Boris Johnson has said he shares “widespread concern” about the Greensill lobbying controversy, questioning whether “boundaries” between civil servants and firms had been “properly understood”.
Referring to the lobbying controversy, Sir Keir Starmer suggested that Ted Hastings and the AC-12 unit, which is from TV’s Line Of Duty, are needed in order to “get to the bottom of this”.
The prime minister has faced repeated quizzing from MPs about the lobbying row that has engulfed David Cameron, his Prime Ministerial predecessor, and has also dragged in some former and current ministers and government officials.
Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer has used Prime Minister’s Questions to accuse Boris Johnson of overseeing a “return of Tory sleaze”, while he also suggesting that Ted Hastings and his anti-corruption policing unit, which is from TV’s Line Of Duty, were needed in order to “get to the bottom of this one”.
The Greensill row has deepened after it has emerged that the former head of Whitehall procurement had become an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant, in a move approved by the Cabinet Office.
This comes after former prime minister David Cameron has been criticised for contacting ministers via text on behalf of the company, which collapsed in March. The probe is likely to be independent, carried out on behalf of the Cabinet Office, it is understood.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that he shares the “widespread concern about some of the stuff that we’re reading at the moment”, and that the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has also had some concerns.
“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” he said.
“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood and I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June.”
Boris Johnson has ordered a review into the activities of the now-collapsed company; Greensill Capital, having previously said that he has given the top lawyer Nigel Boardman “carte blanche to ask anybody whatever he needs”.
But Labour have pushed for a wider inquiry into lobbying.
Sir Keir claimed at PMQs that Mr Boardman’s review “isn’t even looking at the lobbying rules”, adding: “I’m not sure it’s looking at very much at all because every day there’s further evidence of the sleaze that’s now at the heart of this Conservative government.”
He suggested that there was a “revolving door, indeed an open door” between the government and the paid lobbyists.
Mr Johnson has said that the Conservative Party have been “consistently tough on lobbying” and highlighted that the introduction of new lobbying laws by David Cameron in 2014.
“We put in a register for lobbyists and there’s one party that actually voted to repeal the 2014 Lobbying Act and that was the Labour Party in their historic 2019 election manifesto,” Mr Johnson added.
But Sir Keir countered that Labour had said the legislation “wouldn’t be tough enough”.
He added: “And where did that legislation lead? Two years later, David Cameron camping out in a Saudi desert with Lex Greensill having a cup of tea. I rest my case in relation to that legislation.”
This comes after Samuel Kasumu will be leaving his post as special adviser for civil society and communities in May. Number 10 sources reject claims Mr Kasumu’s resignation is linked to a much-criticised report on racial disparities.
Boris Johnson asked Sir Keir to encourage New Labour architect Lord Mandelson, who is reportedly advising the Labour leader, to “disclose his other clients” of his advisory firm Global Counsel Limited “in the interest of full transparency”.
Later, when asked the last time he had spoken to David Cameron, the prime minister told Ruth Cadbury, a Labour MP, that he “cannot remember when I last spoke to Dave”.
But he added: “If she wants to know whether I had any contact with him about any of the matters that have been in the press, the answer is no.”
The Prime Minister ordered Mr Boardman’s review after weeks of allegations about links between the Australian financier Lex Greensill and Mr Cameron, as well as other government ministers and officials.