Kwasi Kwarteng Says He Wasn't “Pushed Under The Bus” By Rishi Sunak Over The Greensill Lobbying Row
Kwasi Kwarteng spoke about the Greensill lobbying scandal when he appeared in front of the BEIS select committee (Parliamentlive.TV)
The business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has rejected the claim his department has been “pushed under the bus” by Rishi Sunak after the Treasury deflected questions over the Greensill scandal to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Appearing in front of the BEIS select committee, Kwarteng said it was “technically” true his department had oversight, as the money was handed to companies by lenders approved by British Business Bank, an “arms-length body” under his department’s umbrella.
Sunak has been accused of being happy to take credit for the scheme when it was praised last year, and now distancing himseld because it is in the headlines for different reasons.
Labour MP Darren Jones, the committee’s chair asked Kwarteng if Sunak was now saying: “It’s not his problem guv?”
But Kwarteng defended the Chancellor, drawing a distinction between which loans were given through which department.
"Those lenders received accreditation from the British Business Bank, and that is a BEIS ALB – and so technically that’s right,” he explained.
Jones remained unconvinced, and said he believed Kwarteng and the BEIS were "being pushed under the bus” by Sunak and the Treasury.
“I don’t think that’s the case at all,” Kwarteng said, reiterating that he believed the type of loan in question very much fell to his department.
Labour has put out a series of examples of why it is believed Sunak was the architect of the policy, including tweets from him announcing the policy last April.
Bridget Phillipson, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said it was “laughable” the Chancellor was trying to claim his department wasn’t responsible.
“The Coronavirus Large Interruption Scheme literally had the Chancellor’s name all over it," she added.
“He launched it and he took the headlines for it.”
Kwarteng was also asked if he had been contacted by the former Prime Minister, in light of the recent revelation that Cameron spoke to at lest four current ministers about his then-employer Greensill last year.
But the business secretary insisted this was not the case. "I have never received a single phone call or WhatsApp from Mr Cameron,” he said.
The Chancellor has also been criticised for not appearing in the House of Commons to answer an urgent question from Labour on the now-collapsed financial firm and its access to government pandemic funds.
Instead the small business minister Paul Scully is responding from the despatch box after the Treasury suggested the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBIL) was solely the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Health secretary Matt Hancock sought to distance himself from the scandal when he was asked about his contact with Cameron in the Commons on Tuesday, after it was reported he attended a private drink with him and Lex Greensill, the founder of Greensill Capital.
Later the NHS Shared Business Services entered a partnership with the payroll platform Earnd, which was a division of Greensill.
Handcock told the Commons: “Ministers were not involved in the decision by NHS shared business services to facilitate the provision of salary advances in pilot schemes.
“Absolutely I attended a social meeting organised by the former prime minister, and given that departmental business came up I've reported to officials in the normal way.”
There is however no record of the meeting in the government’s transparency logs.