A former national security adviser today called for House of Lords’ rules on financial declarations to be toughened up to force peers to fully disclose any Russian interests.
Lord Ricketts said there is a need for ‘more transparency’ in order to ‘shine a light’ not just on Russian money but also on ‘many other countries trying to buy influence’ in Britain.
His comments came after the Intelligence and Security Committee published its long-awaited report into Russian meddling in British democracy.
The report savaged the record of successive governments for failing to adequately respond to the threat posed by the Kremlin.
One of its recommendations was for members of the House of Lords to face greater scrutiny over business links to Russia and for rules on outside work to be tightened up.
The ISC report pointed out that while MPs have to declare any income of more than £100 from outside interests, peers face no such accountability.
Lord Ricketts said peers should be subject to the same rules on financial declarations as MPs.
He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘Yes, I think to follow my own logic I think transparency has got to be the key here.
‘I personally would be perfectly prepared to accept the same rules applying to lords as apply to MPs, if lords are sitting in the House of Lords and taking part in legislation.
‘I think that rules have been tightened about having to register if you have foreign clients that you are working for but not the amounts of money that you are receiving.
‘So, yes, I am in favour of having more transparency, shining a light on not just Russian money but many other countries trying to buy influence in the UK and that is probably more effective than extra legislation.’
The ISC report said it was ‘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’.
It said that ‘these relationships should be carefully scrutinised, given the potential for the Russian state to exploit them’.
The ISC concluded the UK had taken its ‘eye off the ball’ in recent years in terms of preparing to counter potential Russian interference.
Lord Ricketts suggested the increased threat of terrorism in the past two decades had caused hostile state activity to slip down the UK security services’ list of priorities.
He said: ‘Yes, and the reason for that is because their business in intelligence is about priorities and for the 15 years after 9/11 ministers’ overriding national security priority was counter terrorism.
‘I can imagine the number of times ministers came on your programme to say after some awful terrorist attack “this is our absolute overriding number one priority, we must do everything to keep the British people safe”.
‘That was the security services’ top priority. They also had far right terrorism, they had the resurgence of Irish terrorism.
‘So, yes, I think hostile state activity, espionage in the UK fell down the priorities list.’