A Labour peer has called for a parliamentary investigation into the deaths of Russian-linked individuals on British soil, following a lengthy investigation by BuzzFeed News that found the UK government may be hiding information involving potential Kremlin-ordered assassinations.
Lord Rooker told the House of Lords he had been shocked by the revelations and urged his fellow politicians to go to BuzzFeed News and read the reports, which name 14 individuals who were killed in Britain in unusual circumstances.
"In all but one case, the police have found the deaths to be non-suspicious," the peer said. "They have been classified as due to natural causes, accidents, or suicide. One of them is subject to a current inquest in London, during which the government have withheld information and refused to cooperate with the French police regarding a French connection to the death. One case involves a suicide decision, as a result of the person stabbing themselves to death with two separate knives."
"What do ministers say about these reports, which have been very negatively received on the other side of the Atlantic?" he asked. "Quite clearly, some members of our population have not been kept safe."
He added: "I believe that there is a strong case for the relevant House of Commons committees to start examining these reports and to start asking some very searching questions."
Rooker made the intervention during a debate on the Queen's Speech, the flagship parliamentary occasion which sets out the government's priorities for the coming years. He pointed out that the speech offered "words of comfort" on keeping the population safe and safeguarding national security that were undermined by the BuzzFeed News report.
The peer, who was a minister in the governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, also took the time to read out the names of all the individuals identified by BuzzFeed News, to ensure they exist in the official parliamentary record.
"Nine of the deaths related to one circle of people," he told parliament. "The police declared them non-suspicious, yet the BuzzFeed report reveals that MI6 asked its US counterparts for information about each of them in the 'context of assassinations'.
"Examples are given in the report of the UK government refusing to fully cooperate with some of the inquests, quoting 'international relations' or 'national security'. Named former UK senior counterterrorism officers make it clear that investigating such cases is 'very, very dangerous territory'.
"BuzzFeed published the reports, which are extensive and detailed, on 12, 15, 19 and 20 June, and I invite noble Lords to access them," he said. "According to BuzzFeed, the government have declined to comment on any of the deaths due to 'national security concerns'."
Ministers did not reply during the debate but Rooker also raised concerns about whether public institutions had failed in their responsibilities.
"Some of those who died had been UK public sector employees where the employer needs to be tested on the duty of care," he said. "Public Health England is in the frame, as are the security services.
"Either we no longer have the capacity to investigate such deaths or someone has told the police not to fully investigate them. The police are not stupid, but it has been shown that UK public bodies find it very difficult to change decisions once made."
Read all four parts of the BuzzFeed News investigation.
Part One: Poison In The System
Part Two: From Russia With Blood
Part Three: The Man Who Knew Too Much
Part Four: The Secrets Of The Spy In The Bag
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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