For its Opposition Day (half day) on 29 March 2022, the Labour Party has tabled a humble address that, if passed, would require the Government to lay papers concerning the appointment of Lord Lebedev before the House, no later than 28 April 2022.

Lord Lebedev’s peerage

Lord Lebedev’s peerage was announced on 31 July 2020. His name was among four people appointed to the Cross Benches in a list of political peerages.[1]

Concerns about the appointment

Tortoise reported the House of Lords Appointment Commission which reviewed the offer of a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev took advice from the intelligence services and advised Boris Johnson not to proceed.[2]

The Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, wrote to the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HoLAC) on 12 March 2022. The Financial Times reported that Sir Keir asked the Commission to “make available to the public the vetting advice provided”.[3]

In his reply to Sir Kier Starmer, Lord Bew, Chair of HoLAC stated:

It is the Commission’s role to assess and provide advice to the Prime Minister based on both information which is in the public domain along with information shared by vetting agencies for the specific purpose of carrying out its remit. On that basis, the Commission does not intend to make public the vetting material for Lord Lebedev or any other nominee for a life peerage. The Commission will also not comment on Lord Lebedev specifically, other than to confirm that the Commission carried out its vetting checks and provided advice to the Prime Minister.[4]

Role of the House of Lords Appointments Commission

The House of Lords Appointments Commission (HoLAC) has two main functions:

  • to recommend individuals for appointment as non-party-political life peers
  • to vet nominations for life peers, including those nominated by the UK political parties, to ensure the highest standards of propriety.[5]

Further details of the vetting for propriety, undertaken by the Commission, are given on its website, see: Vetting.

It provides advice to the Prime Minister. It does not have a veto over appointments.

Does the House of Lords Appointments Commission recommend against nominations?

In December 2020, the Chair of HoLAC, Lord Bew, wrote to the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee about the announcement that Dr Peter Cruddas was to receive a peerage. Lord Bew noted that HoLAC had advised the Prime Minister that “it was unable to support this nomination after carrying out its vetting, against published criteria”.[6]

In this letter, Lord Bew confirmed that previously HoLAC had been unable to support the nomination of individuals but that this was “the first occasion on which its advice has not been followed”:

The Commission has been unable to support individuals nominated by the Parties on previous occasions and publicly confirms the number of nominations it has been unable to support and the nominating Party. This is the first occasion on which its advice has not been followed.[7]

The announcement confirming that Dr Peter Cruddas was to receive a peerage also noted that HoLAC could not support his nomination.[8]

A motion for a return (humble address)

Each House has the power to call for the production of papers by means of ‘a motion for a return’. Erskine May, the authoritative guide to the practices and procedures of the House, explains that a return from the Privy Council or from Departments headed by a Secretary of State is called for by means of a motion on the Order Paper for an humble address.[9]

For further information on motions for a return, see Section 2 of the Library briefing Exiting the EU: sectoral assessments (CBP 8128).

[1]      HM Government, Queen confers Peerages, 31 July 2020

[2]     Lebedev: Lord of Siberia, Tortoise, 28 February 2022

[3]     Sebastian Payne, “Labour calls for probe into peerage for Russian businessman”, Financial Times, 13 March 2022

[4]     House of Lords Appointments Commission, Peerage appointment vetting: letter from Lord Bew to Sir Keir Starmer (PDF), 17 March 2022

[5]     House of Lords Appointments Commission, The Commission

[6]     Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Letter from the House of Lords Appointments Commission concerning Peter Cruddas (PDF), 22 December 2020

[7]     As above

[8]     HM Government, Political Peerages 2020, 22 December 2020

[9]     Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice, 25 th edition, 2019, para 7.31   

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