Labour Accuses Tories Of Going “Back To The Sleaze Of The 1990s” With David Cameron Lobbying Scandal
Labour are calling for a full Parliamentary inquiry into David Cameron's lobbying on behalf of Greensill (Alamy)
Labour is accusing the Conservatives of returning “to the sleaze of the 1990s” amid fresh revelations over the Greensill lobbying scandal.
The opposition is pushing for a full Parliamentary inquiry into the matter after accusing the government of “looking to mark their own homework” with a review set up by Boris Johnson.
On Tuesday news broke that a top civil servant had joined the now-collapsed financial firm Greensill Capital as an adviser in 2015 while still working in Whitehall.
The Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) said the part-time role for Bill Crothers, who was the government's chief procurement officer at the time, had been "agreed" to by the Cabinet Office.
Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves told LBC it was “frankly sleazy” that Cameron had used his contact list “to get special access for companies that he was lobbying for – not in the national interest to protect British jobs and businesses, but his own interests and line his own pockets because he had to share options worth tens of millions of pounds”.
Labour is using an opposition day debate this afternoon to force a binding vote on setting up a new select committee to look into the wider issues of lobbying.
“The inquiry that Boris Johnson has announced is not a proper independent inquiry, and its remit is too narrow," Reeves told Sky News.
“The inquiry is to look at what happened at Greensill, we know that this scandal of lobbying, of crony contracts, is much broader than that, and the sleaze that is now engulfing the Conservative party goes much broader and wider.”Reeves said the man “hand-picked” by the government to run the review, the lawyer Nigel Boardman, is a “close friend of the Conservative Party”.
“This is no way to ensure that we have the sunlight shone on this,” she added.
“David Cameron once said that sunlight was the best form of disinfectant. I agree with that.”
Government sources said the Boardman review would also now look at the situation surrounding Crothers, who was involved in Greensill’s earlier activity within government supply chain finance in the early 2010s, as Labour called his dual employment "extraordinary and shocking”.
Reeves told Sky News: “Our democracy is a precious thing, and it is being undermined by the actions of this government and of successive conservative governments.
“It's back to the sleaze of the 1990s, and frankly, it disgusts me and disgusts many people that what is happening at the moment is that if you've got access to ministers, if you've got the telephone number of the chancellor, if you can go for a private drink with the Health Secretary, you can get the contract.”
The row started after it was revealed the former Prime Minister David Cameron had lobbied ministers to include Greensiill, who he began working for in 2018, in a series of pandemic business funds last year.
It has since been confirmed he contacted the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, as well as two other Treasury ministers, and took the company’s founder Lex Greensill for a “private drink” with the health secretary Matt Hancock.
Johnson is whipping his MPs to vote down Labour’s plans for a new committee, meaning it is very likely to fail, and a senior Conservative MP called it "political opportunism” this morning.
The former minister and chair of the defence select committee Tobias Ellwood told Times Radio: "What has happened is the former prime minister has put up his hand and said I didn't act in the spirit of the rules, you then have Number 10 that have come out with their own investigation.
"These things should be allowed to take their course.”
He added: "Let's see what happens with the review, it is being done independently – that is the process that we should do these things, not just jump on this bandwagon and the day after a review has been called say right let's have a determination by having a vote in the House.”
But former civil servant Jill Rutter said the Crothers revelations suggested the rules needed an overhaul, and that he seemed to have exploited a "loophole" in not requiring Cabinet Office approval to take a job with Greensill because he had already been doing work for them while in the Civil Service.
"Bill Crothers wasn't just any civil servant, he was the head of a thing called the Crown Commercial Service which oversees all that government buying activity,” she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"You'd have thought that if anyone was in a sensitive role, and anyone is looking for them to advise them, he is in a very difficult position to take a role with an external company and manage to avoid the conflicts of interest.
"What we haven't seen yet is the Cabinet Office's justification for saying it was OK but I have to say that among other former civil servants that I know, there was an awful lot of eyebrow raising going on last night."