Businessman Lebedev says UK safety advice about him should be public

Johnson has come under political pressure over his friendship with Lebedev, and the opposition Labor Party planned on Tuesday to force a binding vote on releasing information about the businessman’s House of Lords nomination.

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

In March 2020, the House of Lords Nominations Committee (HOLAC), which reviews nominations, asked Johnson’s office to reconsider his appointment after hearing evidence from the UK security service that Lebedev was considered a risk potential for security, according to the Sunday Times.

Johnson then met with Lebedev and sought further assurances from the security agencies, which provided enough background to satisfy him, the newspaper reported.

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

“Openness and transparency are the pillars of our democratic system, so I welcome the call for the release of the security advice about me provided to HOLAC,” he wrote on Twitter. “I have nothing to hide.”

Earlier this month, Johnson denied intervening to secure the nomination and Lebedev said he was “not an agent of Russia”.

Labor is seeking to force the government to release any documents held by the Cabinet Office or Prime Minister’s Office relating to advice on the appointment.

Angela Rayner, the Labor Party’s deputy leader, told parliament there remained a lack of transparency around Lebedev’s appointment, while minister Michael Ellis suggested the opposition party was anti-Russian.

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

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Michael Holden)