Pressure mounts for probe into Greensill Capital lobbying of Whitehall

Standards watchdog insists it “has no remit” to investigate but pledges to feed concerns into ongoing ethics review
Former prime minister David Cameron. Photo: PA

By Jim Dunton

31 Mar 2021

Ministers are facing increasing pressure to launch a probe into collapsed lender Greensill Capital’s lobbying of Whitehall – with former prime minister David Cameron as its highest-profile cheerleader.

The firm, run by Australian financier Lex Greensill, provided working capital to businesses around the globe until it went into administration earlier this month. Cameron, who was prime minister from 2010 to 2016, was hired as a lobbyist for the business in 2018 and reportedly used high level contacts – including chancellor Rishi Sunak – to seek access to Covid-19 support programmes for the firm.

Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer today called on cabinet secretary Simon Case to launch a full investigation into lobbying that took place for Greensill.

"I think the cabinet secretary needs to look at this again in the round and I also think it's time for David Cameron to come out of hiding and start answering some questions," Starmer told Press Association.

On Monday, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds and shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves called for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to investigate the allegations about Cameron’s lobbying activities and the access Greensill was given to taxpayer-backed loans.

Committee chair Lord Jonathan Evans said the advisory body “does not have a remit to investigate individual cases” but he suggested that CSPL’s ongoing Standards Matters 2 review could look at the concerns in a broader context.

“As part of the review we are looking at the current rules and arrangements governing transparency and public appointments and we will be assessing what is working well and where there are gaps and weaknesses,” Evans said.

Dodds and Reeves have also called on the cabinet secretary to investigate Cameron’s work for Greensill and its wider context. 

Earlier this week the Financial Times reported that Greensill was a friend and former Morgan Stanley colleague of the late former cabinet secretary Lord Jeremy Heywood.

It said Greensill had been given a role advising on supply-chain financing that was never formally announced and had a desk in the Cabinet Office and an official pass during the coalition government years. 

The FT said that in his role as an adviser on supply chain financing, Greensill had access to “at least 11 government departments”. He was given a formal role as a crown commissioner in 2014.

The Times reported today that former chief commercial officer Bill Crothers took up a role with Greensill Capital in 2016, one year after leaving government. It said the move had not been approved by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments despite rules requiring the watchdog to be informed of new jobs sought by former senior officials for a period of two years after they leave government.

Cameron took up his role with Greensill two years after he left office.

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