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Government misses deadline to publish Lord Evgeny Lebedev security advice

Media mogul Lord Evgeny Lebedev (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Media mogul Lord Evgeny Lebedev (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ministers have missed the deadline to publish security advice linked to the peerage of Russian-born businessman Evgeny Lebedev.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the “whole thing reeks of a cover-up” by Boris Johnson amid questions over his involvement in sending the media mogul to the Lords.

The House of Commons approved a Labour motion last month seeking to force the Government to release documents about the Prime Minister’s involvement.

But ministers missed Thursday’s deadline, with Paymaster General Michael Ellis saying more time was needed to consider whether redactions must be made over “national security”.

Questions have been raised over whether the Prime Minister asked anyone in the security services to revise, reconsider or withdraw their assessment of Lord Lebedev ahead of his appointment in November 2020.

The media mogul’s father, oligarch Alexander Lebedev, was a former KGB agent.

Ms Rayner said: “By failing to comply with the democratic will of Parliament and release these important documents, the Government is once again bending the rules to dodge scrutiny.

“This last-minute delay just kicks the can further down the road, and has all the hallmarks of a government with something to hide.

“If the Prime Minister wasn’t involved in forcing through the appointment of an individual of concern to our intelligence services, why won’t he come clean and publish the guidance in full, as Parliament voted for?”

In a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Mr Ellis said the Government “regrets” not responding in time.

But he promised to respond “promptly” following Parliament’s return from its break on May 10 after “necessary consideration has been given to the material”.

“As you will know, the motion provided that redactions could be made ‘for the purposes of national security’, a consideration which is of utmost importance given the Government’s responsibility to protect information when disclosure is not in the public interest,” Mr Ellis said.

The motion demanded that Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay release all relevant information provided to the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) by the Cabinet Office or the Prime Minister’s office by no later than April 28.

Independent crossbench peer Lord Lebedev previously insisted he has “nothing to hide” as he backed the publication of the security advice.

Questions over Mr Johnson meeting Alexander Lebedev following a Nato meeting about the Salisbury poisonings in 2018 were also being batted away.

Labour’s Holly Lynch said it was “absolutely outrageous” that Mr Ellis deflected the question just “four minutes” before the House was prorogued for the break.

Instead, he referred to a previous response to a question he gave about Lord Lebedev, with Ms Lynch pointing out “is not even about the right Lebedev”.