Barry Gardiner appeared in the House of Commons after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced new measures to tackle foreign state intervention in the UK’s political process. It comes after MI5 alerted MPs that a Chinese government agent was operating in the Commons and used disguised donations to try and gain influence to push pro-Beijing policies in Parliament. Mr Gardiner, who had close ties to the agent, called for more help from the Government to try and ascertain the source of financial donations but was ruthlessly heckled by MPs who have criticised him for complacency.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Gardiner welcomed the moves from Ms Patel who will be giving more powers to security services to address foreign state interference in UK politics.
But Mr Gardiner, who has sought to distance himself from the issue, wanted to know what the Home Secretary was doing to figure out where the donation went which saw some MPs heckle him.
He told the House: “Mr Speaker, may I thank members from all across this house for the kind messages I’ve received over the past few days.
“I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and the work of the security services in protecting parliament.
“Will the measures she has announced help MPs to get extra support when making the required checks about the true source of any donation?
“She will know the security services told me their alert was based on specific intelligence of illegal funding, which did not relate to the donations that paid for my office staff.
“Those ceased in 2020, so is she able to tell the House what steps she is taking to ascertain where the tainted money ended up?”
Ms Patel hoped Mr Gardiner would “continue to work with the intelligence and security services” about his involvement in the affair.
She added she would be doing “everything possible” to protect democracy in the UK and would work her hardest to close down loopholes in donations and funding.
Later on in the Commons session, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat called the donation “dirty money” which was echoed by the Home Secretary.
MI5 warned MPs that a Chinese government agent was operating in the House of Commons who was “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with members here at Parliament”.
Christine Lee was named as the agent with MI5 warning she had “facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China…done covertly to mask the origins of the payments”.
Ms Lee had made around £700,000 worth of donations to party officials with a large majority of it going to Mr Gardiner.