Lord Speaker urges tougher vetting amid concerns over Evgeny Lebedev

The Speaker of the House of Lords has urged ministers to toughen up the vetting and appointment system for new peers after concerns about the suitability of recent nominees such as the Evening Standard proprietor, Evgeny Lebedev.

While the Speaker, Lord McFall, has no powers to limit peers’ access to parliament, his strongly-worded comment came in response to a request from the SNP for the Russia-born peer’s parliamentary pass to be revoked.

Ministers have defended his appointment by his close friend Boris Johnson in 2020 after the Sunday Times reported that security services originally had concerns about Lebedev, whose father was a KGB agent, as far back as 2013.

In a letter to McFall, the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said the reported concerns of security services meant Lebedev’s pass should be rescinded.

McFall does not have this power. But in a statement in response to the letter, he called for ministers to consider stronger powers for the House of Lords appointments commission (Holac), which vets candidates. Johnson is understood to have pushed forward the nomination despite Holac’s concerns about Lebedev.

There was, McFall said, “a case for examination of the appointments process, including a more robust vetting system and potentially stronger powers for Holac, ensuring that new appointees are able to make a worthwhile contribution to the important work of the house.

“I would urge the government to look at this, drawing upon the work of those who have already taken extensive evidence on this and proposed sensible reforms. I am always open to engagement with the government on these matters.

“An examination of the appointments system is, 하나, just one element of what needs to be a bigger package of reform of the House of Lords, including reducing the size of the house and increasing the diversity of its members allowing us to reach out to all parts of the United Kingdom.”

Since his appointment, Lebedev has spoken only once in the Lords. After a report noted this last month, he submitted two parliamentary questions.

Johnson has been accused of brushing off security concerns about Lebedev, which whom he has a close relationship, attending parties at his Italian castle, including when he was foreign secretary.

In his letter to McFall, Blackford said that given the reported security concerns: “Lord Lebedev is clearly not a fit and proper person to act as a legislator nor a lobbyist in this democracy. He should not therefore be in a position to maintain privileged access to the parliamentary estate”.

Asked about Lebedev on Sunday, 마이클 고브, the communities secretary, appeared to suggest that reopening the question of the peerage would play into the hands of Vladimir Putin.

“I think one of the things that Vladimir Putin would like us to do, is to have an approach in the UK that said that everyone of Russian ancestry was somehow persona non grata,”그는 말했다.

Lebedev has insisted that he is not a security risk, and that he condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the Lord Speaker has limited powers over peers, those in the role can and do express concerns about the wider running of the upper house.

에 2019 McFall’s predecessor as Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, 말했다 the Lords should reduce the number of “passengers” who contributed little to its business. He also wanted to slim down the chamber to a planned ceiling of 600. There are currently about 800 members.

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