Finance

Top civil servant admits to confusion over terms for Downing Street’s employment of Lex Greensill

The grounds under which financier Lex Greensill was employed by the UK government and received security clearance to Downing Street was “unclear”, senior civil servants have told MPs.

Darren Tierney, director general for propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office, told MPs that civil servants were unable to find a contract governing Greensill’s advisory role in David Cameron’s government.

“His exact status is unclear,” Tierney told MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 26 April.

So far we have been unable to identify a contract

Greensill was an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron’s government between 2012 and 2016. He then went on to employ Cameron as an adviser to his supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital after he left government.

READ ‘Chatty rat’ probe to conclude in weeks, says UK’s top civil servant

“So far we have been unable to identify a contract,” Tierney said.

Greensill Capital collapsed in March after Credit Suisse froze funds that were key to its business.

Ex-Slaughter and May partner Nigel Boardman has been appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to review lobbying by Cameron of government on behalf of Greensill Capital in the run up to its collapse.

You say potential conflict of interest. Doesn’t it look like a screaming, glaring conflict of interest?

Tierney confirmed that Lex Greensill had security clearance to access the Cabinet Office and Downing Street but said they were unclear as to the grounds of his appointment or clearance.

“I find it extraordinary you come before this committee not really knowing anything about the terms on which Mr Greensill managed to be installed in Downing Street which members of the Committee may find rather alarming,” David Jones MP said.

Simon Case, cabinet secretary and head of the civil service, admitted when pushed that he also found it alarming that Greensill was given access to government on grounds that were not clear.

READ Government to investigate David Cameron’s Greensill lobbying

Tierney also admitted that Greensill’s employment in government appeared to be a conflict of interest.

“You say potential conflict of interest. Doesn’t it look like a screaming, glaring conflict of interest?” Jones asked.

“Yes it does,” Tierney said.

Tierney also said there was no evidence of how this conflict was managed and said this was something that the Boardman review had been asked to look into.

MPs also questioned Tierney and Case on how the government’s chief commercial officer Bill Crothers came to be an adviser to Greensill Capital while still working as a civil servant.

The pair said they were unaware of how Crothers came to be employed by the civil service and Greensill Capital simultaneously.

“We cannot explain how these decisions were taken or why, that’s why they are of acute concern,” Case said.

“We can’t explain many of these things, it does not look appropriate,” he said.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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