A review of David Cameron’s lobbying ordered by Boris Johnson is being run by a “friend of the Conservative government” and will be a “whitewash”, Labour has said.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves hit out at the investigation led by lawyer Nigel Boardman, as allegations of “Tory cronyism” mount over the government’s relationship with finance firm Greensill Capital.
It was revealed on Wednesday a civil service chief took a job with the firm in 2015 while still working in Whitehall, and failed to notify the appointments watchdog.
It follows the bombshell news that Cameron personally lobbied ministers, including chancellor Rishi Sunak, via text messages for help for the firm, which later collapsed.
Boardman, who previously worked for law firm Slaughter and May, was criticised by MPs for “squeezing fee income” from Carillion in its dying days, has been hired to work for the government.
He was paid £20,000-a-year to help ensure the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is financially sound and efficient.
Reeves called the lobbying review “wholly inadequate” during a debate in the Commons, telling MPs: “It’s a fact that Nigel Boardman is a very good friend of the Conservative government. Some may suspect the son of a former Conservative cabinet minister might be unlikely to make waves – but let’s look at his own record.
“Mr Boardman has been paid over £20,000 per year as a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – a department with a real interest in the British Business Bank which lent to Greensill and the British steel industry, where so many jobs are at risk.
“Mr Boardman has already whitewashed the government’s handling of public procurement during the pandemic, and I fear he will do the same again with this inquiry.”
Reeves added “Mr Boardman’s law firm made £8 million advising Carillion”, also telling MPs: “To cap it all off, Mr Boardman was appointed to a prestigious role at the British Museum by David Cameron.
“What is being proposed by the government is not remotely fit for purpose. It’s not an inquiry, it’s not independent, it’s an insult to us all.”
Downing Street defended Boardman’s appointment, however, saying he was a “distinguished legal expert”.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson told reporters: “I think anyone can see that Nigel Boardman is a distinguished legal expert.
“He was asked to lead this review independently, he has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly and we trust him to do that.”
Asked whether he was a “friend” of the Tory administration, the No.10 official replied: “He is an independent reviewer.”
After Labour’s fears of “whitewash” following Boardman’s earlier review into pandemic procurement was raised, Johnson’s spokesperson added: “We would encourage anyone not to prejudge what will be an independent and thorough inquiry into this issue.”
Labour is pushing for a full parliamentary inquiry into the government’s links with Greensill.