Northern Ireland news

Former NIO minister Barry Gardiner received hundreds of thousands of pounds from alleged Chinese agent

Former NIO minister Barry Gardiner. Picture by Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A FORMER Northern Ireland Office minister received hundreds of thousands of pounds from an alleged Chinese government agent.

Barry Gardiner, who served as under secretary of state from April 2004-May 2005 after being appointed by Tony Blair, accepted large donations from Christine Lee, an alleged Chinese agent.

The Labour MP confirmed her son was working for him but resigned yesterday.

Mr Gardiner said Ms Lee "gained no political advantage for the Chinese state from me".

According to MI5, the Chinese government agent has been working in Westminster "to subvert the processes".

Mr Gardiner yesterday denied he felt "a fool" following revelations about Ms Lee's activities.

But the Labour former frontbencher admitted he was "very angry that somebody tried to use me in that way".

Asked by Sky News if he ever discussed Labour policy with Ms Lee, Mr Gardiner replied: "No, not in great detail, no."

And he suggested Ms Lee had received "a very poor investment" from the donations she gave to him, mainly to cover staffing costs in his office.

Mr Gardiner received more than £500,000 from Ms Lee over six years. He revealed he had spoken to her as recently as this week when, Mr Gardiner said, she enquired about his elderly parents-in-law.

But he said he had been "cautious" about his relationship with her "because I knew that she was a solicitor who acted for a number of Chinese businesses in the UK over a very long period of time".

Mr Gardiner, who served in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet, revealed he had "spoken openly and frankly" with the security services "for a number of years" about his engagement with Ms Lee.

"At no time did they suggest that I cut off engagement with her," he said, stressing he had always been "totally transparent" about donations made to his office.

The Labour MP said he had been told by the security services that they have "no evidence at all" at the moment that the money his office received came from the Chinese state.

He also highlighted his past criticisms of the Chinese government, such as on climate change issues and human rights concerns.

The former shadow energy minister denied he had been a "cheerleader" for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which has been bankrolled by a Chinese state-backed firm.

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Northern Ireland news