PM denies intervening to secure peerage for Evgeny Lebedev

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Boris Johnson has denied intervening to override security concerns about the peerage granted to Evgeny Lebedev.

It comes after the Prime Minister was urged to tell a powerful parliamentary committee everything he knows about the Russian-born media mogul’s elevation to the House of Lords.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper wrote to Mr Johnson 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 the Prime Minister personally intervened.

Asked about the claims on Monday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “That is simply incorrect… It suits (Russian president Vladimir) Putin’s agenda to try to characterise this as a struggle between the West and Russia.

“It suits his agenda to say that the UK, that we in Nato countries, are anti-Russia, European countries are now anti-Russian.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Lord Lebedev has appealed to Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion of Ukraine through the Evening Standard newspaper (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Johnson said it would “obviously be extraordinary” if the security services had deemed Lord Lebedev to be a risk and the Prime Minister had intervened to ensure the peerage was granted, “but that’s not the case”.

He sidestepped a question about whether he met Lord Lebedev in March 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, to discuss the peerage.

A Government spokesman previously 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 on Monday, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly defended the media mogul’s place in the House of Lords.

“He is here as a British dual national, he is a businessman, he has been an effective businessman,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“So what your father did for work is, I’m not completely sure, totally relevant.”

Lord Lebedev has spoken only once, and never voted, in Parliament, but the Foreign Office minister said: “There are lots of members of the House of Lords who are not active members of the House of Lords.

“It rather flies in the face of this accusation that somehow he is distorting British politics if he is not voting on British laws.”

In her letter, Ms Cooper 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”.

Yvette Cooper
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

“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.”

Lord Lebedev told the Sunday Times that “all” of the allegations in its report were incorrect and the questions did not “merit an answer”.

The previous week, he appealed to Mr 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.”

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