Transparency on lobbying ‘robust’
THERE are already “some quite robust systems” in place on lobbying, a senior minister has argued in the wake of the Greensill Capital controversy.
A series of probes have been commissioned, including by Downing Street, as Westminster looks to understand the role former prime minister David Cameron played in securing Whitehall access for Greensill, which was selected as an intermediary lender for some Government Covid-19 support loans at the start of the pandemic, and whose collapse now risks thousands of jobs, particularly in the steel sector.
The saga deepened last week after it emerged the former head of government procurement, Bill Crothers, took a parttime position with the failed firm while still in his Whitehall post.
But while Environment Secretary George Eustice said there might be “tweaks” required following the review into Greensill by No 10, the Cabinet Secretary and parliamentary committees, he argued the system is already “pretty good”.
Mr Eustice, who also defended Mr Cameron’s actions, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr
Show: “What I am saying is that we have already got some quite robust systems in place and the principle one is the ministerial code – it is about how ministers conduct themselves based on the people they have talked to.
“So, we should be worried less about who they have talked to, worried much more about, ‘Are they unduly influenced by individuals?’
“And that is why they declare meetings they have, that is why they declare financial interests, it is why they declare any other potential interests of family members – and that does happen and we all do that.” But Labour accused the Government of failing to understand the extent of the controversy if ministers thought only “tweaks” were required to the current lobbying rules. Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said: “Having failed to deflect the blame, the Government’s latest approach appears to be to shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Scandal? What scandal?’.
“We don’t need the ‘tweaks’ Eustice said they might consider today, we need to tackle Tory sleaze with a full, independent, transparent inquiry – and we need stronger measures to put integrity and honour back into the heart of Government.” Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats joined Labour in urging for reform of transparency rules, with leader Sir Ed Davey calling it “wrong” that the Prime Minister is “judge and jury” when it comes to deciding if the ministerial code has been breached. The controversy over the relationship between Government and the private sector follows disclosures that Mr Cameron personally lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Greensill’s behalf and was able to arrange for its founder, Lex Greensill, to have a “private drink” with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.