Politics

Labour Demands Probe Into Claims PM Overruled Security Advice To Give Oligarch’s Son Peerage

Keir Starmer has called for an investigation into claims Boris Johnson overruled security advice to ensure a Russian oligarch’s son became a Lord.

Evgeny Lebedev, who was born in Moscow and whose father, Alexander, was a KGB agent, was nominated for a peerage in the wake of the 2019 general election.

However, according to The Sunday Times, security officials recommended that Lebedev’s peerage be turned down.

In March 2020, the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which vets peerages, reportedly wrote to Johnson advising him not to grant Lebedev – who owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers – a seat in the Lords on security grounds.

By June, however, those security concerns were dropped and Lebedev’s ennoblement was approved.

That allowed the newspaper proprietor to become Lord Lebedev of Hampton and Siberia in December, 2020.

Since entering the House of Lords, he has yet to contribute to a debate or a vote.

In an open letter to Vladimir Putin in the Evening Standard last week, Lebedev appealed to him to end the war in Ukraine.

The controversy comes as Johnson tries to rally international support for his six-point to defeat the Russian president.

Evgeny Lebedev with Prince William at the launch of the Centrepoint helpline at Centrepoint in London in 2017.

Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Starmer said he was “very concerned” about the story and called for the powerful Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate.

He said: “It goes to the heart of national security and there’s at least the suggestion that the government and the prime minister were warned that there was a national security risk in this particular appointment.

“I think, in the circumstances, what the appropriate thing is for the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is a cross-party committee in Parliament that can have access to confidential material – I think this case should be referred to that committee so they can look into this story.

“This allegation – which is very serious because, of course, it’s a matter of national security – I hope the Government will answer it today.”

He added: “I think the right thing to do is to refer it to the cross-party committee, that can look at the confidential material and come to a view on what actually happened and the risks that the government may or may not have taken.”

Appearing on the same programme, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said there was “a very strict and stringent process when anyone is granted a peerage”.

He said: “I don’t know the facts of the case, I wasn’t involved in it. But I do know that it was applied very rigorously in this case.”

Raab added: “This was done properly and correctly, and we have procedures and systems in place to make sure it is.”

A government spokesman said: “All individuals nominated for a peerage are done so in recognition of their contribution to society and all peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.”




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