Westminster’s Treasury Select Committee has today launched an inquiry the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal.
Committee chair Mel Stride said MPs would “take a closer look” at the circumstances surrounding efforts by David Cameron and former senior civil servant Bill Crothers in lobbying on behalf of the failed finance firm.
A statement from the committee said the probe “will focus on the regulatory lessons from the failure of Greensill Capital and the appropriateness of HM Treasury’s response to lobbying in relation to Greensill Capital”.
It comes as the government today defeated a Labour bid to force the government to conduct a Westminster-led inquiry into the lobbying scandal.
Labour’s motion would have seen a committee of MPs chosen to probe Greensill’s links to the government, including efforts by David Cameron to lobby ministers on behalf of the failed finance firm.
The government defeated the motion by 357 votes to 262.
Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that an independent review will be conducted by Slaughter and May lawyer Nigel Boardman, however Labour says this does not go far enough.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said “they don’t want public hearings, they don’t want the disinfectant of sunlight as David Cameron once urged”.
“It is a fact that Nigel Boardman is a very good friend of the Conservative government,” she said.
“Mr Boardman has been paid over £20,000 per year as a non- exexutive director for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – a department with a real interest in the British Business Bank that lent to Greensill and the British Steel industry where so many jobs are now at risk.
“Mr Boardoman has already whitewashed the government’s handling of public procurement during the pandemic and I fear he will do the same again with this inquiry.”
Chloe Smith, minister of state for the Cabinet Office, said that the government’s inquiry will already achieve much of what Labour was proposing.
“The motion seeks to establish…a select committee that is so wide ranging that it would cut across parliament’s existing committees and independent bodies that have responsibility in this area,” she said.
Earlier today, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today accused Boris Johnson of overseeing a “return of Tory sleaze” over the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Starmer said: “Dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates, this is the return of Tory sleaze.
“It’s so ingrained in this Conservative government – we don’t need a another Conservative appointee marking their own homework.”
In response, Johnson said: “The Prime Minister added: “This is a government and a party that has been consistently tough on lobbying and we introduced legislation that ensures there should be no taxpayer funded lobbying, that quangos should not be allowed to get involved with lobbying, we put in a register for lobbyists, there’s one party that voted to repeal the 2014 Lobbying Act and it was the Labour party in their 2019 manifesto.”
Johnson’s review will investigate Cameron’s role in lobbying health secretary Matt Hancock and chancellor Rishi Sunak on behalf of Greensill while he worked at the finance firm as a part of a wider probe into lobbying.
Cameron last year sent texts to Sunak in a bid to overturn a Treasury decision to deny Greensill Capital access to the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which saw the Bank of England buy millions of pounds of bonds from investment grade firms.
n text messages released by the Treasury, Sunak told Cameron he would “push” Treasury officials to look at Greensil’s application again, however the firm was ultimately denied entry to the scheme.
Sunak is also facing questions over why Greensill Capital, a supply chain finance firm, was just one of two non-bank financial firms approved to administer loans as a part of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Speaking in parliament yesterday, business minister Paul Scully said: “The accreditation for any of the Covid loans schemes is run independently by the British Business Bank.
“Neither BEIS nor HM Treasury had a role or were involved in the CLBILS accreditation decision for Greensill.”
In a 1,800-word statement this weekend Cameron broke his silence over the scandal, admitting he should have used more formal channels of communication but denying he had broken government rules.