Parliament hit with China spy threat as MI5 warns of ‘active agent’ in Commons

A suspected Chinese spy has been identified operating inside the House of Commons, according to a report from Security Service MI5.

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, raising a point of order, told the Commons on Thursday: "I understand that Mr Speaker has been contacted by MI5 and is now warning members of Parliament that there has been an agent of the Chinese government active here in Parliament working with a Member of Parliament, obviously to subvert the processes here."

The Speaker's office has confirmed that a warning notice has been issued in relation to the activities of a suspected Chinese agent.

A spokeswoman for the Speaker's office said: "The Speaker takes the security of Members and the democratic process very seriously, which is why he issued this notice in consultation with the security services. There is no further comment on this matter.”

The woman, identified in an official MI5 warning notice as Christine Lee, has been accused of attempting to influence a number of MPs, in particular Barry Gardiner, who was then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade from 2016 to 2020.

She is accused of of "facilitating financial donations to serving and aspiring politicians."

Ms Lee’s law firm, Christine Lee & Co, is a long-time contributor to Mr Gardiner’s office, where her son, Daniel Wilkes, also works.

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Her donations, reported to be over £180,000 a year, cover Mr Wilkes’s wages, as well as those of another of Mr Gardiner’s Westminster aides.

Mr Gardiner said that Mr Wilkes had been hired as part of an "open appointment process", and given the job "on merit".

Mr Gardiner has said he'd been "liaising with our Security Services for a number of years about Christine Lee and they have always known, and been made fully aware by me, of her engagement with my office and the donations she made to fund researchers in my office in the past".

"Steps were taken to ensure Christine Lee had no role in either the appointment or management of those researchers.

"They are also aware that I have not benefited personally from those donations in any way. She ceased funding any workers in my office in June 2020.

"All the donations were properly reported in the register of members’ interests and their source verified at the time.

"I have been assured by the Security Services that whilst they have definitively identified improper funding channelled through Christine Lee, this does not relate to any funding received by my office."

Adding that all his dealings with her had been appropriately recorded in the register of members’ interests he stressed that there was “no suggestion of impropriety”.

The MI5 Interference Alert claims that Ms Lee has been “engaged in political interference activities on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, engaging with Members here at Parliament and associated political entities.”

Lord McFall of Alcluith, speaker of the House of Lords, warned: "I should highlight the fact that Lee has facilitated financial donations to serving and aspiring Parliamentarians on behalf of foreign nationals based in Hong Kong and China.

"This facilitation was done covertly to mask the origins of the payments. This is clearly unacceptable behaviour and steps are being taken to ensure it ceases."

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