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Greater transparency needed in House of Lords around Russian links, says ISC

Peers with links to Russian firms include Lord Fairfax of Cameron and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.

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The ISC has called for greater transparency in the House of Lords regarding members’ links to Russia (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The ISC has called for greater transparency in the House of Lords regarding members’ links to Russia (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The ISC has called for greater transparency in the House of Lords regarding members’ links to Russia (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Peers should have any links to Russia “carefully scrutinised” to determine if they could be influenced by the state, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has said.

In its long-awaited report on Russia’s activities in the UK, the ISC said greater transparency is needed in the House of Lords as a “number” of peers have business interests with the country.

It suggested that members should now have to register any individual payments of more than £100 which they receive for employment outside the House of Lords.

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The House of Lords (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The House of Lords (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

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The House of Lords (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

According to the members’ register of interests, peers with links to Russia include crossbencher Lord Skidelsky, who is a non-executive director of Russian oil refining company Russneft.

Conservative peer Lord Fairfax of Cameron is a director of Sovcomflot UK, which is affiliated to Russia’s largest shipping company, Sovcomflot.

Labour peer Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede has also declared he is a director of Russian oil and gas firm RNG Joint Stock Company.

The ISC said in its report: “It is notable that a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state. These relationships should be carefully scrutinised, given the potential for the Russian state to exploit them.”

The committee said it is “important” that the code of conduct for members of the House of Lords and register of interests “provide the necessary transparency and are enforced”.

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament and is responsible for helping shape laws and challenging the work of the Government.

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The ISC report looked into alleged Russian involvement in the UK’s affairs (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The ISC report looked into alleged Russian involvement in the UK’s affairs (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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The ISC report looked into alleged Russian involvement in the UK’s affairs (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The committee added: “In this respect, we note that the code of conduct for Members of Parliament requires that MPs register individual payments of more than £100 which they receive for any employment outside the House. This does not apply to the House of Lords, and consideration should be given to introducing such a requirement.

“A Foreign Agents Registration Act (an issue which is addressed in the section on legislation) would also be helpful in this respect.”

ISC’s heavily-redacted report, published on Tuesday, found there had been widespread allegations that Russia sought to influence voters in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

However, it said it would be “difficult, if not impossible” to assess whether any such attempts had been successful.

The committee accused the UK Government of being “slow to recognise the existence of the threat”.

PA