Greensill: Top official's widow hits out at lobbying report

Suzanne and Jeremy Heywood

image copyrightPA Media

The widow of a former top civil servant has hit out at a government report into lobbying critical of her late husband.

The review said Lord Heywood failed to properly consider conflicts of interest over a government role for Australian financier Lex Greensill.

His widow Suzanne Heywood called the report a “travesty” that “scapegoated” her late husband.

It also failed to reflect the role of ministers in signing off Mr Greensill’s appointment, she added.

The report also criticised ex-prime minister David Cameron for his lobbying efforts on behalf of Mr Greensill’s company, which collapsed in March.

The inquiry was launched in April, after it emerged the ex-Conservative leader had lobbied ministers via text messages on behalf of the finance firm during the Covid pandemic.

Lawyer Nigel Boardman, who conducted the review, said Mr Greensill had a sometimes “extraordinarily privileged” relationship with government.

His report, published on Thursday, found Lord Heywood had been “primarily responsible” for bringing Mr Greensill into government under the Coalition.

During Mr Cameron’s time in Downing Street, Mr Greensill worked informally in government before being made an unpaid adviser on supply chain finance – a technique aimed at making it easier for businesses to receive payments.

‘Marketing platform’

Mr Boardman said Lord Heywood, then cabinet secretary, later appointed him to a role in the Cabinet Office’s Economic and Development Secretariat.

He says it came as Mr Greensill was trying to set up Greensill Capital, his firm that specialised in supply chain financing itself.

Mr Boardman found Mr Greensill was able to “leverage his position” to hold meetings with major companies, and gave him a “marketing platform” for his business.

He specifically criticises Lord Heywood, saying it “should have been apparent” that Mr Greensill was building a company and he “should have considered the issue of conflicts of interest”.

“It is unclear why Mr Greensill was permitted to remain an adviser to government on supply chain finance under these circumstances,” he added.

Lex Greensill

image copyrightShutterstock

Mr Boardman said it was unclear whether ministerial approval was “sought or obtained” for Mr Greensill’s appointment to his later role.

But Mr Boardman said readers of the report should “bear in mind” that it could not include the personal explanation of Lord Heywood, who died in November 2018.

In a statement after the report’s release, Lady Heywood accused Mr Boardman of “glossing over” ministers’ role in approving the position.

She accused the lawyer of running “a deeply flawed process from beginning to end” and “gagging representation for my late husband to facilitate his scapegoating”.

She described the review as “nothing less than a travesty”, adding: “His absence is being exploited to distort the facts of a decade ago and divert attention from the current government’s embarrassment at the collapse of Greensill Capital long after Jeremy’s death.”

David Cameron

image copyrightReuters

Mr Cameron began working as an adviser to Greensill Capital in 2018, two years after he quit as PM in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

He has previously said he only met Mr Greensill twice during his time in office, and the idea of him later working for the Australian’s firm was not raised during his time at No 10.

Mr Boardman said Mr Cameron had “on occasion understated the nature of his relationship with Greensill Capital” when seeking to influence the Treasury’s decisions.

However, he concluded that Mr Cameron “did not breach the current lobbying rules and his actions were not unlawful”.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the report had been set up as “a classic Boris Johnson cover-up and whitewash to protect the government”.

She added that the terms of Mr Boardman’s inquiry had been limited “to avoid a wider investigation of lobbying, privileged access and the revolving door between Whitehall and business”.

“The rules that are supposed to regulate lobbying are completely unfit for purpose and require radical and immediate overhaul,” she added.

Responding to the report, Mr Cameron said he was “pleased that the report provides further confirmation that I broke no rules”.

“I have said all along that there are lessons to be learnt, and I agree on the need for more formal lines of communication.”