Oh dear. The Sunday Times is tonight reporting that a Westminster parliamentary researcher has been arrested on suspicion of spying for China. The male suspect, who is in his late twenties, is reported to be linked to a number of senior Tory MPs, including several who are privy to classified or highly sensitive information. Among them are Tom Tugendhat, the, er, security minister, and Alicia Kearns, chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee. Oops.
Counterterrorism police are reported to have swooped on the researcher and another man in his thirties on suspicion of espionage-related offences back in March. The researcher is British and held a parliamentary pass, with the Sunday Times quoting one Whitehall source as saying: ‘This is a major escalation by China. We have never seen anything like this before.’ The man in question had previously lived and worked in China, where security officials fear he may have been recruited as a sleeper agent and sent back to Britain to infiltrate Sinosceptic organisations.
Tonight’s news raises major questions about vetting by the intelligence services, the MPs who worked with the researcher in question and the extent of China’s operations within the UK. Kearns has already responded to the story and tweeted: ‘I am aware of the Sunday Times report. I will not be commenting. While I recognise the public interest, we all have a duty to ensure any work of the Authorities is not jeopardised.’ Will that line continue to hold?
Least the last week of parliament before conference recess won’t be quiet…