Boris Johnson Told to ‘Come Clean’ after Hinting he will Ignore Vote to Release Lebedev Security Papers
Labour exclusively tells Byline Times that the Prime Minister will be in contempt of Parliament if he hides advice from MI5 and MI6 about the son of a former KGB agent
Labour is calling on Boris Johnson to “come clean” and publish the full security advice he received about handing a peerage to his friend Evgeny Lebedev, after Downing Street suggested that it could block its publication on “public interest” grounds.
MPs this week passed a motion compelling the Government to publish all the documents it possesses on the Prime Minister’s decision to make newspaper owner Lebedev a peer.
As Byline Times first revealed, Johnson handed a peerage to Lebedev in 2020 despite initial advice from MI5 and MI6 that the son of a former KGB agent and Russian oligarch was a security risk.
However, Johnson’s spokesman on Thursday signalled that the full advice on Lebedev could be held back, telling journalists that “we need to obviously consider the responsibility of ministers not to release information where disclosure would not be in the public interest”.
Asked who would decide whether the information was in the public interest, Johnson’s spokesman replied that it would be decided by “the Government”.
Responding to Labour’s motion this week, the Paymaster General Michael Ellis also warned that full publication of the advice would have “lasting consequences” for national security and refused to confirm that the Government would publish it.
“The Government regret the fact that the official Opposition have sought to use the procedures of the House to call for the release of information which, if released, would have lasting consequences and undermine the established system of appointments to the peerage,” Ellis said.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rachel Hopkins, told Byline Times that the Government must now “come clean” and publish the advice in full.
“Boris Johnson’s apparent involvement in the appointment of Lord Lebedev, in direct contradiction of advice by the security services, puts Britain’s national security at risk – and raises serious questions about how far he is willing to go grant favours to his mates,” she said.
“The Cabinet Office guidance about a peerage for Lebedev – before it was mysteriously airbrushed, apparently on the orders of the Prime Minister – must now be published in the national interest.”
The motion was passed as a “humble address”, which have been used in the past by opposition parties to force disclosure of Government documents.
The same process was successfully used earlier this year to force the publication of papers between ministers, the disgraced former Conservative MP Owen Paterson and the company Randox, as first reported by Byline Times.
The new motion passed this week, does allow for some redactions to be made to what the Government publishes on national security grounds. However Labour fears that Downing Street is preparing to eliminate the substantial advice Johnson received.
“We have accepted that some redactions may need to be made on security grounds – but we must get to the bottom of the Prime Minister’s involvement in Lebedev’s appointment,” Hopkins added. “Ministers cannot fudge this, they must come clean with the British public. This Government’s dangerous links to Putin’s oligarchs are putting Britain at risk.”
Evgeny Lebedev – whose full title is “Baron Lebedev of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation” – owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers. He and Boris Johnson have been close friends for more than a decade.