UK

Storm grows over David Cameron’s crony

Storm grows over David Cameron’s crony: Boris Johnson is urged to bring in new lobbying law as emails show Greensill boss rode roughshod over Whitehall

  • Pressure ha s been growing on Boris Johnson to introduce a lobbying law 
  • Australian tycoon Lex Greensill was able to push through a govt. loan scheme 
  • Greensill benefited from the sceme by citing authority of then-PM Cameron 

Pressure was growing on Boris Johnson to introduce a lobbying law last night as David Cameron faced more questions about his closeness to a controversial financier.

Leaked emails revealed how Australian tycoon Lex Greensill was able to push through a government loan scheme from which he benefited by citing the authority of then prime minister Mr Cameron.

The cache of messages showed how the businessman told officials in 2012 that ‘the PM’ had requested that he implement his ideas ‘across government’.

Pressure was growing on Boris Johnson to introduce a lobbying law last night as David Cameron faced more questions about his closeness to a controversial financier (File image) 

He was said to have sent his proposed loan plan for NHS pharmacies to senior officials, who opposed them, but he was so confident he told them: ‘We are not seeking your approval.’ The latest disclosures add to the pressure on Mr Cameron who brought Mr Greensill into No 10 as an unpaid finance adviser.

After leaving office the former PM then went to work as an adviser for Mr Greensill’s firm, Greensill Capital, in 2018 and later lobbied ministers on its behalf for support through the Government’s corporate Covid finance scheme.

He went straight to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and a Treasury minister, both of whom are said to have rebuffed the efforts.

Greensill Captial subsequently filed for insolvency after its application was rejected. Its collapse put the future of 5,000 jobs at risk while tens of millions of pounds of share options which Mr Cameron was reported to have received became worthless.

Last night Labour demanded the Government introduce a law to tackle cronyism in the wake of the lobbying scandal. According to the latest disclosures, civil servants were worried by Mr Greensill’s proposals for a system of supply-chain finance – fast-tracking funds to a company’s suppliers for a commission, giving the company extra time to generate the money it needs to pay its own bills. They were reportedly even suggestions the scheme could leave the government open to ‘legal challenge’.

One official described Mr Greensill as a ‘semi-private sector agent’, adding: ‘Rein him in – stop him approaching departments unilaterally.’ The Sunday Times reported that a deal was reached with Mr Greensill’s former employer Citigroup to run the scheme for pharmacies without a tender.

The financier was said to have shocked officials by writing that there was ‘no formal contract with Citigroup’, adding ‘this situation is entirely normal in the private sector’. Labour’s Cabinet office spokesman Rachel Reeves called for legislation to expand the statutory register of lobbyists.

Mr Cameron did not have to declare his Greensill role on the register as the rules apply only to third-party lobbyists and not those employed directly by firms. Miss Reeves said: ‘Given the cronyism consuming the Conservative Party, it’s crucial that the scope of the lobbying register is expanded to include in-house lobbyists.

‘The former Conservative prime minister’s conduct and the immense access Greensill was given illustrates perfectly both the toothlessness of current rules, and Tory ministers’ complete disregard for any self-driven integrity when lobbying.’ Neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Greensill has commented over any of the claims.

The former PM has already been cleared by a watchdog looking at whether he engaged in lobbying for which he should have been registered. A Government spokesman said: ‘Lex Greensill acted as a supply-chain finance adviser from 2012 to 2015 and as a crown representative for three years from 2013. His appointment was approved in the normal manner including registering any potential conflicts of interest.’

Plans to stop steel tycoon buying own plants on the cheap 

Liberty Steel boss Sanjeev Gupta will be prevented from buying back his plants at bargain prices if they go bust, under plans being drawn up by the Government.

The metals magnate’s empire has been left on the brink of collapse after its largest lender Greensill Capital, which David Cameron worked for, imploded.

He is scrambling to raise cash after ministers rejected a £170million bailout of Liberty’s parent company GFG Alliance last month.

Whitehall officials are reportedly now concerned Mr Gupta might declare his steel business insolvent and later try to repurchase it.

This is a process known as ‘phoenixing’ – which company directors are strongly advised against doing. GFG employs 5,000 people in the UK, of which 3,000 are steelworkers spread across 12 sites.

Boris Johnson has said he is ‘very hopeful’ that the Government can save Liberty and all options – including nationalisation – are on the table.

To block Mr Gupta from potentially buying back parts of Liberty, officials are considering appointing accounting firm Deloitte to handle a possible insolvency that would carve it out from the rest of the company, according to The Sunday Times.

A GFG spokesman said: ‘Liberty Steel UK is undertaking significant self-help measures… working with our customers to achieve terms that will bring in cash earlier.’

 

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