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Greensill scandal report does its job and says little

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Issue 2765
David Cameron and Lex Greensill in Saudi Arabia
David Cameron and Lex Greensill in Saudi Arabia

A report into the disgraced ­financier Lex Greensill’s relations with the government has only mildly criticised former Tory prime minister David Cameron—and handily blamed someone who is dead.

The official review is forced to admit that Greensill enjoyed a “sometimes extraordinary privileged” relationship with the British government.

He achieved this despite his ideas on supply chain finance providing no ­obvious benefit to the state.

The inquiry, carried out by the ­prominent lawyer Nigel Boardman, also criticised the way Greensill came to be appointed as a government adviser.

Boardman’s report is one of 13 ­investigations launched into Greensill’s role as an adviser. Boris Johnson’s task is to see if he can direct them all into a ­whitewash of his predecessor.

Cameron frenetically lobbied the Treasury on behalf of Greensill last year for greater access to state-backed Covid‑19 loan schemes. Cameron told Boardman that Greensill Capital was paying him “a good amount of money every year” and he had equity and participated in a discretionary uncapped bonus scheme.

But Boardman concluded that the former Conservative party leader “did not breach the current lobbying rules and his actions were not unlawful”.

The Boardman inquiry, commissioned by the Cabinet Office, said that Cameron’s lobbying last year was “not the right way for a former prime minister to engage with government”. However, the report found that Cameron was not responsible for bringing Greensill into government in 2012.

Instead it said that decision was “primarily” at the behest of Lord Jeremy Heywood, the former cabinet secretary, who died in 2018. He had previously worked with Greensill in 2008 at Morgan Stanley, the US investment bank.

The Boardman review said Heywood supported Greensill in 2011 when he suggested he was leaving his then employer and was interested in working in government.

The report also confirmed that Heywood pushed successfully for Greensill to get a CBE several years later.

When Heywood was advised to refer Greensill’s appointment to an internal “approvals board”, he replied saying, “Sure—though it is bureaucracy gone mad!” Suzanne Heywood, the cabinet secretary’s widow, said, “The conclusions of this review are a convenient diversion from the embarrassment the collapse of Greensill Capital continues to cause this government.”

  • The Labour Party plans to cut up to 90 jobs because its finances are in crisis due to lost members.

David Evans, Labour’s general secretary, told the party’s national executive committee last week, “We don’t have any money.” He added its reserves are now down to just one month’s payroll.

Staff had been told earlier. According to LabourList website, “All kicking off in the staff WhatsApp group after the meeting, with staffers furious.”

  • Remember the recent story about Southern Water being fined 90 million for dumping sewage illegally? Its chief executive has just been handed a £550,900 bonus.

Ian McAuley’s total remuneration, including salary and other benefits, is closer to £1 million and was revealed in the company’s annual report.

Army’s new tanks are too ‘troubled’ to kill

A British defence minister has admitted for the first time that the government is “not 100 percent certain” that the problems facing its Ajax armoured vehicle programme are resolvable. Billions of pounds may be written off.

Jeremy Quin, procurement minister, described Ajax as a “troubled programme” in evidence to MPs last week.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) ordered 589 high-tech Ajax reconnaissance vehicles from US contractor General Dynamics seven years ago in a deal worth £5.5 billion. The vehicles were meant to be ready for delivery from 2017 but so far only 26 have been handed over. Troops testing them have reported hearing injuries.

Trials of Ajax were suspended last November. They restarted earlier this year with new measures including ear defenders. But the MoD stopped trials for a second time last month over “renewed concerns on the effects of noise”.

Good to see the machinery of death doesn’t work in this case.

MPs told off a bit for interfering in a trial

Several Conservative MPs will be suspended from the Commons—for a day—and told to apologise for trying to influence a judge in the trial of a colleague for sexual assault.

The temporary ban was handed down to Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers and Natalie Elphicke—the former partner of Charlie Elphicke.

He was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

Two other Tory MPs—Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart—were pressed to make a statement apologising for their behaviour in the chamber.

The MPs wrote to senior judges in November 2020 ahead of a hearing on the release of pre-sentencing character references for Charlie Elphicke.

They wrote to “express concern” about the hearing.

The Commons standards committee said the MPs “risked giving the impression that elected politicians can bring influence to bear on the judiciary, out of public view and in a way not open to others”.

Not just private equity—it’s…

The chairman of Marks & Spencer, Archie Norman, has received a fee of £1.75 million to join the board of Bridgepoint, the newly floated private equity company.

Other insiders at Bridgepoint received an average payout of £2.3 million as they sold shares amid strong demand for the company stock.

Bridgepoint shares rose in value by 29 percent on their first day of trading, adding to the wealth of those who had retained a stake in the firm.

Norman received the £1.75 million as an “initial fee”. He was required to use the after-tax proceeds of £962,500 to buy Bridgepoint shares, which were worth £1.24 million by the end of Wednesday last week. He will also receive £200,000 a year in remuneration for the role.

Three other new directors received signing‑on fees of £500,000 each.

Things they say

‘I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this’

World’s richest man Jeff Bezos after his recent flight to space

‘Selfish, parochial and cowardly’

Simon Johnson, chair of Rugby Football League, after the Australia and New Zealand teams withdrew from the world cup in England because of surging Covid-19 cases

‘Even clowns have the right to speak’

Times columnist Rod Liddle

‘This morning, a contributor on Radio 4 said that it is only ever posh people who say that the less fortunate people in our communities do not want to be told by posh people what to do, but in fact they do’

Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse

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