Downing Street has defended Nigel Boardman, who Boris Johnson has appointed to lead a review into Greensill Capital, as being a “distinguished legal expert” after Labour called him a “very good friend of the Conservative government”.
The prime minister’s official spokesman 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 put to him, the spokesman added: “We would encourage anyone not to prejudge what will be an independent and thorough inquiry into this issue.”
William Wragg, the chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said that Labour’s motion to create a new committee “is not a no confidence vote in me”.
He said he has not spoken out during this week of mourning because: “I did not think it seemly” – nothing he does not think it was wise of David Cameron to have released his statement on Sunday.
Wragg highlights his session with Lord Pickles tomorrow and reveals plans to have the Cabinet Secretary in the next fortnight. “I would ask the House to be assured we will pursue every possible line of inquiry with our witnesses and will conduct ourselves without fear of favour,” he adds.
Chloe Smith, the constitution minister, responded from home as she is receiving treatment for cancer.
She echoes Boris Johnson’s comments earlier saying: “We are concerned (that) some of what has emerged in recent weeks, most of what this complex motion proposes, is already being done.
“We are opposing the motion today because it seeks to duplicate the work that is already in the gift of Parliament and its committees and… work that is already being undertaken by the Government,” she added.
Continuing on from my earlier post, Rachel Reeves, has said voting against the motion into Labour’s bid for a parliamentary investigation will make MPs “part of the government attempt to cover up Tory sleaze”.
She said: “All members here today should reflect on who they are here to serve, their constituents and their country or narrow party political interests.
“Vote for a proper investigation to close the loopholes, to rein in the lobbyists and to lift standards in this great democracy in which we all have the privilege to serve.”
Rachel Reeves, the shadow cabinet office minister moving Labour’s bid for a parliamentary investigation, has told the Commons: “Having refused to respond to any questions at all for 40 days, David Cameron chose a period of national grief, hoping there would be less political criticism and less scrutiny. It is cynical and it is shabby.”
Reeves also described Mr Cameron’s statement as “toe-curling”, adding: “He’s not sorry for his conduct, for the texts and the drinks, but he is sorry he got caught, and he’s sorry that his shares are now worthless.”
She said questions also need to be asked of current ministers, noting: “When it comes to lobbying, it takes two to tango. For every former minister lobbying, there is someone in power being lobbied.”
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Here is video of Vicky Foxcroft’s (Lab) question about sign language at PMQs (see earlier post):
This is from Parly, which describes itself as a journalism project that focuses on the House of Commons and the Westminster village:
Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union, claims the inquiry – to be conducted by the corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman – will focus on the conduct of civil servants including the late Sir Jeremy Heywood, the former cabinet secretary, but skate over the role of ministers.
Penman told the Guardian:
This smacks to me of a classic attempt to deflect attention from current ministers and how they responded to Cameron’s lobbying. Yes, an inquiry has been set up and yes, of course it needs to look at supply chain finance and Greensill’s role in government, but that is where the information released on the formal inquiry ends. There is no detail of whether it will look at the specific allegations around his lobbying of ministers.
You can read the full story here:
MPs will shortly start a debate on the Labour motion, which calls for a broader lobbying inquiry by a cross-party panel of MPs.
It will propose setting up a committee of MPs with the power to ask witnesses to give evidence and answer questions – including David Cameron himself and the cabinet ministers who were lobbied by the former prime minister, including the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock.
PMQs is now over. The House of Commons has been briefly suspended and will resume shortly for the return of parliamentary business.
Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, challenges Johnson over the recent controversial race report, which was seen as downplaying structural inequalities.
She asks if No 10 “redrafted the report to change the narrative, and does he agree with me that this report should now be withdrawn?”
Johnson says he does “not agree with everything” in the report, and he will be responding in due course.
Vicky Foxcroft, the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford and the shadow minister for disabled people, asks a question in sign language, saying afterwards: “If the prime minister doesn’t understand, why does he still not have sign language at his press briefings?”
She asks what the point of the new £2m press briefing room is if it is not inclusive for disabled people, to which Johnson says he will write to her as soon as he can.
Boris Johnson can’t remember last time he spoke to David Cameron
Johnson said he cannot remember when he last spoke to “Dave”, in reply to a question posed by Labour’s Ruth Cadbury about when he last talked to the former prime minister David Cameron, who is engulfed in the Greensill scandal.
The prime minister said: “The honest truth is I cannot remember when I last spoke to Dave but if she wants to know if I have had any contact with him about any matters that have been in the press, the answer is ‘no’.”
‘See you in court,’ Ian Blackford tells Johnson over UN convention on children’s rights
The SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, asks Johnson why the government is trying to strike down a law passed in Scotland to embed the UN convention on the rights of the child into the country’s law.
“How does protecting children’s rights in Scotland threaten the Tory government in London,” he asks.
Boris Johnson notes the government ratified the UN convention three decades ago.
“This is simply an attempt by the SNP to stir up constitutional chaos,” he adds.
Blackford asks Johnson to withdraw the legal challenge “otherwise we’ll see you in court”.
Johnson replies that the SNP should “improve their shameful record on education”.
Starmer has called on other parties to join Labour in the vote this afternoon on the parliamentary-led inquiry. His questions are up for the week.
Starmer, noting he helped bring MPs to justice over the expenses scandal, says the “broken” system needs to be overhauled, as he calls for a parliamentary-led inquiry into the scandal. He asks if Johnson will vote with the opposition for this inquiry. The prime minister said this won’t do a “blind bit of good”, comparing the process to being like someone marking their own homework. Starmer says this is “the return of Tory sleaze”.
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