Five times the Chancellor owned the CLBILS Covid loan scheme
Labour is urging the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to stop hiding behind junior ministers and answer questions in Parliament about his role in the Greensill lobbying scandal.
It comes as reports suggest the Chancellor is confused about who was responsible for decisions to hand Greensill Capital access to hundreds of millions of pounds of public money through the CLBILS Covid loan scheme.
Sunak is refusing to come to Parliament to respond to questions about why he opened the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme (CLBILS) to Greensill, allowing it access to at least £400 million of government-backed loans.
His claims that the scheme is nothing to do with him or his Department simply don’t stack up. Here’s five reasons why:
- It was the Chancellor who announced the new government-backed loans on 3 April 2020, when he said “We have also listened to the concerns of some larger businesses affected by COVID-19 and are announcing new support so they can benefit too”.
- The Chancellor didn’t hide this from anyone – he made it clear on his Twitter page that this was his scheme and his launch: https://twitter.com/rishisunak/status/1245998565509513216?s=21
- When civil servants sought a ministerial direction on CLBILS on 16 April 2020, they were clear who was behind the scheme: “For this reason, on 3 April the Chancellor announced his intention to provide a new scheme to support firms that have a turnover of more than £45m per annum, to be known as the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).” Thttps://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891470/2020-04-16_AO_Direction_letter_on_CLBILS.pdf
- As was the minister who gave that direction on 16 April 2021: “The Chancellor has given me approval to proceed and I am prepared to provide support for the introduction of this scheme as soon as practicable.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891461/2020-04-16_SoS_to_AO_CLBILS_Direction_Letter.pdf
- And when the government reports on CLBILS on its own website, it’s very clear which department is publishing the data: HM Treasury: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/hm-treasury-coronavirus-covid-19-business-loan-scheme-statistics
Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:
“It’s laughable that the Chancellor is trying to claim that his department wasn’t responsible for oversight of the Covid public lending schemes he set up. The Coronavirus Large Interruption Scheme literally had the Chancellor’s name all over it. He launched it and he took the headlines for it.
“But today he’s nowhere to be seen – missing in action and running scared of scrutiny for his decision to hand Greensill Capital access to hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer-backed loans.
“The Chancellor is happy to stand in front of a camera when it suits him and splash public cash on boosting his brand, but won’t answer questions about his involvement in the biggest lobbying scandal for a generation. What has Rishi Sunak got to hide?”