UK launches inquiry into lobbying scandal involving ex-PM

A day after Cameron finally broke his silence on the scandal, Downing Street said the inquiry would be led by senior lawyer Nigel Boardman and report back "promptly".

FILE: Former British PM David Cameron. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Pressure mounted on Britain's former premier David Cameron on Monday as the government announced an inquiry into his lobbying of ministers prior to the collapse of finance firm Greensill.

A day after Cameron finally broke his silence on the scandal, Downing Street said the inquiry would be led by senior lawyer Nigel Boardman and report back "promptly".

"There is significant interest in this matter, so the prime minister (Boris Johnson) has called for the review to ensure government is completely transparent about such activities and that the public can see for themselves if good value was secured for taxpayers' money," Johnson's spokesman told reporters.

"This independent review will also look at how contracts were secured and how business representatives engaged with government."

The collapse last month of British company Greensill Capital threatened 50,000 jobs, in particular at the sprawling steel empire of Indian-British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta.

Greensill specialised in short-term corporate loans via a complex and opaque business model.

Cameron became a paid advisor to Greensill after leaving government in 2016, and held share options potentially worth millions that are now worthless.

He personally lobbied finance minister Rishi Sunak and others in a vain effort to persuade the government to let Greensill gain access to an emergency financing facility set up to help businesses weather the Covid pandemic.

Sunak has been forced to defend himself against suggestions he broke ministerial rules by exploring state help for the stricken company, whose founder Lex Greensill enjoyed privileged access to Downing Street when Cameron was prime minister.

Sunak was summoned to answer opposition questions about the affair in parliament on Tuesday, although he could get another Treasury minister to deputise.

In a lengthy statement Sunday, Cameron acknowledged that he should have gone through formal channels, but stressed that he had not broken any lobbying rules.

Via a spokesman Monday, the former Conservative leader said: "We welcome this inquiry and will be glad to take part."

Opposition parties had been pushing for the inquiry, after previously denouncing the government's awarding of bid-free contracts to favoured companies last year when the coronavirus pandemic took grip.

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