Ahead of a Commons vote, the prime minister ruled out a parliamentary probe – insisting his Cabinet Office investigation was the “proper” way to get to the bottom of it.
In heated exchanges, Keir Starmer said the revelations about David Cameron’s soliciting of Cabinet ministers on behalf of the collapsed finance firm exposed “sleaze at the heart of this Conservative government”.
Labour is demanding that a Commons committee is set up with the power to call witnesses and secure evidence – condemning the Whitehall inquiry as “a cover-up”.
But Mr Johnson claimed the idea would amount to “having politicians marking their own homework”.
“It won’t do a blind bit of good,” he told the Commons, adding: “That’s why we are having a proper independent review.”
The prime minister also said he had not spoken to his predecessor about the Greensill scandal, telling MPs: “I cannot remember when I last spoke to Dave.”
“This is a government and a party consistently tough on lobbying,” he insisted – despite admitting, 24 hours earlier, that there were “questions to answer”.
The clashes came after astonishing evidence of Greensill apparent infiltration of Mr Cameron’s government, with the revelation that a former head of procurement became an adviser – while still a civil servant.
Bill Crothers began working for the firm in September 2015, but did not leave his role as chief commercial officer until November that year – a “shocking revelation”, said Labour.
In a stinging letter, former Tory Cabinet minister Eric Pickles, now the head of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, demanded to know why the Cabinet Office allowed the situation.
And Mr Crothers’ correspondence insisted his double-jobbing was far from unique, saying: “This advisory role was not seen as contentious and, I believe, not uncommon.”
Sir Keir alleged: “The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. Dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates, this is the return of Tory sleaze.”
Comparing the affair to Line of Duty, he said: “The more I listen to the prime minister, the more I think Ted Hastings and AC-12 is needed to get to the bottom of this one. We know the prime minister will not act against sleaze – but this House can.”
Sir Keir warned: “The prime minister says there’s going to be an inquiry but the person he’s appointed worked for the law firm which lobbied to loosen lobbying laws. You couldn’t make it up.”
But Mr Johnson said: “I think his own proposal is simply to have, yet again, politicians marking their own homework – a committee of MPs to look at it, it won’t do a blind bit of good.
“That’s why we’re having a proper independent review.”