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Rachel Reeves says ‘Tory Sleaze is back and it’s bigger than ever’

Labour has claimed that sleaze in the Tory party is “bigger than ever” in the wake of the growing lobbying scandal.

David Cameron has been in the spotlight over Greensill Capital, which he worked for as an adviser, and his bid for the finance firm to be included in a Covid loans scheme.

A series of probes have been commissioned, including by Downing Street, as Westminster looks to understand the role Mr Cameron played in securing Whitehall access for Greensill.

Boris Johnson has been warned he risks losing his election gains against Labour if he does not clean up the “shameful” Westminster lobbying controversy.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Commons Liaison Committee, urged the prime minister to get a grip on the lobbying system, arguing failure to be “more transparent” than previous administrations could risk the so-called “red wall” seats.

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David Cameron sought to lobby German government on behalf of Greensill

The Greensill affair appeared to widen over the weekend after it emerged that David Cameron lobbied a senior German government official on behalf of the financing group.

The Financial Times reported that the former prime minister made the approach as a German investigation into Greensill Capital’s banking arm was accelerating.

Mr Cameron took part in a virtual call with the German ambassador in November, in which senior representatives from Greensill discussed introducing Earnd – a system that allows staff to draw down their salary in instalments – to the German civil service, a spokesperson for the former prime minister told the paper.

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:59

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‘Public deserve answers’: Matt Hancock faces pressure over family company awarded NHS contracts

In case you missed it, we reported on Saturday how Matt Hancock was facing pressure to explain how a company with family links, and that he holds shares in, was awarded NHS contracts.

In the latest MPs’ register of interests Mr Hancock declared he now owns shares in the company Topwood Limited, which specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents.

It emerged on Friday night that the company was awarded a three-year £150,000 contract from NHS Wales – run by the devolved government – for confidential destruction of waste last month, just days after Mr Hancock took on the share.

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:47

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Government watchdog hints at further ‘corrosive’ allegations amid lobbying scandal

Government ministers’ financial ties to private companies should be scrutinised more closely, the head of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has said, in the light of the Greensill Capital lobbying scandal. 

Lord Evans, who chairs the watchdog monitoring standards among holders of public office, said that “a number of allegations” in the past year “haven’t been completely investigated”, adding that it could prove “very corrosive” if such cases are left unresolved. 

He also highlighted the fact that the post of independent adviser to the prime minister on ministerial interests has been left vacant since November, following the resignation of Sir Alex Allan, and that – even when the role is fulfilled – such advisers don’t have the power to launch investigations. 

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:32

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Raab tweets support for ‘Czech allies’ over Salisbury poisoning link

On Saturday, Czech police published photos of two foreign citizens who visited the country in 2014 and asked the public for any information about them.

The two were using Russian passports and were identified as Alexander Petrov, 41, and Ruslan Boshirov, 43.

It came as the Czech Republic said it was expelling 18 Russian diplomats who it had identified as spies in a case related to a huge ammunition depot explosion in the town of Vrbetice in 2014.

The foreign secretary said: “The UK stands in full support of our Czech allies, who have exposed the lengths that the Russian intelligence services will go to in their attempts to conduct dangerous and malign operations in Europe.

“This shows a pattern of behaviour by Moscow, following the Novichok attack in Salisbury. My sympathies are with the families of the victims in Vrbetice.

“We are as determined and committed as ever to bring those responsible for the attack in Salisbury to justice, and commend the actions of the Czech authorities to do the same. Russia must desist from these actions, which violate the most basic international norms.” 

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:19

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Johnson warned lobbying claims could dent election chances

Boris Johnson risks losing his election gains against Labour if he does not clean up the “shameful” Westminster lobbying controversy, a Tory MP has warned.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Commons Liaison Committee, has urged the PM to get a grip on the lobbying system following a series of revelations in the wake of Greensill Capital’s collapse into administration.

A failure to be “more transparent” than previous administrations could risk the so-called “red wall” seats that Mr Johnson built his 2019 majority on, Sir Bernard suggested.

Writing in The Observer, he said the “lines between public service and private gain” had become “blurred”.

The senior Tory described the current situation as “shameful” and “utterly corrosive of public trust in government”.

In an apparent dig at the former Remain-backing Cameron government, he added: “This should matter to Boris Johnson.

“He does not need to pretend to be a saint, but his ‘red wall’ voters, who gave him his majority, will start to dismiss him unless he can show he is more open, more transparent and very different from the out-of-touch elite he defeated in the 2016 referendum and ousted from government.”

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:06

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Lib Dems call for independent body to enforce ministerial code

The leader of the Liberal Democrats backed Labour’s call for an independent process to look at whether ministers have broken their code of standards.

Sir Ed Davey, denying that he lobbied government while working for a renewable energy company while out of politics between 2015 and 2017, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “I’m very worried that the ministerial code isn’t properly enforced.

“We’ve seen (Sir) Alex Allan, the independent adviser for ministerial standards, resign and not been reappointed.

“I’d like to see an independent body enforcing the ministerial code, not the prime minister – that’s wrong.

“It’s wrong that a politician should be the judge and jury of who decides who has broken the ministerial code, and what I would like to see is an independent body, just like we have IPSA over MPs pay and expenses, that could say: ‘this minister has broken the code’ and whether they can’t have their ministerial pay.

“That would be the sort of penalty that I think the public would like and would rebuild trust in British politics.”

Sir Ed, who served in David Cameron’s cabinet during the coalition government, said he wanted to see the result of the investigations into the Greensill Capital affair, but added: “I don’t like the sound of it, we need much greater transparency, as David Cameron once called for.”

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 10:03

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‘Greensill is the tip of the iceberg’ – Labour’s Reeves

The shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Labour’s Rachel Reeves, joined her colleague Steve Reed in claiming “Tory sleaze is back” amid the growing lobbying scandal, which she warned was the “tip of the iceberg”.

Ms Reeves told the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC: “What we’ve seen this week is that Tory sleaze is back and that it is bigger than ever and we need real change to restore trust in our democracy and in the very essence of public service which matters to so many of us and matters to people in our country.

“What we want to see – we wanted this week, and that is why we had a vote on it – to have a proper inquiry.

“Not chaired by one of Boris Johnson’s friends, a very close friend of the Conservative Party is Nigel Boardman who is doing the review, but a proper independent inquiry that has teeth and has the chance to make recommendations on how to clean this up.

“Because this isn’t just about Greensill, Greensill is the tip of the iceberg.”

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 09:56

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Government whipping up US-style ‘culture war’ to divide communities, Labour MP warns

The government is launching an American-style “culture war” to divide communities and the Labour Party must not be “complicit” in this inflammatory rhetoric, a Labour MP has warned.

Zarah Sultana, who represents Coventry South, accused ministers of denying racism is a problem in the UK and argued their recent pledges to tackle violence against women in the wake of Sarah Everard’s killing amount to little more than “spin and empty promises”.

The 27-year-old told The Independent the UK government is seeking to provoke a so-called culture war, reminiscent of recent US political discourse, in a bid to “keep control”.

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 09:50

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Tory sleaze is well and truly back – Labour MP

Labour’s Steve Reed said “Tory sleaze” was back following revelations about Greensill Capital and other ministerial links to private businesses.

The shadow communities secretary and Croydon North MP told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “From what I can see in all this is that the era of Tory sleaze is well and truly back.

“And what’s happened with the Greensill scandal is really quite shocking.”

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 09:45

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Labour calls on Johnson to cancel India trip amid Covid variant surge

Boris Johnson should not visit India later this month as he currently plans to, Labour has said. 

The shadow communities secretary, Steve Reed, said: “I can’t see why the prime minister can’t conduct his business via Zoom.” 

The prime minister will attend talks in the country on 26 April, in spite of their spiking Covid-19 cases.

There are also concerns about a Covid variant first identified in India spreading further. More than 70 cases of the variant have already been tracked in the UK.

Boris Johnson has visited India as both London mayor and foreign secretary

Boris Johnson has visited India as both London mayor and foreign secretary

(PA)

Tom Batchelor18 April 2021 09:38

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