David Cameron Greensill scandal: What is the lobbying row about?

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Telegraph reporters
·4 min read
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what is david cameron greensill scandal investigation review independent - AP
what is david cameron greensill scandal investigation review independent - AP

Lex Greensill will be questioned by MPs on Tuesday over the collapse of his firm and the lobbying controversy centred on former prime minister David Cameron.

MPs on the cross-party Treasury Committee will quiz the financier on the demise of Greensill Capital, which jeopardised 5,000 steelmaking jobs in the UK.

The Government has launched an independent review into the collapsed financial firm for which Mr Cameron lobbied ministers.

Questions had been mounting over the former prime minister's efforts to secure access for the finance company, which collapsed in March, putting thousands of UK steelmaking jobs at risk.

Here's how the controversy unfolded and what happens next.

What is the Greensill row about?

Labour has led calls for an inquiry after it emerged that Mr Cameron had privately lobbied ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to win access to an emergency coronavirus loan scheme for his employer, Lex Greensill.

Allegations also surfaced that Mr Greensill, an Australian financier, was given privileged access to Whitehall departments when Mr Cameron was in No 10.

The row deepened in April when it was revealed that a senior civil servant was granted permission to join Greensill Capital while still working at the highest levels of government. Bill Crothers was head of Whitehall procurement, in control of a £15 billion annual purchasing budget, when he took on an external role as part-time adviser to the finance company's board in September 2015. A second official in the Cabinet Office was hired for the firm while working for the civil service, it was revealed.

What was David Cameron's involvement?

Mr Cameron sent a number of texts to Mr Sunak's private phone asking for support for Greensill, which later collapsed into administration, through the Government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

It was later reported that Mr Cameron had arranged a "private drink" between Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Mr Greensill to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.

The former Conservative leader also emailed a senior Downing Street adviser, pressing for a rethink on Mr Greensill's application for access to emergency funding.

Read more: James Kirkup: David Cameron's anti-cronyism rings hollow now

Rishi Sunak was contacted by David Cameron on behalf of Greensill - REUTERS
Rishi Sunak was contacted by David Cameron on behalf of Greensill - REUTERS

What has David Cameron said about the row?

Breaking his weeks of silence in a statement last month, Mr Cameron insisted that, in his representations to Government, he did not break any codes of conduct or lobbying rules.

But he did acknowledge that he should have communicated with the Government "through only the most formal of channels", rather than texts to Mr Sunak, and said he accepts there are "important lessons to be learnt".

Mr Cameron said "many of the allegations" made in recent weeks "are not correct" as he challenged what he called a "false impression" that Mr Greensill was a key member of his team while prime minister.

Read more: Ben Wright: David Cameron’s sleazy lobbying will undermine the state's interactions with business

What did the watchdog say about David Cameron?

In March, the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists cleared Mr Cameron of breaking lobbying rules, because, as an employee of Greensill, he was not required to declare himself on the register.

How will the independent review work?

The review, commissioned by the Cabinet Office on behalf of Boris Johnson, will examine how Government contracts were secured by the company and the actions of former premier Mr Cameron.

Who is leading the review?

Nigel Boardman, who is a non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and chairman of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, will lead the investigation.

The lawyer has previously conducted a review of Cabinet Office procurement processes, according to Downing Street.

Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow chancellor, accused the Tories of a "cover-up" - GETTY IMAGES
Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow chancellor, accused the Tories of a "cover-up" - GETTY IMAGES

What did John Major say about it?

Sir John Major has called for an overhaul of the ethics rules binding former ministers. Sir John said propriety regulations governing all current and former frontbenchers and senior officials should be updated and examined in the wake of the row engulfing Mr Cameron, The Telegraph can reveal.

Sir John's intervention came after the former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for tougher rules to prevent former PMs lobbying within the Government, arguing that it "brings public service into disrepute".

What have Labour said about it?

The Opposition, which has repeatedly called for an investigation into the "scandal", said the review risks kicking the issue into the "long grass".

Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: "This has all the hallmarks of another cover-up by the Conservatives.

"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."