MPs will today vote whether to establish a wide-ranging parliamentary inquiry into David Cameron and the Greensill lobbying scandal, as it was revealed a top civil servant worked for the crisis-hit firm while in Whitehall.
The plan put forward by Labour would create a new Commons select committee with powers to investigate lobbying and summon witnesses – such as Mr Cameron – to answer questions.
Boris Johnson has already commissioned a review into the lobbying row which will be led by lawyer Nigel Boardman, but it has been branded a “Conservative cover up”, by Labour.
Mr Johnson said that the lawyer will be given the “maximum possible access” to get to the bottom of what happened, adding that he would like the review to be “done quickly”.
It comes after the government yesterday admitted that the former head of Whitehall procurement became an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant – in a move approved by the Cabinet Office.
Bill Crothers began working for the firm as a part-time adviser to the board in September 2015 and did not leave his role as Government chief commercial officer until November that year.
UK asks for ‘more time’ in responding to EU legal action over NI protocol
RTE Europe Editor Tony Connelly is this morning reporting that the UK has asked for more time to respond to its legal action from the EU over an alleged breach of the NI protocol.
The government last month changed the way the protocol is implemented with no prior agreement from Brussels, prompting the EU to begin legal action against the UK on March 15.
Mr Connelly adds that the request for more time was made by Brexit minister Lord Frost, who is due to for talks with the European Commission on Thursday.
The European Parliament has again refused to set a date to ratify the EU-UK Brexit trade deal, amid concerns about whether the UK is implementing it properly.
Party group leaders had been expected to announce the deal would be ratified at a sitting in late April, but following a meeting said they would wait for reassurances from Boris Johnson’s government.
Christophe Hansen, a Luxembourgish centre-right MEP who leads on Brexit for the parliament’s trade committee, said that the decision would be “deferred due to the need for progress on roadmap for pragmatic yet full implementation” of the deal.
The Independent’s policy correspondent Jon Stone reports
Brexit minister set for talks in Brussels on Thursday over NI protocol
Lord Frost and the European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic will meet tomorrow as part of ongoing efforts to resolve issues surrounding Northern Ireland.
A number of factors have been put forward to explain the recent rioting in Northern Ireland, with one of the underlying issues thought to be the post-Brexit trading arrangements in the protocol, that has has created new economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.
The arrangements, agreed by the UK and EU as a way to keep the land border on the island of Ireland free-flowing, have been cited as one of the key causal factors behind the violence.
The meeting was confirmed by the European Commission, which said the pair will “take stock of ongoing technical work” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The minister and the commission vice-president will also “provide a political steer for both teams on outstanding issues”.
Labour’s inquiry vote is ‘political opportunism’ – Tory MP
Former Conservative minister Tobias Ellwood said Labour’s vote on an anti-sleaze committee was “political opportunism”.
The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee told Times Radio: “What has happened is the former prime minister (David Cameron) has put up his hand and said I didn’t act in the spirit of the rules, you then have No 10 that have come out with their own investigation.
“These things should be allowed to take their course.
“The idea suddenly that we all, with the limited knowledge that we have, can make a judgment on this – it is political opportunism.
“Let’s see what happens with the review, it is being done independently – that is the process that we should do these things, not just jump on this bandwagon and the day after a review has been called say, ‘Right let’s have a determination by having a vote in the House’.
“We simply cannot do that, we don’t even have access to all the information, so let’s slow down on this but let’s get the right answer.”
Cameron’s lobbying is why rules have to change – Labour’s Rachel Reeves
Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital indicated why transparency rules need changing.
The Labour MP told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “One of the things Labour is recommending, and the Government could do very easily, would be to tighten up the rules about lobbying that former ministers, prime ministers and civil servants can do.
“At the moment, if you are a consultant lobbyist working for one of the big lobbying companies, you have to register as a lobbyist and declare all the meetings and contacts you’ve made but if you are employed in-house by a company to do exactly the same lobbying, you don’t have to be on that register.
“And that is why David Cameron is saying, ‘I didn’t break the rules’.
“Now, if it is the case that Cameron didn’t break the rules, then I think it says something about the rules and that those rules need to change so there is proper transparency so we can see what former ministers and prime ministers are doing.”
Lockdown easing may need to be reversed if variant spreads rapidly – expert
The easing of lockdown restrictions may need to be reversed if coronavirus variants spread rapidly, according to a government adviser.
Professor Peter Openshaw said his fellow scientists were “very concerned” after a cluster of cases of the South African Covid-19 variant were found in London, writes The Independent’s Chiara Giordano
PM right to suggest lockdown reduced Covid infection levels – expert
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge, said Boris Johnson was correct to say that lockdown had played a significant part in reducing coronavirus infection levels.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “It is the lockdown that has caused the major drop, of course, because we’ve seen that happen in the huge reduction in the people who haven’t been vaccinated.
“We’ve estimated that the vaccination programme has maybe saved 10,000 lives – a fantastic success.
“But that is not what has brought the enormous reduction since earlier in the year – that is lockdown.
“We only have to look over the Channel to mainland Europe to see this huge surge going throughout the continent – case rates are 10 times as high in Germany, 20 times as high in Sweden, death rates 10 times as high in France and Italy and going up.
“I think there is, quite reasonably, an anxiety about what might happen but there is definitely a considerable caution at the moment because they (ministers) have said they are not going backwards and so I think that is dictating the caution of the policy and does seem to have considerable public support.”
Top civil servant ‘worked for Greensill’ while in Whitehall
A top civil servant was given permission by the Cabinet Office to work part-time at Greensill Capital while still in Whitehall, it was revealed yesterday.
Bill Crothers began working for the firm in September 2015 in a board advisory role, but he did not leave his job as chief commercial officer until November that year.
The Independent’s deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the details
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