UK Government Accused of Cover-Up for Withholding Security Advice on Peerage for Russian Tycoon

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
May 13, 2022 Updated: May 13, 2022

The UK government has been accused of a “cover-up” after it refused to release detailed security advice over a Russian-born businessman’s entry to the House of Lords.

British–Russian media mogul Evgeny Lebedev, whose father worked as a KGB agent, was made a lifelong member of the upper house of the British Parliament in July 2020.

MPs have demanded transparency over the appointment after The Sunday Times newspaper alleged that the security services initially said Lebedev’s peerage could pose a national security threat, but withdrew the advice after Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally intervened.

Epoch Times Photo
Evgeny Lebedev attends the launch of the Centrepoint Awards at the HSBC private bank in London, on Nov. 19, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Johnson has denied he overrode the security assessment, but the House of Commons approved a Labour motion in March seeking to force the government to release documents about his involvement.

But, responding to the request on May 12, ministers simply released the blank form Lord Lebedev was required to fill in by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, the public citation announcing his appointment.

They also published a list of the other peerages awarded at the same time, and a couple of email exchanges with almost all content redacted apart from a note congratulating him on the news.

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, said: “This looks like a cover-up and smells like a cover-up because it is a cover-up.”

She accused the government of contempt of Parliament and urged Johnson to “come clean and publish the documents as Parliament instructed.”

“The public have a right to know the truth about Boris Johnson’s interference in the appointment of his friend Lord Lebedev, the son and business partner of an ex-KGB agent, to a seat in the heart of our Parliament. It is time to get to the bottom of this whole murky business.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said in a statement the government was “committed to openness and transparency,” but said it had to take into account security concerns as well as the need to maintain the “integrity” of the honours system.

He also said: “Lord Lebedev is a man of good standing. No complaint has been made about his personal conduct. He has been vocal in his criticism of the Putin regime.”

The government’s response also angered Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which said it was “surprised” its “classified” request for information about Lord Lebedev was revealed by the government.

PA Media contributed to this report.