Cameron faces investigation into links to Greensill at heart of UK government
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Former British Prime Minister David Cameron faces an investigation by a standards watchdog influencing his links to Lex Greensill, the Australian financier whose eponymous company collapsed this month.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by a former MI5 chief, said it would consider submissions made by the opposition Labor Party on Monday following reports in the Financial Times and Sunday Times .
Media inquiries have revealed how Greensill was given an unpaid but influential role in the heart of government years before hiring Cameron as an adviser and using him to pressure senior ministers at the start of the pandemic .
Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the standards committee, called on Monday for a “full investigation”, calling the allegations “a real scandal”.
The Labor Party wrote to the committee urging it to investigate how Greensill, a former colleague and friend of former cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood at Morgan Stanley, has been a desk and a pass inside the Cabinet Office a decade ago.
In his role as an advisor on supply chain finance, which was never announced, he had access to at least 11 ministries, before giving him an official role of “Crown Commissioner” in 2014.
In 2012, Cameron signed a loan program for NHS-linked pharmacies even though an official report rejected a proposal from Greensill himself. Greensill Capital took over management of the program in 2018.
The committee was also asked to consider how Cameron, who was hired by Greensill in 2018, continued to put pressure on British government figures, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to improve the company’s access to Covid-19 loan programs, including the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Although the lobbying ultimately failed, Greensill held 10 meetings with Treasury officials in the spring of 2020 and secured loans through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
The FT first revealed on March 3 that Cameron had stock options in Greensill which could have been worth $ 70 million if the company had floated.
Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds and Shadow Cabinet Secretary Rachel Reeves wrote to the committee on Monday asking them to review Greensill’s ties to Cameron and whether the lobbying registry, set up by the former chief’s government in 2014 , was suitable for the purpose.
Reeves said the stories about Greensill were “extremely disturbing” and part of a “growing catalog of cronyism allegations” by the Conservative government.
“Taxpayers deserve to know the true extent of government access to Greensill Capital through the former Conservative Prime Minister,” she said.
The lobbying registry reviewed Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill last week, but concluded the job was outside his remit because he was an internal lobbyist rather than a third-party agent.
It is not the role of the standards committee to investigate specific allegations against particular individuals.
However, Jonathan Evans, who chairs the committee, responded in a letter to Labor that his complaint would be included in a review by the committee, dubbed “Standards Matter 2,” which is due to report in the fall.
“The committee is currently undertaking a landscape review of the institutions, procedures and policies in place to maintain high standards of conduct,” he said.
“We would welcome any detailed written evidence from Labor on your proposals for reform of ethics and integrity regulation in government. . . to help promote the highest standards of conduct in public life.
Although it does not have the capacity to sanction individuals, the committee does influence the government: its recommendations in the past have led to the creation of various standard-setting bodies such as the “Ministerial Interests Advisor” and the Election Commission.
The standards committee – whose members include Margaret Beckett, a former Labor Foreign Secretary, and Jeremy Wright, a former Conservative Culture Secretary – declined to comment on Monday.
The committee heard testimony last week from Eric Pickles, chairman of the advisory board on corporate appointments, which called for a “lobbying review” in the wake of the Cameron revelations.
Pickles, who was a Conservative minister in Cameron’s government, said at a committee hearing last week that it was important that lobbying be “transparent and open.”
“Prime ministers and former prime ministers are powerful people,” he said. “It is important that the system resists powerful people. “