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Why was the Greensill review commissioned and what did it find?

·3-min read

A long-awaited review meant to shine a light on the lobbying scandal sparked by David Cameron has concluded its initial investigation. Here are the key questions, answered:

Why was the review commissioned?

After having spent most of his time since leaving Downing Street out of the spotlight, former prime minister David Cameron was thrust back into it this spring when it emerged he had been lobbying for a firm called Greensill Capital.

He made multiple, direct representations to senior ministers – including chancellor Rishi Sunak, and civil servants – trying to get the lender special access to hundreds of thousands of pounds of emergency Covid loans, before it later collapsed.

It was also revealed that the government had granted the businessman behind it – Lex Greensill – a role as “senior adviser” in No10. Further concerns were raised when one of Britain’s most senior civil servants, Bill Crothers, was found to have advised Greensill while still serving in Whitehall – and this had even been approved by the Cabinet Office.

An independent investigation was set up in April to look into Cameron’s dealings and whether there was any evidence of wrongdoing by him, or the people he tried to discreetly influence.

Corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman, 70, was appointed to head the inquiry that concluded on Thursday.

How was Boardman’s appointment controversial?

Some eyebrows were raised when Boardman was put in charge of the review, given his connections to the world of finance and politics.

He was a long-term partner at the international law firm Slaughter and May, a role he left in 2019, though he continued to be a senior consultant there. The firm was deeply connected to the coronavirus loan scheme that Cameron sought to access on behalf of Greensill Capital.

Boardman is also the son of a former Conservative cabinet minister, a former Tory party local council candidate, and served as a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Some senior lawyers defended Boardman’s integrity, saying he was supremely qualified and would uncover the truth, whatever it was – though admitted they feared some embarrassing issues could be left outside the terms of reference.

What did the review find?

Boardman’s report said Lex Greensill, the owner of Greensill Capital, was given “extraordinarily privileged” access to Downing Street while the government’s process for managing lobbying was found to be insufficiently transparent given it allows access to a “privileged few”.

Cameron also “understated” the nature of his relationship with Greensill when lobbying officials, the report added, also concluding that former cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood was “primarily responsible” for Lex Greensill securing a role in government as an adviser on supply chain finance.

However while the system of lobbying rules could be improved, the current ones “worked well”, Boardman said, adding that lobbying was “vital to the proper functioning of democracy” and that Cameron broke no rules or laws.

The second part of his review will flesh out his recommended changes to the system of rules, but its publication date has not yet been confirmed.

What has the reaction been?

Given Boardman’s report shied away from directly criticising ministers and advisers who were lobbied by Cameron and Greensill, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner called it a “classic Boris Johnson cover-up and whitewash to protect the government”.

Heywood’s widow, Suzanne, said the findings were a “convenient diversion from the embarrassment” Greensill Capital’s collapse had caused for the government, and said Boardman’s work was the result of a “deeply flawed process from beginning to end” that had ended up “scapegoating” her late husband.

Cameron said he was “pleased that the report provides further confirmation that I broke no rules”, but conceded there should be “more formal lines of communication” for lobbying.

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