Rishi Sunak's Role In Greensill Lobbying Scandal To Be Probed By MPs

Arj Singh
·Deputy Political Editor, HuffPost UK
·3 min read

Rishi Sunak’s role in the Greensill lobbying scandal will be investigated by MPs.

The cross-party Commons Treasury committee will examine the response by the chancellor and his team to lobbying from David Cameron, who tried to secure Covid rescue funding for Greensill Capital.

The former prime minister, who was working as an adviser to the firm, last year repeatedly sent text messages to Sunak to try to secure support through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

It came as Commons public administration committee chair William Wraggg said Cameron’s activities were “tasteless, slapdash and unbecoming”, and said his group of MPs would also be “giving these matters proper consideration”, suggesting a separate inquiry could be launched.

Text messages released last week following a Freedom of Information request revealed Sunak eventually rebuffed Cameron’s demands, but only after he “pushed” officials to explore an alternative plan that could have helped Greensill.

Greensill has now collapsed into insolvency, rendering Cameron’s reported millions of share options worthless.

The Treasury committee said its inquiry would “focus on the regulatory lessons from the failure of Greensill Capital and the appropriateness of [the] Treasury’s response to lobbying in relation to Greensill Capital”.

Conservative MP Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said: “The Treasury committee had previously decided to carefully consider these issues as part of its regular and upcoming evidence sessions with HM Treasury and its associated bodies, including the Financial Conduct Authority and Bank of England.

“In addition to this, we have now decided to take a closer look by launching an inquiry to investigate the issues that fall within our remit. We will publish further details when we launch the inquiry officially next week.”

Earlier, Tory MPs voted down Labour plans to set up a wider-ranging new committee to investigate the Greensill scandal, and the wider lobbying rules.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves argued a bigger probe was needed and that Boris Johnson’s proposed review was “wholly inadequate” as it was being led by a “good friend” of the Tory government in City lawyer Nigel Boardman.

It came after Keir Starmer said the row over Cameron’s lobbying marked the “return of Tory sleaze”.

The Labour leader said financier Lex Greensill was brought into the government as an adviser by Cameron, before then hiring the former prime minister to act as a lobbyist contacting Cabinet ministers including Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock.

The row has intensified this week after it emerged that the former head of civil service procurement, Bill Crothers, became an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant, in a move approved by the Cabinet Office.

Responding at PMQs, Johnson said he shared the “widespread concern about some of the stuff that we’re reading at the moment”.

“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” Johnson said.

“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood and I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June.”

Downing Street meanwhile defended Boardman, describing him as a “distinguished legal expert”.

“He was asked to lead this review independently. He has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly and we trust him to do that,” Johnson’s official spokesperson told reporters.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.