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April 14, 2021

Greensill review will be given ‘maximum possible access’: PM

World

P
Pa
April 14, 2021

LONDON: The Prime Minister said a review into how failed firm Greensill Capital was able to secure government contracts will be given the “maximum possible access” to get to the bottom of what happened.

Downing Street announced on Monday that senior lawyer, Nigel Boardman, has been commissioned to carry out a probe into how the specialist bank – founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill – was granted access to a Covid loan scheme for businesses, putting hundreds of millions of pounds taxpayers’ money at risk.

The firm later collapsed into administration but not before former prime minister David Cameron unsuccessfully lobbied ministers on its behalf in a bid to ask for support for Greensill through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

Boris Johnson told broadcasters on Tuesday: “I’ve asked Nigel Boardman to have a look at this whole issue of supply chain finance and given him pretty much carte blanche to ask anybody whatever he needs to find out.

“I would like it to be done quickly, but I want him to have the maximum possible access so we can all understand exactly what has happened, and that will of course be presented to Parliament in due course.”

Johnson said it was for Boardman to judge on his predecessor’s behaviour.

Cameron sent a number of texts to Sunak’s private phone when bidding for CCFF support for Greensill. It was later reported that the former Conservative Party leader had arranged a “private drink” between Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Greensill to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.

Hancock admitted to MPs he “attended a social meeting” organised by his former boss that he had “reported to officials in the normal way”.

Cameron also emailed a senior Downing Street adviser, pressing for a rethink on Greensill’s application for access to emergency funding.

Johnson was pressed on whether he was looking to “rough up a rival” via the review given the long history between him and Cameron.

The Prime Minister replied: “I think people have got questions that they need to satisfy themselves about – including me – about how this supply chain finance stuff is meant to work.

“I don’t think it is going on at present anywhere in government, but we need to understand exactly what the intention was, how it came about, and that is exactly what Nigel Boardman is going to do.”

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds had been granted an urgent Commons question calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to explain his involvement with the Greensill affair.

Speaking to the BBC, Dodds said answers were needed over why Greensill and Cameron were able to secure a series of meetings with the Treasury in comparison to other groups in need during the pandemic.

“Why did there seem to be one rule for Conservative politicians and a different rule for those who desperately needed help, those many self-employed people excluded?” she asked.

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “The Treasury engaged extensively with a whole range of financial bodies, regulators and lenders at the start of this crisis to discuss different ways of getting money out to UK businesses that was so desperately needed.”