Evgeny Lebedev, the newspaper owner made a peer by Boris Johnson, has burnished his reputation as one of the more relaxed members of the House of Lords by marking a full year since he last formally contributed to proceedings in the chamber.
The crossbench peer, who has spoken just once in the Lords and never voted, submitted two written questions to ministers on 21 February last year, but has shown no signs of action since.
He did attend the Lords slightly later than this, last being formally recorded there on 19 May 2022, but without speaking or voting.
Of 352 possible sittings since he formally entered the Lords in November 2019, the billionaire newspaper proprietor and friend of Johnson has attended four times, attendance records show, slightly over 1.1% of the total.
Lebedev has yet to take the oath to King Charles, nearly six months after the Queen’s death. Among peers who have managed to take the oath are Frank Field, the former Labour MP, who is 80 and terminally ill.
The Evening Standard-owner made his sole speech in the Lords in May 2021, talking for five minutes during a debate on the Queen’s speech. His written comments were about food and agriculture.
While peers can and do take a formal leave of absence from the Lords, or retire from it altogether, there are a series who remain members but play minimal seeming role in its business.
While the Lords works on a different basis to the Commons, with many peers holding specialisms outside the chamber, statistics compiled by the Guardian in early December showed that 187 peers had attended fewer than 20% of all sittings to that point in 2022.
Anthony Bamford, the industrialist and Conservative donor who was made a Tory peer by David Cameron in 2013, has attended about 4% of Lords sittings since 2020, and only six times in the last two years. In his near-decade in the house he has spoken five times.
The Lords is the biggest legislative chamber in the world apart from China’s National People’s Congress, and efforts to reduce its size from 800 to about 600, with encouragement for peers to retire and a proposed “two out, one in” policy, have come to nothing.
Efforts to limit numbers have not been helped by Johnson, who created a series of new peers as prime minister, also including his own brother, Jo.
Johnson’s pending resignation honours list has yet to be published, but it reportedly includes peerage nominations for a series of allies and associates including his former culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, and aides Ross Kempsell, 30, and Charlotte Owen, who is in her late 20s.
In December, a spokesperson for Lebedev said the peer “intends to contribute on various matters in which he has interest and relevance throughout the course of 2023”. His office was contacted again for comment.