Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Boris Johnson asking him to hand over information to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
06 March 2022
Boris Johnson has been urged to tell a powerful parliamentary committee everything he knows about Russian-born media mogul Evgeny Lebedev’s elevation to the House of Lords.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has written to the Prime Minister following a report in The Sunday Times which alleged that security services withdrew an assessment that granting a peerage to the Moscow-born son of an ex-KGB agent posed a national security risk after Mr Johnson personally intervened.
The newspaper reported that intelligence provided by MI5 and MI6 to the House of Lords Appointments Commission via Cabinet Office security officials initially said there could be a national security threat, but this was later withdrawn.
Ms Cooper has now called on the PM to “make available to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) the advice and information you were given about the ennobling of Evgeny Lebedev and full information about the role you played in the process”.
The cross-party ISC has the security clearance to view highly-classified intelligence on matters of national security, and Ms Cooper said in her letter: “As you will agree, it is the first duty of the Prime Minister to protect national security.
“Given that Mr Lebedev is still a member of the House of Lords, it is in all our interests to ensure that these allegations can be thoroughly investigated.”
A Government spokesperson 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.”
Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “very concerned” about the reports surrounding Lord Lebedev and insisted the case should be referred to the ISC as it goes to “the heart of national security”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, he said: “I’m very concerned about that story, because 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.”
Speaking on the same programme, Dominic Raab suggested Lord Lebedev, who owns the Evening Standard newspaper alongside The Independent, went through a “very strict and stringent” process when he was granted his peerage.
The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister said he did not know the facts of the case, but claimed the peerage appointment process had been “applied very rigorously”.
He said: “There is a strict and stringent process when anyone is granted a peerage. 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.”
He added: “This was done properly and correctly, and we have procedures and systems in place to make sure it is.”
Lord Lebedev told the Sunday Times that “all” of the allegations in its report were incorrect and the questions did not “merit an answer”.
Last week, the media mogul appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion of Ukraine, through the Evening Standard newspaper.
The crossbench peer said: “I plead with you to use today’s negotiations to bring this terrible conflict in Ukraine to an end.”
In a statement published alongside a photograph of a paramedic performing CPR on a girl injured by shelling, Lord Lebedev said: “On this page are the final minutes of a six-year-old child fatally injured by shells that struck her Mariupol apartment block on Sunday.
“She is still wearing her pink jacket as medics fight to save her. But it is too late. Other children, and other families, are suffering similar fates across Ukraine.
“As a Russian citizen I plead with you to stop Russians killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters.
“As a British citizen I ask you to save Europe from war. As a Russian patriot I plead that you prevent any more young Russian soldiers from dying needlessly. As a citizen of the world I ask you to save the world from annihilation.”