The prime minister has ordered an independent inquiry into the role of Greensill Capital in government amid a lobbying row involving David Cameron.
The “Review into the Development and Use of Supply Chain Finance (and associated schemes) related to Greensill Capital in Government” will be led by Nigel Boardman, a legal expert and lead non-executive director at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The probe, announced yesterday, will look into how Cameron, the former prime minister, lobbied cabinet ministers including chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock on behalf of the collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital.
It comes after Cameron broke his month-long silence with a lengthy statement over the weekend, in which he said it was a mistake to lobby ministers informally for Greensill, but that he did not break any rules.
He said he had had “very little to do” with the firm’s founder, Lex Greensill and met him only twice while he was prime minister, despite the financier describing himself as a “senior adviser”.
But Cameron’s attempt to draw a line under the affair was unsuccessful as several prominent figures have said the row has damaged confidence in government.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown said the events had brought “public service into disrepute”.
“For me there are principles about public service: it cannot ever become a platform for private gain. Ministers must never be lobbying – former ministers, prime ministers, must never be lobbying for commercial purposes. Current ministers should not be entertaining such lobbying,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The Labour Party has meanwhile said “serious questions remain unanswered”.
Boris Johnson has asked Boardman to scrutinise the decisions taken around the development and use of supply chain finance and associated schemes, particularly those relating to Lex Greensill and his company.
Johnson’s spokesperson said there was “significant interest in this matter, so the PM has called for the review to ensure government is completely transparent about such activities, and that the public can see for themselves if good value was secured for taxpayers money”.
Asked if the PM believes lobbying rules need to be changed, the spokesperson said: "As you have seen from what we have announced today, the prime minister understands the significant public interest in this and wants to look at the issues raised and get more details. But I think you can judge from his actions.”
Cameron's spokesperson said yesterday that the ex-PM welcomed the inquiry “and will be glad to take part”.
The government has not set out an exact timeline for the investigation, but said Boardman will report his findings to Johnson "no later than the end of June".
Boardman will pause his work as lead NED at BEIS while he conducts the inquiry.
'Marking own homework'
The Labour Party disputed that the inquiry will be truly independent, with shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves saying it has “all the hallmarks of another cover-up by the Conservatives” and that the governing party should not "mark its own homework".
“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,” she said, referring to Johnson’s insistence that Patel had not broken the ministerial code despite an investigation finding evidence she had bullied staff.
Reeves added: "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.
Yesterday Liaison Committee chair Sir Bernard Jenkin said the prime minister’s adviser on ethics and the ministerial code would be best placed to lead a public inquiry into the scandal, and that it was unfortunate the role had not been filled since Sir Alex Allan resigned over Boris Johnson’s handling of an inquiry into bullying by home secretary Priti Patel.
“The sooner there is a new appointment, the better,” he said, adding that it should be a requirement that candidates should not take the job on unless they were able to conduct such an inquiry.