Russia report highlights risk of foreign interference in House of Lords

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 22nd July 2020

The Intelligence and Security Committee’s (ISC) new report on possible Russian interference in the UK has raised worrying loopholes in the unelected House of Lords which leave Britain open to intrusion.

In the House of Commons, every member’s earnings over £100 has to be declared. That is not the case in the House of Lords, ISC member Stewart Hosie MP said in a press conference after the release. Transparency is missing “at the most basic level” he added.

The report – released on Tuesday – states:

“Several members of the Russian elite who are closely linked to Putin are identified as being involved with charitable and/or political organisations in the UK, having donated to political parties, with a public profile which positions them to assist Russian influence

“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.

“It is important that the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords, and the Register of Lords’ interests, including financial interests, provide the necessary transparency and are enforced. 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.”

There is no way for voters to kick out Peers who are abusing the system – and that feeds a total lack of transparency in the chamber.  It’s long past time for an overhaul to put voters first and implement some democracy in those opaque halls of power.

The ISC also pointed out that because the process of paper-based voting in the UK is secure, foreign powers attempt to influence voters before votes are cast.

That makes the government’s focus on imposing mandatory voter ID – rather than tackling real loopholes – baffling and deeply worrying.

Russian interference is “above party politics…it’s about making sure our political process is as secure as possible” said ISC member Kevan Jones MP.

He’s right – and it’s time for all parties to act and back real reform.

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