The government is facing an urgent parliamentary question on the Greensill Capital scandal this afternoon. Specifically, Labour has asked Rishi Sunak to make a statement on the process by which the company was approved as a lender for the coronavirus large business interruption loans scheme. Labour had hoped to drag the Chancellor in front of the Commons to answer for his role in the affair, but the government is instead sending junior minister Paul Scully. The question was granted shortly after the government announced a review, which will look at how contracts were secured by the financial firm and the actions of David Cameron.
Claims of the ‘independence’ of the review have been criticised. Leading the investigation is Nigel Boardman, appointed as a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2018. BEIS supervises the British Business Bank, which was the entity that lent money to Greensill. The government has said that his BEIS work will be paused while this review is carried out. Boardman can recommend changes to the lobbying system but, as a partner for Slaughter and May in 2013, he opposed reform, arguing that it “may have the effect of stifling productive, even essential, dialogue between legislators and those who consider the implications and practicalities of relevant legislation on a day-to-day basis”. Boris Johnson’s spokesperson would not comment on Monday on whether rules around lobbying should be made tougher.
Critics have also highlighted the toothlessness of the body. It will have no legal powers to compel people to give evidence, and no evidence will be given in public. Rachel Reeves said on Monday that the review has “all the hallmarks of another cover-up”. Anneliese Dodds told the Today programme this morning that a “completely independent inquiry” is needed, right across government, not limited to just a “few instances of lobbying”. She added: “We are concerned that this may be an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass.” The review is due to report back in June. Labour is calling for a proper parliamentary inquiry, with the former PM and others giving evidence before MPs and cameras.
In other news Shirley Williams, former Labour minister and member of the ‘Gang of Four’ rebel group that split off from Labour to start the Social Democratic Party in the 1980s, has died at the age of 90. Labour MPs and the party leader paid tribute yesterday. And on LabourList this morning, Hilary Benn MP has written on why the UK needs the new cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.