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Senior Tory who served under David Cameron defends ‘robust systems’ on lobbying

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A SENIOR Tory minister who worked under David Cameron has said there are some “quite robust systems” in place on lobbying.

In the wake of the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal, there have been seven inquiries set up already by parliamentary committees at Westminster, the Cabinet Office, Downing Street and the National Audit Office.

They will examine the role former prime minister David Cameron (below) 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.

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The saga deepened last week after it emerged the former head of government procurement, Bill Crothers, took a part-time 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 reviews into Greensill, he argued the system is already “pretty good”.

Eustice, who was agriculture minister under Cameron as well as his press secretary when the former PM was the leader of the opposition, 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 principal one is the ministerial code – it is about how ministers conduct themselves based on the people they have talked to.

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“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.

The National: Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves

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 heart of Government.”

The controversy over the relationship between Government and the private sector follows disclosures that 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.

It was later revealed that Cameron used a former Cabinet Office contact, who has since moved onto a senior NHS position, to secure a lucrative health contract, allowing Greensill to roll out its advance payment app, Earnd, to doctors and nurses.

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READ MORE: Cabinet Office approved top official joining Greensill while still a civil servant

Cameron has admitted to pressing the Treasury for government support for Greensill before its collapse but he “didn’t get anything for it”, Eustice said.

The Westminster committees that have so far set up inquiries into the scandal are: Treasury Select Committee, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Public Accounts Committee and The Committee on Standards in Public Life.

There is also an independent inquiry that was ordered by No 10 which is being chaired by corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman.

The National Audit Office, which acts as a parliamentary spending watchdog, is looking at how Greensill Capital was authorised to issue financial support through the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme (CBILS). 

Greensill got access to CBILS after Cameron failed to persuade government ministers to allow it access to loans under the Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF).

There is also a Cabinet Office review into civil servants and conflicts of interest which has ordered senior officials to reveal all outside interests so they can be declared and examined.

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