 2020, reporting on Russian interference in British politics, amid criticism the government delayed its release for more than six months to shield Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party from embarrassment.

Britain is considering new legislation to crack down on the activity of hostile governments after a damning intelligence committee report on Russian meddling in the nation’s politics.

The government is planning to introduce new legislation to give security services greater powers and is considering a new law requiring people working on behalf of foreign states to formally register their activities.

“We are looking at additional powers to look at the activities of hostile states and that may include introducing new laws,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News on Wednesday.

Shapps said the country was considering “something like the foreign agent registration laws that exist for example in the U.S. and Australia.”

The report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee painted a damning portrait of Russian involvement in British society, and suggested that legislation had not kept pace with the threat.

It concluded that Russia sees Britain as one of its top intelligence targets, adding that Moscow’s attempts to influence the U.K. are the “new normal” and successive governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs with open arms.

Russians with “very close links” to President Vladimir Putin are “well integrated into the U.K. business, political and social scene — in ‘Londongrad’ in particular,” the report said.

Shapps rejected one of the key findings of the report — that authorities failed to investigate whether Moscow interfered in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The report’s authors said this was a mistake and it should be done now and made public.

But Shapps insisted that the government hadn’t “avoided” an investigation.

“The report … didn’t find any evidence of interference in, for example, the EU referendum,” he told the BBC. “But it’s not that our intelligence agencies are not looking for interference.”

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