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Lobbying row ‘set for Tory cover-up’

PM's probe kicks issue into long grass, Labour charges

THE Tories were accused of preparing a cover-up today as the PM announced an “independent review” of the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal. 

Labour said the government was trying to kick the issue into the long grass  with its probe set to examine ex-PM David Cameron’s role in lobbying government on behalf of the failed firm.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was later granted an urgent question to Chancellor Rishi Sunak over his role in the scandal, though a Treasury minister may be sent in his place to answer it on Tuesday.

The government’s review will be led by Nigel Boardman, a corporate lawyer and former government adviser, whose firm Slaughter & May was accused by MPs of “squeezing” £8 million in fees from construction firm Carillion in the years before its collapse.

Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell tweeted of Mr Boardman: “I leave you to judge his suitability.”

Rachel Reeves, shadow chancellor of the Ducy of Lancaster, said the review “has all the hallmarks of another cover-up by the Conservatives.”

“Just as with the inquiry into Priti Patel’s alleged bullying, this is another Conservative government attempt to push bad behaviour into the long grass and hope the British public forgets,” she said.

She urged the “key players in this cronyism scandal,” such as Mr Cameron, Mr Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who reportedly discussed an NHS deal over a “private drink” with the ex-PM and his financier boss Lex Greensill, to appear in Parliament for urgent questioning.

Green MP Caroline Lucas accused the government of being “riddled with cronyism” and demanded a fully independent review into its activities, including its awarding of Covid-19 contracts.

Ms Dodds said that the Chancellor must face scrutiny over “his decision to put hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer money in the hands of an unregulated lending firm with links to a former Conservative PM.”

“Public money was put at risk by the Conservatives’ crony connections to Greensill Capital,” she said. “That’s why we urgently need a full, transparent and thorough investigation into this affair.”

The row surfaced when it emerged that Mr Cameron had privately lobbied ministers, including through texts to Mr Sunak, to win access to an emergency coronavirus loan scheme for Mr Greensill.

It has also been reported that Mr Cameron was in line to benefit from a £21.8 million benefit trust for his role as an adviser to Greensill Capital, though sources close to the ex-PM said that the figures being “bandied around” had become “increasingly inaccurate.”

Greensill went bust in March with the loss of more than 400 jobs — most of them at the firm’s headquarters in Cheshire.

The collapse has also put thousands of steelmaking jobs at risk across Britain because Greensill was the main backer for Liberty Steel, Britain’s third-largest steel producer with nine sites across England, Scotland and Wales.

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