Greensill scandal could happen again, Tory peer warns

·2-min read

The Greensill scandal could happen again because the Government has not changed procedures enough since it came to light, Tory peer Eric Pickles has warned.

Lord Pickles, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), said there is still a “deeply worrying” lack of systems for “managing conflicts” when civil servants leave Government departments.

Acoba guides the Government on its approach when hiring former ministers and senior civil servants, and when they leave for other jobs.

Lord Pickles gave evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in the Commons, which was discussing standards in light of the Greensill scandal.

He told the committee: “I am not confident that something like Greensill couldn’t happen again because I don’t believe that departments have put in a system that’s robust and clear.

“Much of what we exposed on Greensill was that it was all on the basis of a wink and a nod and it all seemed perfectly okay.”

The former Cabinet minister said his concerns about the 30,000 civil servants not covered by Acoba but dealt with by Government departments have “increased in the last year”.

Lord Pickles
Lord Pickles is chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (House of Commons/PA)

The Greensill scandal relates to lobbying activities on behalf of the now defunct financial services company Greensill Capital, which implicated former prime minister David Cameron.

It also involves the Government’s former chief commercial officer, Bill Crothers, who began working as an adviser to Greensill Capital in 2015 while still employed in the civil service.

When asked whether his concerns about Government departments’ internal processes for managing possible conflicts for civil servants who leave the service without going through Acoba had been assuaged, Lord Pickles said: “No.

“If anything my concerns have increased in the last year.

“Government departments are rubber stamping things that are plainly wrong, so you have to go through the process of explaining to the departments themselves that there’s a problem that they need to address.

“If that is happening at the very top it makes you wonder about what’s going on further below the surface.”

Lord Pickles added that the lack of procedures which exist within departments is “deeply worrying”.

He said the civil service had rejected his offers to audit departments’ procedures and provide training at no cost, saying they would do it themselves – but this has not happened yet.

Lord Pickles added that ministers have been “very receptive” to offers of training and audits but due to “inertia” in the civil service “we’ve largely wasted a whole year” on little progress.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting