- Boris Johnson put Evgeny Lebedev forward for a peerage in 2020 and he gave a maiden speech last May.
- Since then he hasn’t spoken or voted, and attends as rarely as possible without being suspended.
- MPs and peers questioned his appointment and warned about foreign influence in Parliament.
Boris Johnson’s decision to give Evgeny Lebedev a peerage is facing renewed criticism after Insider uncovered the minimal contribution he has made to Parliament since joining the House of Lords.
The Russian-born crossbench peer, who was made Baron Lebedev of Hampton and Siberia in November 2020, made no written or spoken contributions other than his maiden speech in May 2021. He has not voted at all.
Insider also established that Lebedev has only attended the House of Lords three times – on 17th December 2020, 12th May 2021 and 24th November 2021.
That means the owner of the Independent and Evening Standard has narrowly missed the six-month trigger point for automatic suspension as a member.
One member of the House of Lords, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly, as were other sources in this article, said: “Lord Lebedev made a very good maiden speech – since when he hasn’t been seen again.”
He added: “It’s a status symbol. If Lebedev came and did a day’s work, he would gain everybody’s respect.”
Several Conservative figures told Insider they had reservations about Lebedev’s peerage, which was controversial at the time it was announced.
Two sources noted that it had been flagged by the House of Lords appointments commission (Holac) at the time because his father, Alexander Lebedev, had been a KGB spy. Holac cannot block appointments and Johnson ultimately overruled the advice.
Its members have called on Johnson to examine Russian influence in the House of Lords, something highlighted by parliament’s intelligence and security committee in its Russia report, the Guardian reported in 2020.
Both Holac and the Committee on Standards in Public Life have a long-standing request to make peerage application letters from party leaders public. So far this has not been approved.
Lebedev is not a Conservative donor. However, he and Johnson have links that go back more than a decade, to when the prime minister was Mayor of London and Lebedev was proprietor of the Standard, London’s biggest city newspaper.
One Conservative MP, a former Cabinet minister, said: “It brings the whole thing into disrepute.”
Another senior Tory MP said: “The appointment raises questions about the commitment of Johnson’s administration to defending the UK against foreign influence.”
A third Conservative source said: “It is just the whole in-your-face-ness of it – the great emblem of just how owned the Conservative party has become.”
Liam Byrne, a Labour MP and member of the Commons’ foreign affairs committee, said: “As the son of a KGB colonel, one would have thought Lord Lebedev would be full to the brim with insights to offer as we debate the nation’s Russia policy. Instead, his silence appears almost deafening.”
Lord (Dick) Newby, a member of the upper house’s procedure and privileges committee, told Insider: “Every peer has a duty to participate in the work of the Lords. If they are unwilling or unable to do so, they should take leave of absence or retire.”
Lebedev did not respond to requests for comment.
A government spokesperson said: “All individuals nominated for a peerage are done so in recognition of their contribution to society and all peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.”