Saturday 20 March 2021 / 10:30 PM Anneliese Dodds

Labour calls on Chancellor to “set the record straight” over role in Greensill lobbying affair

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has written to counterpart Rishi Sunak asking him to “set the record straight” following media revelations that former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied the Treasury for Greensill Capital to gain access to government-backed Covid-19 loan schemes.

Referencing media reports that the Chancellor also personally intervened to set up meetings between the failed bank and Treasury officials last spring, Dodds calls on Sunak to answer a series of questions about his involvement in the affair.

Her questions include:

  • Did the Chancellor speak to David Cameron directly on the matter of Greensill’s access to state-backed emergency Covid-19 loan schemes
  • How was the decision made to add Greensill to the CLBILS scheme?
  • Were Treasury officials overruled in that decision?
  • Did the Chancellor ask the Permanent Secretary Charles Roxburgh to meet with Greensill against the advice of Treasury officials?
  • Did the Excluded group request a personal meeting with the Chancellor between March and June 2020, and what was his response if so?
  • What steps, if any, did the Chancellor take in relation to concerns reported at the time by the Financial Times and others about the financial stability of Greensill?

Citing the Chancellor’s “duty to protect the public finances”, the letter demands “urgent and clear answers to these questions” so the public can be reassured that the decision to make Greensill an accredited lender for the CLBILS scheme was taken with due diligence, and not on the basis of Conservative party links.

Public records show ten separate meetings took place between Greensill representatives and Treasury officials between March and June 2020. Other accredited lenders to the CLBILS scheme were granted much less access, with Santander meeting officials twice and Lloyd’s, RBS and Barclays just once each. The other 22 accredited lenders for the scheme are not reported to have met with Treasury officials at all.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“These revelations raise urgent questions about the Chancellor’s priorities and decision-making during a pandemic. We need to understand why it appears a bank advised by a former Conservative Prime Minister was given so much access to the Treasury compared to other Covid loan lenders. These questions are even more serious and urgent given Greensill’s later collapse.

“The Chancellor has a duty to protect the public finances. Taxpayers will rightly want to know if David Cameron played any role in the Treasury’s decision to open government-backed loan schemes to Greensill Capital, putting hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money at risk.

“The Chancellor must urgently set the record straight by answering the questions I’ve posed today.”

 

Letter from the Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak:

Dear Chancellor,

I wanted to raise my concerns with you directly about a report in the Financial Times on 18 March 2021 regarding Greensill Capital’s access to state-backed emergency Covid-19 loan schemes.

As you may be aware, the report suggests that the former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied Her Majesty’s Treasury personally on behalf of Greensill Capital. It also alleges that you personally intervened to request meetings between the bank and Treasury officials, and cites a freedom of information request detailing an official summary of a conversation prepared for the Second Permanent Secretary to the Treasury following a meeting with Greensill representatives that states: “At the Chancellor’s request you [the Second Permanent Secretary] took a call from Greensill last night (May 14). You set out that no decision had yet been taken but the Chancellor had asked you to revert to them on two points.”

Public records further show that several meetings took place between your officials and representatives of the bank between March and June 2020. Your officials met five of the 27 accredited CLBILS lenders during this period: Greensill, RBS, Lloyd’s Bank, Santander and Barclays. The records show that officials met with Greensill on ten separate occasions compared to just two with Santander and one each with Lloyd’s, RBS and Barclays. The other 22 accredited lenders for the scheme are not reported to have met with Treasury officials at all.

It appears that after initial attempts by Greensill to secure access to the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility were unsuccessful, the bank was later accepted as an accredited lender and partner of the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme and granted permission to issue these loans – 80 per cent of which were guaranteed by the UK Government – up to a maximum of £50 million. It has since been reported in The Sunday Times that Greensill issued eight of these taxpayer-backed loans – a total of £400 million – to Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance group and companies linked to him. While the BBB has now withdrawn the guarantees for these loans, Greensill is still listed on its website as an accredited lender and partner for the CLBILS scheme.

The revelations in the FT article raise extremely serious questions for your Government. I am concerned that it appears Greensill Capital was granted so much access to the Treasury at a time when the representatives of the millions of people excluded from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme were asking for your time and support to find a solution to the issues with that scheme. This is made even more serious and urgent given Greensill’s subsequent collapse.

I would like to seek clarity from you on this issue and others raised in the FT article, specifically in answer to the following questions:

  • Did you speak to David Cameron directly on the matter of Greensill’s access to state-backed emergency Covid-19 loan schemes?
  • How was the decision made to add Greensill to the CLBILS scheme?
  • Were Treasury officials overruled in that decision?
  • Did you ask the Permanent Secretary Charles Roxburgh to meet with Greensill against the advice of Treasury officials?
  • Did the Excluded group request a personal meeting with you during the same period, and what was your response?
  • What steps, if any, did you take in relation to concerns reported at the time by the Financial Times and others about the financial stability of Greensill?

As Chancellor, it is your duty to protect the public finances. The public deserve urgent and clear answers to these questions so they can be reassured that the decision to make Greensill an accredited lender for the CLBILS scheme was taken with due diligence.

Best wishes,

Anneliese Dodds