Calls for David Cameron to give evidence to Parliament in fresh lobbying inquiry


MPs have called for David Cameron to give evidence to Parliament after a fresh inquiry was launched into the Greensill lobbying scandal engulfing the government.

The Treasury Committee announced a probe tonight – hours after Tory MPs blocked Labour’s bid to set up a new body to investigate.

The Tory-dominated committee has no plans to invite the ex-Prime Minister to give evidence, it is understood.

But Labour MP and committee member Siobhain McDonagh told the Mirror: “I would like to see us call David Cameron, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock as witnesses to this inquiry because there are so many questions left to answer”.

SNP MP Alison Thewlliss, who also sits on the committee, said: “I would hope to see David Cameron come before the committee to give evidence.



The Tory-dominated committee has no plans to invite the ex-Prime Minister
The Tory-dominated committee has no plans to invite the ex-Prime Minister

“We have only had a partial picture so far and many questions remain unanswered.”

Mr Cameron’s spokesman couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

But Greensill’s founder Lex Greensill is prepared to give evidence to a probe. A spokesman for his family said: “Lex would be delighted to assist the UK Government in its inquiries into these issues and to set the record straight.”

The Treasury Committee inquiry will look at “the regulatory lessons from the failure of Greensill Capital”.

It will also examine “the appropriateness of HM Treasury’s response to lobbying” in relation to Greensill.

The committee rejected calls for an inquiry into the saga just weeks ago.



David Cameron with Lex Greensill in the Saudi desert in January 2020
David Cameron with Lex Greensill in the Saudi desert in January 2020

Chairman Mel Stride said: “The Treasury Committee had previously decided to carefully consider these issues as part of its regular and upcoming evidence sessions.

“In addition to this, we have now decided to take a closer look by launching an inquiry to investigate the issues that fall within our remit. We will publish further details when we launch the inquiry officially next week.”

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It came after Tory MPs thwarted a major probe into the deepening scandal, which Keir Starmer branded the “return of Tory sleaze”.

The Labour leader said a Line of Duty-style probe was needed to root out government cronyism.

But Boris Johnson ordered Conservatives to block a bid for an MP-led inquiry into the row triggered by David Cameron’s lobbying activities on behalf of collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital.



Boris Johnson ordered Conservatives to block a bid for an MP-led inquiry 50 minutes earlier
Boris Johnson ordered Conservatives to block a bid for an MP-led inquiry 50 minutes earlier

The Commons rejected the plan by 357 votes to 262, majority 95.

Just 50 minutes after the result was declared, the Commons Treasury Select Committee announced it would launch its own investigation anyway.

Tory MP William Wragg, who chairs the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, suggested it could also investigate the row as he branded Mr Cameron’s actions “tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming” in the Commons.

Questions tonight continued to mount for the Tories following revelations a senior civil servant moonlighted for Greensill while still working for the government.

Bill Crothers, an ex-head of Whitehall procurement, worked part-time at the firm while still a civil servant – a move that had been allowed by the Cabinet Office.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case tonight demanded that officials immediately declare any paid jobs outside government as Whitehall scrambled to head off further scandal.

Mr Johnson admitted he shared the “widespread concern” about links between Greensill and the Government, but insisted his party had been “tough on lobbying”.

“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” the PM told the Commons.

“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood.”

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Asked when he was last in contact with Mr Cameron, Mr Johnson claimed he “cannot remember when I last spoke to Dave” but insisted he had not discussed the Greensill row with his former Tory colleague.



Greensill collapsed leaving thousands of steel jobs in danger
Greensill collapsed leaving thousands of steel jobs in danger

The PM has asked lawyer Nigel Boardman to examine behind-the-scenes contact between the Government and Mr Cameron on behalf of Greensill, which employed him as a paid advisor from 2018.

“I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June,” said Mr Johnson.

Finally ending weeks of silence over the affair on Sunday, Mr Cameron insisted he broke no rules in his lobbying.

However he admitted he should have only used “the most formal of channels” rather than sending private texts to Mr Sunak and other Tory ministers to appeal for Covid-19 loans for the firm.

Greensill’s request for support was ultimately rejected and it filed for insolvency last month – plunging thousands of Liberty Steel into jeopardy.



There are questions over the choice of Nigel Boardman, pictured, to lead the inquiry
There are questions over the choice of Nigel Boardman, pictured, to lead the inquiry

The saga has triggered a wider lobbying row over whether rules preventing ex-ministers from capitalising on their time in government for commercial gain are tough enough.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Starmer compared the scandal with the mid-1990s era when a slew of sleazy stories gradually undermined Tory PM John Major’s Government – and fuelled Tony Blair’s 1997 election landslide.

The Labour leader said: “The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg; dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates – this is the return of Tory sleaze.

“It’s now so ingrained in this Conservative Government, we don’t need another Conservative Party appointee marking their own homework.”

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Suggesting Line of Duty detectives should be brought in, he added: “The more I listen to the Prime Minister, the more I think Ted Hastings and AC-12 is needed to get to the bottom of this one.”

While Tory MPs blocked Labour’s bid to establish a separate committee to look into the Greensill affair, some backbenchers spoke out during the three-hour Commons debate.

Conservative Andrew Bowie said: “We all condemn the actions that are alleged to have taken place regarding Greensill and the involvement of the former Prime Minister.

“It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.”

Tory Steve Double said: “The revelations and allegations that have come to light in recent days are clearly concerning and do raise a number of very serious questions.”

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves said the Government-ordered review was “not remotely fit for purpose”.

She claimed the PM’s “hand picked” lawyer, Mr Boardman, was a “very good friend of the Conservative Government”.

She accused Mr Boardman, the son of a Tory peer and a director at the Business Department, of “whitewashing” a previous review into government contracts during the pandemic.

Downing Street said Mr Boardman was a “distinguished legal expert”.

The PM’s spokesman added: “He was asked to lead this review independently, he has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly, and we trust him to do that.”

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said claims the inquiry would be independent were “laughable”.

She added: “The stench is growing. Only the disinfectant of a fully transparent and independent inquiry will deal with it.”

SNP MP Brendan O’Hara said “self-styled reformer” David Cameron “is up to his neck in the same cronyism, corruption and sleaze that he promised to call out, expose and eradicate while he was in opposition. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.”

Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said a full committee-led inquiry would be “unnecessary and unconstructive”.

She said the Government was “already” looking at the effectiveness of existing rules on lobbying, and working to “improve and extend” the regime of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) – the watchdog which says whether ministers and officials can take-up jobs once they have left government.

Acoba’s chairman, former Tory Cabinet Minister Lord Eric Pickles, will be quizzed by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday morning.





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