Line Of Duty’s anti-corruption unit is needed to root out “sleaze and cronyism” in Boris Johnson’s Government, according to Sir Keir Starmer.
The Labour leader called for Ted Hastings and AC-12 to get involved as he accused the Prime Minister of “blocking a proper inquiry” into the Greensill Capital lobbying controversy.
He also suggested Mr Johnson had resorted to using the “shoplifters’ defence” of “everyone else is nicking stuff so why can’t I?” in a bid to defend his Government’s actions.
The Prime Minister repeatedly highlighted an “independent” review of the Greensill affair had been set up and insisted “tougher” laws on lobbying had been put in place.
Questions have continued to emerge over Greensill’s links with the Government, in light of lobbying for the financial firm by former Conservative prime minister David Cameron.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “Dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates, this is the return of Tory sleaze.
“It’s now so ingrained in this Conservative Government, we don’t need another Conservative Party appointee marking their own homework.
“The more I listen to the Prime Minister, the more I think Ted Hastings and AC-12 is needed to get to the bottom of this one.
“We know the Prime Minister will not act against sleaze, but this House can.”
He pressed MPs to back Labour’s motion for a parliamentary inquiry in a bid to start to “clean up the sleaze and cronyism that’s at the heart of this Conservative Government”.
Mr Johnson again highlighted the independent review before adding: “We’re getting on with rooting out bent coppers.
“We’re also appointing and hiring thousands more police officers and fighting crime on the streets of our cities while they oppose the police and crime Bill.”
Mr Johnson continued attacking Labour’s opposition to the legislation, with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle cutting him off and saying: “Prime Minister, I think you ought to at least try and address the question.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson acknowledged it is not clear whether the “boundaries” between civil servants and business had been “properly understood”.
After Sir Keir asked if the Prime Minister accepts there is a “revolving door” between his Government and paid lobbyists, Mr Johnson replied: “This is a Government and a party that has been consistently tough on lobbying and indeed we introduced legislation saying that there should be no taxpayer-funded lobbying, that quangos should not be used to get involved with lobbying.
“We put in a register for lobbyists and there’s one party that actually voted to repeal the 2014 Lobbying Act and that was the Labour Party in their historic 2019 election manifesto.”
Mr Johnson also said: “And talk about lobbying, he is being advised by Lord Mandelson of Global Counsel Limited.
“Perhaps in the interest of full transparency, so we can know where he is coming from, Lord Mandelson could be encouraged to disclose his other clients?”
Sir Keir countered: “I haven’t heard a defence that ridiculous since my last days in the Crown Court. It is called the shoplifters’ defence – everyone else is nicking stuff so why can’t I? It never worked.”
Mr Johnson also said the one person campaigning for Greensill to access Covid-19 support was shadow defence secretary John Healey.
Sir Keir said Mr Johnson’s answers were getting “weaker and weaker”, adding: “It really wasn’t a good point. If you think that’s a good point, you’ve got real problems.”
He said Mr Healey was speaking for his constituents and for local jobs.
Sir Keir went on: “The Prime Minister says there’s going to be an inquiry but the person he’s appointed worked for the law firm which lobbied to loosen lobbying laws. You couldn’t make it up.”
He said an “overhaul of the whole broken system” is needed and he pressed Mr Johnson to back Labour’s Commons motion for a parliamentary inquiry.
Mr Johnson replied: “I think his own proposal is simply to have, yet again, politicians marking their own homework – a committee of MPs to look at it, it won’t do a blind bit of good.
“That’s why we’re having a proper independent review.”