British finance minister Rishi Sunak stood accused on Friday of breaking ministerial rules by exploring state help for now-bankrupt finance company Greensill at the request of former prime minister David Cameron, prior to its collapse.
Sunak “pushed” officials to explore help for the stricken firm in April 2020 after Greensill advisor and fellow Conservative Cameron “reached out informally by telephone” to him, the Treasury revealed on Thursday in new documents.
The now-bankrupt Greensill had approached Treasury officials to gain access to the government’s emergency Covid Corporate Finance Facility (CCCF).
Greensill specialized in short-term corporate loans via a complex and opaque business model that ultimately sparked its declaration of insolvency last month -- almost a year after the messages between Cameron and Sunak.
Sunak’s exchanges with Cameron were revealed following a official request from lawmaker Anneliese Dodds, finance spokeswoman for the main opposition Labour party.
“These messages raise very serious questions about whether the Chancellor may have broken the ministerial code,” Dodds said.
“They suggest that Greensill Capital got accelerated treatment and access to officials, and that the Chancellor ‘pushed’ officials to consider Greensill’s requests.
“The Chancellor’s decision to open the door to Greensill Capital has put public money at risk.
“There must be a full, transparent and thorough investigation into the chain of events that saw Greensill awarded lucrative contracts, the freedom of Whitehall and the right to lend millions of pounds of Government-backed Covid loans.”
Labour has called on Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration to tighten the law on lobbying amid ongoing controversy over Cameron’s Greensill links.
Sunak, meanwhile, stressed on Thursday that Cameron’s request was declined.
“I can confirm that David Cameron reached out informally by telephone to me, and to the Economic Secretary and the Financial Secretary, on the matter of Greensill Capital’s access to the CCFF,” Sunak wrote in a letter to Dodds.
“The matter was referred to the relevant officials and, following appropriate consultations as outlined in the previous requests, the request was turned down.
“During this process, this was communicated to Greensill Capital by officials and, in parallel, by me to David Cameron.”
Ex-Conservative Party leader Cameron, who led Britain from 2010 to 2016, was exonerated by Britain’s lobbying watchdog last month over his Greensill links.
The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists investigated the matter and concluded that Cameron was a Greensill employee and was therefore not required to declare himself on the register of consultant lobbyists.
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