Speaking the Nations Mind

UK Considers Tougher Security Laws Against Russia


Ministers are considering strengthening security laws after a report by MPs accused them of underestimating the threat of Russian interference.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said a new law requiring foreign agents to register in the UK was being looked at.

He said the move would not be the “only solution” to security threats, but could make it easier to extradite spies.

Labour criticised “systemic failings” in the UK’s response to Russia.

Mr Shapps said the government was already taking a “more forward-leaning approach” but also thought the time was right for “additional powers”.

Plans to make foreign agents register were mentioned in the government’s legislative agenda last December, and were previously announced by former home secretary Sajid Javid in May last year

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Shapps said registration “might be very useful”, although he cautioned it was “not the entire answer” to dealing with threats.

The government, which will have to answer questions on the issue in the Commons later, faces calls to do far more to counter Russian espionage and subversion after Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said the UK was the main target after the US and Nato.

In a 50-page report, the committee said the UK was “clearly a target” for disinformation campaigns around its elections, but that the issue was described as a “hot potato”, with no one organisation taking a lead to tackle it.

ISC member Kevan Jones told BBC Breakfast he hoped any government announcement about new legislation – which was one of the recommendations of the report – wasn’t “just spin” and actually resulted in action.

The committee suggested a new Espionage Act could help prevent individuals acting on behalf of a foreign power from concealing their links with that country.

In its report, it said an obligation similar to that in the US – where agents are required to register with the Justice department – would “clearly be valuable in countering Russian influence in the UK”.