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Businessman Lebedev says UK security advice about him should be public

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By Reuters
Businessman Lebedev says UK security advice about him should be public
Businessman Lebedev says UK security advice about him should be public   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

LONDON -Evgeny Lebedev, the ennobled British-Russian media boss and son of a former KGB spy, said on Tuesday security advice relating to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to appoint him to parliament’s upper chamber should be publicly released.

Johnson has come under political pressure over his friendship with Lebedev and the opposition Labour Party won a vote on Tuesday to demand the release of information about the businessman’s appointment to the House of Lords.

Lebedev, who owns the London Evening Standard and Independent newspapers, was made a lifelong member of the Lords in July 2020 with the title Baron Lebedev of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation.

In March 2020, the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC), which scrutinises nominations, asked Johnson’s office to reconsider his appointment after hearing evidence from Britain’s security services that Lebedev, was considered a potential security risk, according to the Sunday Times.

Johnson subsequently met Lebedev and asked for further assurances from the security agencies, which provided enough further context to satisfy him, the newspaper reported.

Lebedev said the claims about his background were “pure innuendo”.

“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have nothing to hide.”

Johnson earlier this month denied that he intervened to secure the appointment and Lebedev said that he was “not some agent of Russia”.

After governing Conservative lawmakers did not take part in a vote, a motion was passed in parliament calling for any documents held by the Cabinet Office or the prime minister’s office about the appointment to be published by April 28.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, said there remained a lack of transparency around Lebedev’s appointment, while Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis suggested the opposition party was anti-Russian.

At the start of the debate, Lebedev tweeted a text message from Labour leader Keir Starmer in which he had congratulated the businessman on his appointment to the Lords, saying he had done so “in the spirit of transparency”.