Boris Johnson: Greensill lobbying probe to be given ‘carte blanche’

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

The Prime Minister said he wants a 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.  

Downing Street yesterday announced the Cabinet Office had commissioned an 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 Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

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

Mr Johnson’s comments came as Mr Cameron faced new questions over his work for another company he advises, American healthcare firm Illumina, after it emerged the business secured a £123million Department of Health contract in 2019.  

Lex Greensill

 Downing Street yesterday announced the senior lawyer, Nigel Boardman, had been commissioned to carry out a review into how Greensill Capital – founded by Australian financier Lex Greensill (pictured right) – was able to secure Government contracts

The former Prime Minister, 54, said he 'will be glad' to answer questions about his work for the now collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital after Mr Johnson ordered a probe (pictured: Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson together in 2011)

The former Prime Minister, 54, said he ‘will be glad’ to answer questions about his work for the now collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital after Mr Johnson ordered a probe (pictured: Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson together in 2011)

Mr Cameron is now facing scrutiny over his work for American healthcare firm Illumina after it emerged the company secured a £123million Department of Health contract in 2019. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured in March this year

Mr Cameron is now facing scrutiny over his work for American healthcare firm Illumina after it emerged the company secured a £123million Department of Health contract in 2019. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is pictured in March this year

Friends or ‘frenemies’? Boris Johnson and Davis Cameron’s rivalry dates back to Eton

The announcement of an official investigation into the Greensill lobbying row immediately prompted claims from Tory MPs that Boris Johnson wanted to settle his old rivalry with David Cameron. 

Competition between the pair started during their time together at Eton College, when both decided they wanted to become prime minister. 

Their political paths have been linked ever since, as they first headed to Oxford University where they were both in the notorious Bullingdon Club, before then heading to Westminster. 

Both men were elected as MPs for the first time in 2001 but it was Mr Cameron who achieved his dream before Mr Johnson as he first became Tory leader in 2005 and then PM in 2010. 

Mr Johnson was made to wait as he took a different path, stepping down as an MP in 2008 to serve two terms as Mayor of London before a return to the Commons in 2015. 

The rivalry soured in 2016 at the Brexit referendum when Mr Johnson backed Leave despite Mr Cameron seeking his backing for the Remain campaign.

The decision left Mr Cameron furious at Mr Johnson, as he said in the run up to June 23: ‘I’m still friends with Boris, just perhaps not such good friends.’ 

Mr Johnson was asked directly today whether the inquiry is an attempt to ‘rough up an old rival’ as some Tory MPs have suggested. 

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I think people have just got questions that they need to satisfy themselves, including me, about how this supply chain finance stuff is meant to work.’ 

Mr Johnson told Sky News this morning: ‘I have asked Nigel Boardman to have a look at this whole issue of supply chain finance and given him pretty much carte blanche to ask anybody whatever he needs to find out.

‘I would like it to be done quickly but I want him to have the maximum possible access so we can all understand exactly what has happened and that will of course be presented to Parliament in due course.’

Critics have suggested the review is not fully independent because Mr Boardman is a non-executive board member of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who has previously conducted a review of Cabinet Office procurement processes. 

But Mr Johnson said: ‘I have got every confidence in Nigel Boardman. I think he will do an outstanding job. 

‘He has done a very good job on PPE that I have been reading and I think that we need to understand exactly what has been going on with this supply chain finance question and we will make sure that everybody gives him their time and he can set out his thoughts and set out his arguments.’

Mr Johnson would not be drawn on his assessment of Mr Cameron’s behaviour as he said: ‘That is a matter for Nigel Boardman.’ 

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