Labour has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to come out of hiding and answer 21 questions about his role in the Greensill affair.
The Chancellor has not been spotted in the Commons chamber since the day after Greensill Capital collapsed. Last week he dodged a summons from Labour to answer an Urgent Question on the decision to accredit Greensill to a Covid business loan scheme he launched – the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) – claiming that neither he nor the Treasury had any oversight in deciding who got access to that scheme.
In a letter to Sunak, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds is clear that the Chancellor has “ultimate responsibility for any and all public money lent through the Government Covid emergency loan schemes”. She tells Sunak that his attempt to avoid that responsibility “erodes public trust and does a disservice to the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer”.
Internal Treasury emails released via a Freedom of Information request reveal that Greensill discussed its application to be a CLBILS affiliate with Sunak’s officials on 24 April 2020 – the day after the Chancellor sent the second of his text messages to former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. The readout of that meeting shows Greensill representatives reacting to “news” that they were “very pleased to hear”.
Media reports this week also revealed that Greensill was able to lend through the CLBILS scheme via its overseas banking subsidiary in Germany. Further reports allege that Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, which is reported to have received £400 million in CLBILS loans through Greensill, deliberately restructured to take advantage of the scheme. Greensill was only authorised to provide £50m to a single company via the scheme.
In his letter to Dodds on 8 April 2021, Sunak confirmed that the criteria for accreditation to the CLBILS scheme were set by the British Business Bank “in consultation with BEIS and HM Treasury with no input from other parties”. Given the media revelations about how Greensill allegedly used the CLBILS scheme, there are serious questions for the Chancellor about his role in setting those criteria.
In her response, Dodds calls on the Chancellor to answer those questions and several others relating to his role in the affair.
The questions for the Chancellor are:
- Why did you reply directly to David Cameron’s text on 3 April 2020 with a promise to “try you later” instead of passing his message onto civil servants?
- What were the initial “proposals” referred to in your text message of 23 April 2020, and what was the “alternative” you “pushed the team to explore”?
- What connection did your text message of 23 April 2020 have to a meeting that took place between Greensill and Treasury officials the following day?
- Can you confirm that the CLBILS scheme was discussed at that meeting on 24 April 2020, and will you now publish the full transcript of the readout of that meeting?
- What “news” did Treasury officials report at that meeting on 24 April 2020 that Greensill representatives were “very pleased to hear”?
- Did David Cameron or any other Greensill official make representations to you or HMT officials about their application to the CLBILS scheme, the design of the CLBILS scheme, and the criteria for accreditation to the CLBILS scheme, including in the meeting between your officials and Greensill that took place on 24 April 2020?
- Will you explain why a further meeting between Greensill Capital and Treasury officials took place on 14 May 2020 “at the Chancellor’s request”?
- Who exactly did you mean by “team” in your text to David Cameron on 23 April 2020?
- How many telephone meetings did you hold with David Cameron between the text message you sent on 3 April 2020 and the one you sent on 23 April 2021 and how long were these meetings?
- Did your private office provide a readout of these meetings and was a civil servant present when they took place and were these meetings logged on your quarterly returns as a minister under transparency requirements?
- Did you hold any other meetings via text, telephone or in person with David Cameron regarding his work for Greensill Capital outside of the time period mentioned above, including on 18 May 2020?
- Will you publish all of the correspondence you received from Mr Cameron pertaining his work for Greensill Capital and will you compel Mr Cameron to do the same?
- How many work hours did HMT staff at different grade levels spend working on Greensill Capital’s application to the CCFF?
- When were you consulted by the British Business Bank about the accreditation criteria for the CLBILS scheme, and how many times?
- Did you or your officials seek to amend the accreditation criteria for the CLBILS scheme to enable Greensill Capital to access the scheme?
- What role did Greensill Capital and other external parties, including former and current employees at Theleme Partners and Goldman Sachs, play in the design of the Covid Corporate Financing Facility scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Recovery Loan scheme?
- Following confirmation in your letter of 8 April 2021 that the criteria for accreditation to the CLBILS scheme were set in consultation with the Treasury, the BEIS department and the British Business Bank, can you explain why those criteria allowed Greensill Capital to lend money through the scheme via an overseas banking subsidiary, and if any other lenders were permitted to lend in this way?
- What discussions did HM Treasury, BEIS or the British Business Bank have with the German regulators when assessing whether Greensill was a suitable candidate to be a CLBILS lended?
- Following confirmation in your letter of 8 April 2021 that the criteria for accreditation to the CLBILS scheme were set in consultation with the Treasury, the BEIS department and the British Business Bank, can you explain what protections were in place to prevent the incorporation of new business entities for the purpose of circumventing the £50m per single company limit that accredited lenders were permitted to provide through the scheme?
- Did you or your officials communicate any concerns to the British Business Bank upon Greensill Capital’s accreditation as an approved CLBILS lender?
- Why was the Government planning to enter into further supply chain financing schemes with Greensill Capital, and how much would this have cost the public purse?
Greensill Capital was the only financial technology firm approved to administer the CLBILS scheme last June. It was not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Bank of England. The Treasury has admitted that it was aware Greensill was not subject to the capital adequacy and stress tests that applied to other lenders on the scheme to protect public money.
Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:
“The Chancellor is running scared of scrutiny over his role in the Greensill affair, but the public demand answers.
“From secret conversations with his old boss David Cameron to questions about how Greensill got access to hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer-backed loans to how much the Chancellor knew about what they were doing with it, Rishi Sunak must now come clean about his role in the return of Conservative sleaze.
“He should come out of hiding and explain himself.”