4.6 C
London
Sunday, December 4, 2022
HomeUK NewsLord Lebedev peerage: Russian-born businessman says he has 'nothing to hide' as...

Lord Lebedev peerage: Russian-born businessman says he has ‘nothing to hide’ as MPs approve call for ‘transparency’ over peerage

Lord Lebedev, the Russian-born newspaper mogul, has said he has “nothing to hide” as MPs approved a Labour motion seeking to force the government to release documents about Boris Johnson’s involvement in his appointment as a peer.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied that advice was overruled to award the businessman and owner of the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers a seat in the House of Lords in 2020.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former senior aide, has previously alleged he was “in the room” when Mr Johnson was informed of security concerns regarding Mr Lebedev’s perspective appointment.

Live updates on the war in Ukraine as Russia hints at major climbdown

Mr Cummings said intelligence officials told the prime minister they had “serious reservations” about the proposed move.

Labour call for advice and documents to be released

Labour has repeatedly pressed the government on the decision to award Lord Lebedev, the son of a former KGB agent, a seat in the Lords, particularly in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Original reports in The Sunday Times suggested the PM was advised by the House of Lords Appointment Commission, which vets appointments to the Lords, which later changed its advice.

In a letter released this month, the commission confirmed it vetted Lord Lebedev’s appointment and advised the PM on the matter, but declined to comment further.

Lord Lebedev has insisted he is not a “security risk” to the UK.

On Tuesday, Labour successfully used parliamentary procedures to try to force publication of the advice issued to and from the PM’s private office and the Cabinet Office to the commission about Lord Lebedev’s peerage.

Using a “humble address” motion, which was used previously by the opposition in 2017 to force the government to publicly release Brexit documents, Labour’s aim was to ensure all relevant correspondences including emails and minutes of meetings are published.

As the motion passed, the government now has until 28 April to produce the documents.

Sky News understands the government will respond soon and will consider the broader public interest and Freedom of Information principles raised in the debate.

‘Openness and transparency are pillars of our democratic system’

Posting on social media before the debate regarding his peerage, Lord Lebedev said in the interest of “openness and transparency” he supports calls for information related to his position in the Lords to be released.

“Openness and transparency are pillars of our democratic system, so I welcome the call for security advice about me provided to HOLAC to be released. I have nothing to hide,” he said.

Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts,  Google Podcasts,  Spotify, Spreaker

In a second tweet, he added: “And in the spirit of transparency here is a text to me from Keir Starmer. ‘Congratulations on your elevation to the House of Lords. All best wishes, Keir’.”

He continued: “There’s a war in Europe. Britain is facing the highest cost of living since the 1950s. And you choose to debate me based on no facts and pure innuendo. What’s become of you UK Labour? #shadowofyourformerself.”

Lebedev’s Putin links ‘deeply concerning’

Opening the debate, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said Lord Lebedev’s “deeply concerning links to Putin are well known”.

She said: “The British public have a right to know if – and how – an individual of apparent concern to our intelligence services was granted a seat in the heart of parliament by personal order of the prime minister.

“Whether the prime minister was aware of that security advice, but chose to ignore it, over-rule it, or even demand that it be changed.”

She concluded: “This is a matter of national security and there can be no delay in getting transparency in this case.”

Cabinet Office minister Sir Michael Ellis accused Labour of seeking to “whip up anti-Russian feeling” and warned that “not all Russians are our enemy”.

He said the government “regrets” Labour’s motion, telling MPs that the Commons has historically “exercised restraint” in demanding the release of documents.

Referencing Lord Lebedev’s tweet that Sir Keir had sent him a congratulatory text message when he was awarded the peerage, Sir Michael added: “Now, that must be rather embarrassing for the party opposite.”

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments