Boris Johnson has been accused of a “cover up”, after the government withheld detailed security advice related to the awarding of a peerage to the Russian-born businessman Evgeny Lebedev.
Earlier this year, MPs voted to force ministers to release documents about the prime minister’s involvement in the appointment.
But in response, the government has simply released the blank form Lord Lebedev was required to fill in by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
It has also published the public citation announcing his appointment, a list of the other peerages awarded at the same time, and a letter congratulating him on the news.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “This looks like a cover up and smells like a cover up because it is a cover up.”
It followed questions as to whether the PM asked anyone in the security services to reconsider or withdraw their assessment of Lord Lebedev ahead of his appointment in November 2020.
Lord Lebedev is the owner of the London Evening Standard and a shareholder in The Independent.
His father, the oligarch Alexander Lebedev, was a former KGB agent.
In a statement, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said the government was “committed to openness and transparency”.
But he said it had to take into account security concerns as well as the need to maintain the “integrity” of the honours system.
“It is also the case that when considering requests for information from parliament, the government has a responsibility to consider whether it is in the public interest to place information into the public domain,” he said.
“As laid out in today’s House of Commons paper, the disclosure of these documents reflects the need to protect national security, to maintain integrity in the system for the awarding of honours and dignities by the Crown, the vetting of nominees for probity and the data protection rights of individuals.”
Ellis added: “Lord Lebedev is a man of good standing. No complaint has been made about his personal conduct. He has been vocal in his criticism of the Putin regime.”
Rayner said: “If the prime minister is claiming he was not involved in forcing through the award of a peerage to an individual of concern to our intelligence services, he should come clean and publish the documents as Parliament instructed.
“The public have a right to know the truth about Boris Johnson’s interference in the appointment of his friend Lord Lebedev, the son and business partner of an ex-KGB agent, to a seat in the heart of our parliament. It is time to get to the bottom of this whole murky business.”
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