Labour’s Rachel Reeves has reacted to the announcement of an inquiry into the Greensill scandal involving David Cameron by accusing the government of an attempt to “push bad behaviour into the long grass”.
10 Downing Street has confirmed that the government is “commissioning an independent review on behalf of the Prime Minister to establish the development and use of supply chain finance and associated activities in government”.
Boris Johnson’s spokesperson added that the review would look at “the role Greensill played” in such activities and said the Prime Minister wanted it to take place to “ensure government is completely transparent about such activities”.
Responding to the news, the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who leads Labour’s work on scrutinising cronyism in government, said: “This has all the hallmarks of another cover-up by the Conservatives.
“Just as with the inquiry into Priti Patel’s alleged bullying, this is another Conservative Government attempt to push bad behaviour into the long grass and hope the British public forgets. The Conservatives can’t be trusted to yet again mark their own homework.
“We need answers on Greensill now – that means key players in this cronyism scandal like David Cameron, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock appearing openly in front of Parliament as soon as possible to answer questions.”
The inquiry will be led by lawyer Nigel Boardman, a non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the chair of the audit and risk assurance committee. Its timescale has not yet been disclosed.
The government has been asked but not yet indicated when Alex Allan, the independent adviser of ministerial interests, will be replaced. He quit last year after Boris Johnson backed Priti Patel despite bullying claims.
The Labour leadership, joined by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has called for rules on lobbying to be tightened in the wake of reports revealing the extent of David Cameron’s lobbying activities for Greensill.
“Ministers must never be lobbying – former ministers, prime ministers, must never be lobbying for commercial purposes. Current ministers should not be entertaining such lobbying,” Brown told the BBC today.
A Freedom of Information request revealed last week that Cameron had repeatedly texted Rishi Sunak and that the Chancellor had replied to say that he had “pushed the [Treasury] team” to accommodate Cameron’s wishes.
The former Prime Minister was pushing for Greensill to have access to the Bank of England’s Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF). This did not ultimately happen, but Greensill – before its collapse – was given access to government-backed Covid loans.
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds has been granted an urgent question in parliament on Tuesday, when she will ask Sunak about the process by which Greensill was approved as a lender for the coronavirus large business interruption loans scheme.
Cameron released a statement on Sunday evening describing “many of the allegations” around his work for Greensill as “not correct”, but concluding that his “communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels”.