Lex Greensill, the financier who secured a place in the British government, has acquired his privileged role without any contracts or explanations for his work, two senior Whitehall officials revealed on Monday.
Simon Case, Head of the British Civil Service, told the deputies he was “alarmed” that Greensill, who led the recently collapsed finance company Greensill Capital, has been given an advisory role and an office at the Cabinet Office.
The case was testifying before the Commons Public Administration Committee alongside Darren Tierney, head of public service property and ethics.
Tierney said the appointment of Bill Crothers, a former purchasing manager, in a post with Greensill while still in government, had been authorized by the late Jeremy Heywood, then cabinet secretary, and John Manzoni, the former chief executive of the civil service. Heywood, who died in 2018, was also helped bring Greensill to government.
Following Crothers’ revelation, the Cabinet Office investigated the so-called “double hats” of public servants working in the public and private sectors. Case said around 100 officials had outside roles but no conflicts of interest were identified.
An internal investigation into Greensill’s role as an adviser in David Cameron’s administration failed to explain how his conflicts of interest were avoided, Case added. Cameron, who became an employee of the company, subsequently actively lobbied ministers in Johnson’s government on behalf of Greensill.
Case said there were few details on why Greensill was appointed government adviser in 2012. The financier is known to have worked with Heywood at Morgan Stanley before Heywood was appointed cabinet secretary.
“We cannot explain how these decisions were made or why. . . it seems that there have been conflicts and we do not know how they were managed. From our superficial gaze, we cannot see the evidence. Case added that Greensill’s appointment “doesn’t seem fair” or “appropriate”.
Greensill carried a business card describing himself as a “senior advisor” to the Prime Minister’s Office. Case confirmed he was given security clearance to enter Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, but could not say what he was doing.
Case and Tierney’s evidence came amid a whirlwind of accusations – labeled as ‘harassment’ by opposition Labor Party – of the conduct of successive Tory governments, including new claims about the management by Boris Johnson of the coronavirus crisis.
Johnson has denied multiple press reports saying he said he would rather let ‘bodies pile up in the thousands’ rather than order a third Covid-19 lockdown in England. Rachel Reeves of Labor accused the prime minister of “corrupting the standards of public life”.
When asked if he had used those words, Johnson replied, “No, but again I think the important thing I think [is] that people want us to get along and act as a government is to make sure the lockdowns work, and they did.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labor leader, said he was surprised to read the accounts of the Prime Minister’s remarks. “If he said these things, he has to explain it.
But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs it was “unbelievable” to think Johnson made the comments. “I was in that room, I never heard any language like that,” he said.
The explosive allegations come amid an increasingly toxic information war between Downing Street and Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former chief adviser, who believes the Prime Minister has mismanaged the Covid-19 crisis.
Cummings will give MPs evidence next month on the pandemic and his allies have suggested he has overwhelming evidence to back up his claims about Johnson’s prevarication.
Johnson believes Cummings is responsible for a series of damaging leaks about himself and his partner Carrie Symonds, who has overseen a controversial renovation of the Downing Street apartment.
In a blog post, Cummings denied being responsible for leaking information about the coronavirus lockdown in November, instead blaming the blame on Henry Newman, a senior aide to the Prime Minister.
Case, who is investigating the leak, told MPs the ‘talkative rat’, as the runaway has been dubbed, may never be found and that the conclusion of his investigation will be released in the coming weeks. He also said he did not break national security laws.