Boris Johnson has commissioned an independent inquiry into the lobbying scandal involving David Cameron and Greensill Capital, the collapsed finance company.
Downing Street said on Monday that the Cabinet Office had launched a wide-ranging investigation after acknowledging that there was “significant interest in this matter”. The prime minister wanted to ensure the government was “completely transparent ”
The inquiry will be led by Nigel Boardman, a former partner at Slaughter and May and a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He is also chair of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee.
Johnson’s spokesperson said the review would examine “issues of supply chain finance and the role Greensill played” as well as “the way contracts were secured. Engagement with businesses, including the private lobbying by Cameron, will be covered by the Boardman inquiry.”
Boardman, an experienced lawyer, was chosen by Number 10 as “an experienced person to lead this independent review”. It is unknown whether he will have legal powers to compel evidence, but government sources confirmed he would have access to official papers.
The formal terms of reference for the Boardman inquiry will be published on Monday. Downing Street did not say when the review would be published but the spokesperson said Johnson wanted the review to be “done thoroughly and promptly”.
Johnson’s move to commission an investigation into the conduct of Cameron, his predecessor but one in Downing Street, is unprecedented in recent times. Whitehall insiders also expressed surprise at the wide remit of the inquiry, with one official describing it as “a bit of a mess”.
The last large inquiry commissioned by Johnson was an investigation into bullying accusations against the home secretary, Priti Patel. The prime minister disagreed with the findings of the investigation and his own independent adviser on ministerial standards and opted not to sack Patel.
The opposition Labour party accused the Conservatives of “another cover-up” and said the party “can’t be trusted to yet again mark their own homework”.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “Just as with the inquiry into Priti Patel’s alleged bullying, this is another Conservative government attempt to push bad behaviour into the long grass and hope the British public forgets.”
She added: “We need answers on Greensill now — that means key players in this cronyism scandal like David Cameron, Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock appearing openly in front of parliament as soon as possible to answer questions.”
Johnson and Cameron have a long standing rivalry that dates back to their education at Eton College and Oxford university. One senior Tory MP said: “Boris is getting his vengeance on Dave.”
Another former Conservative minister said: “Boris will love nothing more than throwing Dave under the bus.”