The Prime Minister has failed to release advice he received from UK security services about his friend Evgeny Lebedev, despite MPs voting for its release, reports Adam Bienkov
Boris Johnson continues to delay publication of advice he received from UK security services against handing a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev, with a minister insisting on Thursday that there are "security challenges" to releasing the information.
The House of Commons voted at the end of April to compel the Government to publish the advice he received about the son of a former KGB agent and Russian oligarch, before April 28.
However, the documents remain unpublished some two weeks after the deadline passed.
Asked by Labour's Thangham Debbonaire on Thursday why the information, which the Government had been compelled to publish before the local elections, remains unpublished, the Leader of the House of Commons said there were "security challenges" that had delayed its publication.
"I think I can share with the House that there are a number of security challenges in that information which have been gone through in great detail," Mark Spencer told MPs.
However, he insisted the information would be published "very soon" adding that Parliament "will not have long to wait".
Evgeny Lebedev – whose full title is 'Baron Lebedev of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation' – owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers.
Correspondence revealed by Byline Times earlier this year showed how Lebedev built a relationship with Johnson over the course of a decade.
The letters show that Lebedev lobbied Johnson to support a new Russian arts festival while he was Mayor of London, which he said had "substantial support from the Russian Government”.
Johnson, who attended dozens of dinners, parties, drinks and meetings with Lebedev during that period also told the newspaper proprietor that he would "thrilled" to secure his support.
Johnson was later flown on multiple occasions for parties at Lebedev's Italian villa, with the then Foreign Secretary ditching his security detail on at least one occasion in order to attend.
As Byline Times first revealed, Johnson was initially advised by UK security services not to hand a peerage to Lebedev.
However, the advice was later changed following a meeting between the two men. No minutes were recorded of their meeting and Downing Street has declined to reveal what they discussed.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel this week announced new legislation to clamp down on what she described as "covert spies" which seek to influence those in power in the UK.
Asked by Labour on Wednesday whether the new law would have criminalised Johnson's meetings with Lebedev's father Alexander, who was a former Russian agent, Patel replied that "I'm not going to comment on specific examples...".
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