Ukraine war: Investigate claim PM intervened to help Evgeny Lebedev get peerage, says Starmeron March 6, 2022 at 1:37 pm

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Sir Keir expresses concern over reports PM helped Evgeny Lebedev join the Lords amid security fears.

Evgeny Lebedev

Image source, PA Media

Sir Keir Starmer has called for a senior parliamentary committee to investigate claims Boris Johnson pushed for a Russian-born businessman to get a peerage, despite security concerns.

The Sunday Times reports the security services withdrew an assessment that giving Evgeny Lebedev an honour posed a security risk after the PM intervened.

The Labour leader said he was “very concerned” about the case.

However, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab insisted there was no “impropriety”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Mr Raab said: “There is a very strict and stringent process when anyone is granted a peerage”.

He added that the rules around the honours process were “applied very rigorously in this case.”

“This was done properly and correctly and we have procedures and systems in place to make sure it is.”

Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the London Evening Standard newspapers, was given a peerage in July 2020.

The son of Alexander Lebedev, a billionaire Russian banker and former KGB officer, he came to London at the age of eight when his father began working in the Soviet embassy.

He holds both Russian and British citizenship.

Earlier this week Lord Lebedev published a letter to Vladimir Putin in which he urged the Russian president to “bring this terrible conflict in Ukraine to an end”.

“As a Russian citizen I plead with you to stop Russians killing their Ukrainian brothers and sisters.”

Boris Johnson, Evgeny Lebedev and Rachel Johnson in 2012

Image source, Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

The Sunday Times says that in March 2020 the commission that vets peerage appointments advised the prime minister against granting the newspaper owner a seat in the House of Lords – also known as a peerage – due to security concerns.

Mr Johnson is said to have responded to the advice by claiming it was “anti-Russianism”.

Responding to the Sunday Times, Lord Lebedev said the allegations were incorrect.

Asked about the story, Sir Keir said he was “very concerned” and that the “appropriate thing” was to refer the reports to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.

He said the cross-party group of MPs and peers would be able to look at confidential material and “come to a view about what actually happened.”

A government spokesperson 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.”

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