Boris Johnson Could Block Release of Security Advice on Evgeny Lebedev
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that the release of security advice about the newspaper baron may not be ‘in the public interest’, reports Adam Bienkov
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Boris Johnson may attempt to block the publication of security service advice about his friend Evgeny Lebedev, despite a parliamentary vote compelling him to release it, Downing Street has suggested.
Johnson appointed Lebedev to the House of Lords in 2020 despite concerns expressed by MI5 and MI6 that he could be a security risk.
As Byline Times revealed at the time, their advice was later changed following a meeting between Johnson and Lebedev. No minutes were recorded of that meeting and Downing Street has declined to say what the two men discussed.
MPs this week voted to compel the Government to release all documents relating to the appointment of Lebedev to the House of Lords.
However, the Prime Minister’s spokesman on Thursday suggested that the Government may refuse to fully comply, indicating that the release of the information may not be in “the public interest.”
“We need to obviously consider the responsibility of ministers not to release information where disclosure would not be in the public interest, and obviously weigh it up against the need for transparency and openness”, the spokesman said.
“So we are considering that motion and we’ll respond in due course.”
Asked who would decide whether the information was in the public interest, Johnson’s spokesman replied that it would be decided by “the Government”.
Refusal to publish documents or their heavy redaction would be in direct contradiction of a motion passed earlier this week by MPs.
The motion called for the release of “any document held by the Cabinet Office or the Prime Minister’s Office containing or relating to advice from, or provided to, the House of Lords Appointments Commission concerning the appointment of Evgeny Alexandrovich Lebedev as a Member of the House of Lords” as well as any minutes and other Government communications surrounding it.
The motion did allow for some redactions. However, it stated that any redaction must be “solely for the purposes of national security”.
Letters published earlier this month by Byline Times revealed how Lebedev had built his relationship with Johnson over the course of the last decade.
The correspondence showed that the two men met dozens of times for drinks, parties and dinners, with both men lobbying each other for support and funding for their own projects.
Lebedev had pushed Johnson for support and funding for a Russian arts festival designed for “transforming global perceptions” of Russia.
The two men discussed funding, with Lebedev saying he would “lead discussions in establishing further substantial support from the Russian Government”.