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Boris Johnson could be forced to release secret Evgeny Lebedev dossier

The gov­ern­ment faces a vote over the con­tro­ver­sial appoint­ment of the news­pa­per baron, a per­son­al friend of the PM, to the House of Lords

Labour will tomor­row try to force the gov­ern­ment to release secret papers relat­ing to Boris Johnson’s con­tro­ver­sial appoint­ment of Evgeny Lebedev to the House of Lords.

Tuesday’s vote will call on Steve Barclay, the chan­cel­lor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to give up all doc­u­ments held by Number 10 and the Cabinet Office relat­ing to advice from the House of Lords Appointments Committee about Lebedev’s appoint­ment. Deputy leader Angela Rayner will also use the vote – offi­cial­ly a ‘hum­ble address’ – to ask for records of meet­ings at which the appoint­ment was discussed.

It comes after Boris Johnson denied alle­ga­tions that he had inter­vened to secure the peer­age for Lebedev, who is a close friend, in July 2020 after intel­li­gence ser­vices warned it would be a secu­ri­ty risk. Lebedev, whose father is a for­mer Russian spy, has fierce­ly denied pos­ing any such risk to the UK.

Evgeny Lebedev (left) and Boris Johnson pic­tured at a London Evening Standard event in 2009, when Johnson was may­or of London | PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Last week, for­mer Number 10 advis­er Dominic Cummings turned up the heat on Johnson by claim­ing he was in the room when the PM was told by Cabinet Office offi­cials that there were “seri­ous reser­va­tions” from intel­li­gence ser­vices about his plan to appoint Lebedev.

Cummings went on to claim that Johnson had “cut a deal” with offi­cials to present a “sani­tised” ver­sion of the secu­ri­ty report to the House of Lords Appointments Committee, which is respon­si­ble for scru­ti­n­is­ing the nom­i­na­tion of new peers.

openDemocracy pre­vi­ous­ly revealed that Johnson had a “per­son­al” meet­ing with the Russian-born oli­garch just days after telling the British pub­lic to avoid ‘non-essen­tial con­tact’ in March 2020.

Lebedev is the long­stand­ing pro­pri­etor of two British news­pa­pers – The Independent and the Evening Standard. His father, from whom he derives his wealth, is the bil­lion­aire oli­garch and for­mer KGB agent Alexander Lebedev.

Lebedev Jr has pre­vi­ous­ly defend­ed Vladimir Putin and ques­tioned Russia’s involve­ment in the mur­der of Alexander Litvinenko, the Kremlin crit­ic poi­soned with polo­ni­um at a London hotel.

Johnson has main­tained a close rela­tion­ship with Lebedev Jr since they met in 2009. He attend­ed at least four par­ties at the Russian oligarch’s Umbrian vil­la dur­ing his time as London may­or, using Lebedev’s pri­vate jet to fly there and back to London.

Earlier this month, The Sunday Times report­ed that the head of MI6 had expressed con­cerns that the Russian busi­ness­man was “keen to ingra­ti­ate him­self with the British estab­lish­ment” a decade ago.

Rayner accused the prime min­is­ter of putting “per­son­al inter­est before the public’s”.

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 our Parliament by Boris Johnson, against secu­ri­ty advice,” she added.

Since tak­ing up his peer­age in December 2020, Lebedev has spo­ken only once and nev­er voted.

In February, he wrote an open let­ter to Putin, in which he urged the Russian pres­i­dent to “bring this ter­ri­ble con­flict in Ukraine to an end”.

Original source of arti­cle:

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