The Boardman review into the Greensill scandal was a “cynical and coordinated attempt to distract attention from some real, current issues by trying to blame someone who is no longer with us”, the widow of former cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood has said.
In an outspoken new chapter of Jeremy Heywood’s biography, Suzanne Heywood has called the Boardman report a “masterclass in how to use evidence selectively to support a predetermined conclusion”.
The review, published last July, was highly critical of Jeremy Heywood’s role in bringing Lex Greensill, the founder of Greensill Capital, into government as an “unpaid” adviser on supply-chain finance in 2011.
The appointment came under scrutiny last year, given the high level of access it gave Greensill to government. David Cameron, who had been prime minister when Greensill was at No.10, later lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of the supply-chain finance firm before its collapse last March.
The review said it was unclear why the financier had been allowed to remain an adviser for several years, saying that by 2015 it “should have been apparent to Lord Heywood and others involved that Mr Greensill was building a supply chain business in the UK” and the potential for conflicts of interest should have been considered.
Lady Heywood has spoken out repeatedly against the way her husband was treated by the government’s inquiry into the scandal, calling it a “travesty of a process” when it was published.
She has now shared a detailed account of her attempts to give evidence to the review, in a chapter added to the new paperback print run of What Would Jeremy Do?
In an extract from the chapter, published by the Observer, Heywood said her efforts to ensure Jeremy, who died in 2018, was “properly represented” in the inquiry were rebuffed or ignored.
She was offered only an informal meeting with Nigel Boardman, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy non-executive director leading the review. She said Boardman “remained silent” when she explained that papers she held, as well as being Heywood’s biographer and the executor of his will, meant she had “knowledge that would be relevant” to the review.
She said Boardman refused to release documents that would enable her to represent Lord Heywood to the review.
She was later “appalled” when presented with draft extracts of the review’s findings in June, weeks before it was due to be released.
“My worst fears were justified: Boardman was uniquely targeting Jeremy while letting past and serving ministers and special advisers off as lightly as possible. The report was so biased that I found it hard to read,” she said.
“It became clear that, as well as being unpleasant (for example, Boardman stated baldly in his introduction that he hadn’t been able to speak to Jeremy, making it sound like Jeremy hadn’t bothered to show up rather than explaining that he’d passed away), most of Boardman’s conclusions were based on post-hoc, one-sided testimonies and not supported by contemporaneous documents.”
It was only after more appeals to the Cabinet Office and a legal letter that Heywood was offered a formal meeting with Boardman – ahead of which she was given just 48 hours to access Jeremy’s papers.
“It was, of course, clear that Boardman was hurriedly ticking boxes to avoid being taken to court and was still intent on making it as hard as possible for me to represent Jeremy,” Heywood wrote.
She said the evidence she saw showed Boardman had been “highly selective in his use of evidence”. For example, there was “ample documentary evidence” to show Lex Greensill’s appointment had been approved by then-Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude – contrary to the review’s claim that Jeremy had brought Greensill into “the very heart of government without ministerial authority”.
Responding to the claim, Lord Maude told the Observer: “I have no recollection of signing this off and as the Boardman report makes absolutely clear Lex Greensill would not have come anywhere near government if he had not been pushed to do so by Jeremy Heywood.”
When the report was published soon after this – and after a meeting in which Heywood said she had been “horrified by the way in which these extracts have been drafted in order to reach a pre-ordained conclusion against my late husband and deeply distressed by the lack of accuracy and fairness” – it was largely unchanged, she said.
Heywood said she was encouraged by the “general derision” with which the Boardman review – described at the time as a “whitewash” – was received.
“I hope that this government, and later governments, will now let Jeremy rest in peace. He gave his life to public service and died while still serving the prime minister of the day,” she wrote.
“While he would be the first to admit his own imperfections, he was a man of huge integrity, who deserves to be treated better both now and in the future by the institution and politicians he served with such dedication.”