Greensill: 'Sleazy' David Cameron acted just 'to line his pockets', says MP Rachel Reeves

14 April 2021, 09:09 | Updated: 14 April 2021, 13:16

By Fiona Jones

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves condemned David Cameron's "sleazy" behaviour, accusing him of acting "just to line his pockets" while lobbying the Government on behalf of Greensill Capital.

David Cameron's working relationship with Greensill Capital, dubbed the "Greensill scandal", has come under heavy scrutiny and Downing Street has announcing an independent review into his behaviour after growing pressures.

A further revelation into the controversy emerged last night, as one of the country's top civil servants was allowed by the Cabinet Office to work for the firm Greensill Capital while maintaining his role in the civil service.

Correspondence between the Cabinet Office and the head of the official Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) has revealed that Bill Crothers joined Greensill as a part-time adviser to the board in 2015, a move that was "supported by the Cabinet Office leadership".

A Cabinet Office spokesperson has confirmed that Mr Crothers' employment by the firm will be factored in to this "wide-ranging" investigation.

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves condemned the "Greensill scandal", branding Mr Cameron's actions as "frankly sleazy."

She told LBC: "If you're working in Bramley in my constituency and you're struggling during the pandemic and you want to access a loan system from the Government, then if you've got the number of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you can have ten meetings with officials in that department. You can potentially have a private drink with the Health Secretary or any other department you've got the telephone number of.

"The problem is you don't have those telephone numbers. But you do if you're the former Prime Minister."

MP Rachel Reeves continued, "The former Prime Minister has used that contact list of his to get special access to companies that he was lobbying for - not in the national interest to protect British jobs and British business, but in his own interest. To line his own pockets because he had share options worth tens of millions of pounds.

"It's not right, it's not a level playing field, and it's frankly sleazy."

Nick countered that some people have argued that this happens "all the time" in politics and questioning why "we're getting excited" about this incident.

She responded: "This is much wider than Greensill. We've seen in the last year £2 billion worth of contracts go to friends and donors of the Conservative Party.

"A contract that went to Matt Hancock's pub landlord because he WhatsApped him, and a whole number of appointments to friends and contacts of the Conservative Party.

"That's why today MPs will be able to vote in Parliament to set up a special select committee across the House, across the different political parties, to take evidence in public, to compel witnesses and also documents to get to the bottom not just of what happened at Greensill but what on earth is going on with lobbying, with cronyism, with sleaze at the heart of Government now."

The revelation surrounding Mr Crothers came after The Times and Financial Times reported he had joined the board of the financial firm in 2016, less than a year after leaving his post as the government's chief procurement officer.

The papers reported that he failed to obtain permission from Acoba, which is supposed to vet private sector appointments by former ministers and senior servants within two years of leaving their posts.

In a letter to civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm following the reports, Acoba chairman Lord Pickles questioned why the committee had not received an application from Mr Crothers in relation to his role at Greensill.

In correspondence which was published on Tuesday, Mr Chisholm said Mr Crothers had taken a role advising the board of Greensill in September 2015 while employed as a civil servant.

Read more: Greensill: Gordon Brown says ex-PMs should be banned from lobbying for 5 years

Read more: 'Lessons to be learnt': David Cameron breaks silence on Greensill lobbying row

The move was approved through the Cabinet Office's "internal conflicts of interest policy, which advises on how to address real or perceived conflicts of interest", according to Mr Chisholm.

He added that as Mr Crothers was already working in an advisory capacity to Greensill before he left the civil service in November 2015, he was not required to submit an application to Acoba when he became a director in 2016.

In a letter to Lord Pickles, Mr Crothers claimed he did "completely respect the required process" and had been told no application was required to be submitted to the committee.

"It was seen as a way of me transitioning back into the private sector and was supported by the Cabinet Office leadership," Mr Crothers said in the letter.

"This advisory role was not seen as contentious, and I believe not uncommon. I then left the civil service in good stead and with best wishes."

In response, Lord Pickles criticised the "lack of transparency" around Mr Crothers' part-time employment with Greensill, and urged the Cabinet Office to publish the conflicts of interest policy.

Greensill later collapsed into administration but not before Mr Cameron unsuccessfully lobbied ministers on its behalf for support through the Government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

The review will examine how the specialist bank - founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill - was granted access to a Covid loan scheme for businesses, putting hundreds of millions of pounds taxpayers' money at risk.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We have responded to the initial letter from Lord Pickles and will respond to his further letter in due course.

"The Boardman review into Greensill Capital and supply chain finance will be wide-ranging and will also consider the issues raised so the public can judge whether they were appropriately handled at the time."

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