Friday deadline for British civil service to discover double jobbing
Johnson’s government in crosshairs for cronyism after Cameron lobbying scandal
Former British prime minister David Cameron: engaged Lex Greensill, an Australian financier, as an adviser in Downing Street and, after he left office, he joined Mr Greensill’s company. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP
Britain’s civil service has been told to find out by Friday if senior officials have second jobs after it emerged that the man in charge of government procurement was working for a financial firm while still in government. Bill Crothers, who was chief procurement officer in David Cameron’s government, worked part-time for Greensill Capital while he was still in the civil service and joined the firm after he left government.
The latest move comes as Boris Johnson’s government is under growing scrutiny over Mr Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill, which has collapsed. The Conservatives voted down a Labour motion in the House of Commons calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the lobbying, leading to opposition charges that the government was covering up cronyism.
Introducing the motion, Labour’s shadow cabinet office minister, Rachel Reeves, said Conservative politicians thought there was one rule for them and another for everyone else.
“Personal attention lavished on friends of Cameron while three million excluded from government financial support can’t even get a meeting. Two billion pounds of public contracts to the friends and donors of the Conservative Party. Rolling out the red carpet with a VIP fast lane for contracts, supposedly independent reports rewritten by Downing Street. Undeclared details on who has paid what for the luxury refurbishment of the prime minister’s flat,” she said.
Mr Cameron engaged Lex Greensill, an Australian financier, as an adviser in Downing Street and, after he left office, he joined Mr Greensill’s company. The former prime minister lobbied a number of ministers in Mr Johnson’s government, including chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock, to award contracts to Mr Greensill’s company under coronavirus relief schemes.
Greensill Capital provided supply-chain financing, offering to pay a supplier quickly on behalf of a buyer in return for a fee, usually about 5 per cent of the sum owed. The company lent huge sums to steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta, whose companies are on the verge of collapse after their banker Credit Suisse withdrew support.
“The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg – dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates. This is the return of Tory sleaze. It is now so ingrained in this Conservative government. We do not need another Conservative Party appointee marking their own homework,” he said.
Responding to Labour’s motion calling for a parliamentary inquiry, constitution minister Chloe Smith said the government was already investigating the Greensill affair. She said everyone should condemn the kind of lobbying that gave politics and politicians a bad name.
“It is incumbent on all politicians to act with integrity as elected members, as ministers when we hold such positions, and in accordance with the principles of public life. It is incumbent on all of us in this House to ensure that important issues are carefully and effectively scrutinised,” she said.