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Whitehall officials told to disclose any outside work

Order follows revelation of ex-civil servant’s Greensill role

Boris Johnson rejected Labour’s call for a wider probe into the lobbying scandal
(AFP/Getty)
Whitehall Editor

Civil servants have been ordered to reveal any outside work they may be doing, as a second inquiry was announced yesterday into the Greensill lobbying scandal that is threatening to engulf Boris Johnson’s government. Whitehall departments have been given until tomorrow to disclose whether senior officials have second jobs in the private sector, or other potential conflicts of interest. It follows the revelation on Tuesday that Bill Crothers, a former Whitehall head of procurement, was working part-time as a director at Greensill Capital while still a civil servant.

The demand emerged as the Treasury Select Committee said yesterday that it would investigate the response of ministers, including the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to lobbying by former prime minister David Cameron on behalf of Greensill. Mr Cameron, who joined Greensill in a paid role as special adviser in 2018, two years after leaving Downing Street, was found to have sent text messages and emails to ministers in an effort to exert influence within government on behalf of the financial services company.

The new inquiry was announced less than an hour after Conservative MPs voted down Labour’s attempt to force a wider parliamentary probe by 357 votes to 262. An official investigation ordered by Mr Johnson earlier this week was described by Labour as “wholly inadequate” and “an insult to us all”, amid questions over its independence.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves, a member of the shadow cabinet, accused Mr Johnson’s party of voting “to cover up cronyism”. “It’s the return of Tory sleaze; one rule for them, another for everybody else,” she said.

Earlier, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said that Nigel Boardman, the man chosen by the prime minister to head the official inquiry into the affair, would not be paid for his other job in government for the duration. No 10 said that Mr Boardman would not act in his role as non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy while the inquiry was carried out and that he would not be paid for his Whitehall job “from now onwards”. Mr Boardman, the son of a Tory former cabinet minister, has already come under fire after it emerged that his law firm previously campaigned against limited curbs to lobbying rules.

As discontent over the scandal grows among Tory MPs, Mr Johnson’s anti-corruption champion backed calls for a series of reforms on lobbying. John Penrose, the Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, told MPs that there were rules designed to disclose whom ministers meet. “[But these] disclosures don’t happen fast enough,” he said. “They aren’t complete enough; they aren’t mutually comprehensible and machine-readable and searchable enough, and as a result it is much too difficult at the moment to link up who ministers have met with, who the lobbyists are working for, with who is donating money to which political party.”

Mr Cameron conceded at the weekend that it was a mistake to lobby ministers informally on behalf of Greensill, but insisted that he had not broken any rules.

Fresh questions were raised last night as it emerged Mr Johnson had acted on a personal request from Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who complained that his £300m deal to buy Newcastle United football club had been blocked.

The prime minister asked a senior aide to look into the Saudi complaint, it was reported – a move that could be seen as placing pressure on the Premier League.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson rejected Labour’s call for a wider inquiry into the lobbying scandal, claiming “it won’t do a blind bit of good”. But he admitted it was unclear whether the “boundaries” that are supposed to exist between Whitehall and business had been “properly understood”.

He also told MPs that he did not recall the last time he had spoken to Mr Cameron. “The honest truth is I cannot remember when I last spoke to Dave,” he said, while insisting that they had not discussed the Greensill affair.

The Treasury Select Committee inquiry will look at the “appropriateness” of the Treasury’s response to lobbying in relation to Greensill Capital. Tory MP Mel Stride, the chair of the committee, said it would set out further details of the inquiry next week.