Boris Johnson came under growing pressure from an anti-sleaze watchdog, a former Whitehall mandarin, and an ex-Attorney General to clean up the lobbying scandal in Whitehall.
In a forceful intervention, sleazebuster Lord Pickles, a former Conservative Cabinet minister who vets new jobs, said urgent reform was needed over “anomalies” that allowed glaring conflicts of interest.
Lord Pickles, chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), told a committee of MPs he was “very worried” after a senior civil servant was allowed to work part-time, then full-time, for collapsed finance house Greensill Capital without being vetted. “I think it also highlights a number of anomalies within the system that require I think immediate address,” he said.
In quietly devastating evidence, Lord Pickles said contracts handed out during the Covid pandemic were also a cause of concern.
“Contractors, consultants, people who arrive and offer assistance, maybe during the pandemic or maybe as Mr Greensill did, they are not covered at all [by the rules],” he said.
“I think that needs addressing and I think it needs addressing urgently.”
In a growing rebellion of the grandees, the Prime Minister was urged to call a tougher, broader and more independent inquiry into allegations of improper influence, possibly led by a judge and taking evidence in the open.
“I think the Prime Minister has made an error,” said Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee for Standards in Public Life. “I think he’s underestimated the importance of this lobbying scandal.”
The furore widened today amid further revelations of potential conflicts of interest or influence under his watch.
Mr Johnson this week appointed lawyer Nigel Boardman to conduct a “review” behind closed doors of records relating to the offer of taxpayer–backed loans to the collapsed finance house Greensill Capital. He will also consider whether ex-premier David Cameron influenced the outcome by badgering senior ministers.