Labour accuses Rishi Sunak of 'running scared' over Greensill row

Labour accuses Rishi Sunak of ‘running scared’ over David Cameron Greensill lobbying row after he dodges grilling in the House of Commons as Government sends junior minister to answer questions

  • Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was granted urgent question on the issue
  • She wanted to get answers from Chancellor Rishi Sunak but he failed to attend
  • Small Business Minister Paul Scully answered for the Government instead 

Labour today accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of ‘running scared’ of scrutiny over the David Cameron Greensill lobbying row. 

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was granted an urgent question on the issue in the House of Commons and wanted to grill Mr Sunak. 

But the Chancellor did not attend and Small Business Minister Paul Scully answered for the Government instead. 

Mr Sunak’s failure to show up prompted Ms Dodds to claim that he was ‘frit’ to face MPs. 

Downing Street yesterday announced the Cabinet Office had commissioned an independent inquiry into ‘the development and use of supply chain finance and associated activities in Government, and the role Greensill played in those’.

The review will look at how contracts were secured and ‘how business representatives engaged with Government’ amid a furore over text messages sent between Mr Cameron and Mr Sunak.  

In response to one message, the Chancellor said he had ‘pushed’ officials to consider proposals which could have helped Greensill.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds was granted an urgent question in the House of Commons on the lobbying row and wanted to grill Rishi Sunak

But Mr Sunak did not turn up as the Government sent Small Business Minister Paul Scully to answer questions

 Downing Street yesterday announced an independent investigation into the David Cameron Greensill lobbying row. Lex Greensill, the founder of Greensill Capital, is pictured on the right. 

Ms Dodds today demanded a statement from the Chancellor ‘on the process by which Greensill Capital was approved as a lender for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme’. 

Responding to Mr Sunak’s absence, the Labour frontbencher said: ‘I welcome the minister’s presence, but it was the Chancellor who needed to come to the House today.

‘The Chancellor who told David Cameron he would push his team to amend emergency loan schemes to suit Cameron’s new employer.

‘The Chancellor whose officials met with Greensill ten times. The Chancellor who took the credit for Government business loans schemes when they were in the headlines, indeed who personally announced those scheme.

‘Yet the Chancellor is frit of putting his name to those loan schemes today.’

She added: ‘The Chancellor said he would level with the public. Why is he running scared of levelling with them on the Greensill scandal?’

Mr Scully hit back and said Mr Sunak had written to Ms Dodds last week with a ‘comprehensive response’ on the questions she had raised.

He also said it was not for Mr Sunak to answer questions on the scheme because it is ultimately the responsibility of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).  

Mr Scully said: ‘The reason that the Chancellor isn’t here is because the question that we have been asked, we have talked about CBILS. 

‘I would suggest to the right honourable lady that she may ask in a different form or ask a different question because the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan scheme to which the question pertains is administered by the British Business Bank.

‘The Secretary of State for BEIS is the sole shareholder of the bank and as such responsibility for the delivery of the scheme sits with BEIS.’ 

Boris Johnson today said there are questions that need to be ‘satisfied’ over the lobbying row as he insisted the independent probe will be given ‘carte blanche’ to ask anybody anything. 

The Prime Minister said he wants the review led by Nigel Boardman to be ‘done quickly’, with the legal expert to be given ‘maximum possible access so we can all understand exactly what has happened’. 

However, Downing Street admitted at lunchtime that the probe will not be underpinned with legal powers and it will only be able to make recommendations.   

Mr Cameron has welcomed the review and said he is prepared to give evidence to it. 

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: ‘David Cameron welcomes the inquiry and will be glad to take part.’ 

The review will examine how Greensill Capital – founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill – was able to secure Government contracts.

It follows a series of reports on Mr Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of the firm – including sending text messages to Mr Sunak’s personal phone number. 

Mr Cameron finally broke his silence on the row at the weekend with a statement in which he insisted he had not broken any rules, but accepted there were ‘lessons to be learned’.

As a former prime minister, he said that any contacts with government should be through ‘only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation’. 

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