PMQs: Boris Johnson slams Starmer over lobbying criticism
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Labour’s deputy leader lashed out on social media as Lord Pickles defended the appointment of Andrew Cumpsty to sit on the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba). Ms Rayner tweeted: “Sorry for the unparliamentary language, but this is taking the pi**.”
Sorry for the unparliamentary language, but this is taking the pi**
Her comments came after Lord Pickles told MPs Mr Cumpsty – who runs Cumpsty Communications – was on a shortlist of six candidates put forward to the minister from which to choose new Acoba members.
He said: “I wanted to give the minister the option of having someone on who had the experience of lobbying.
“We put the six names up without making a recommendation and the minister chose to put Andrew Cumpsty into that position.
“I think that he was brave to do it because I felt sooner or later a newspaper would turn him over.
“I think I would support the minister’s decision. I think it was sensible to get someone with experience. He has proved very useful on these issues.”
Lord Pickles was giving evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Pacac) as a row over parliamentary lobbying sparked by David Cameron’s work for failed financial firm Greensill rumbled on.
The former Prime Minister personally lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak on its behalf and was able to arrange for its founder, Lex Greensill, to have a “private drink” with Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Mr Cameron has insisted he did not break any rules but acknowledged there are “lessons to be learned”, and that as a former prime minister, any contacts with Government should be through the “most formal channels”.
Pacac chairman William Wragg has announced a “full inquiry into the topical matters around Greensill” which was approved to administer Government Covid support loans before it went bust.
MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee have already announced their own inquiry into the firm’s collapse, which threatens thousands of UK jobs at Liberty Steel, which relied on the group’s financial backing.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said it intends to investigate the broader issue of supply chain financing – which Greensill was involved in – and to call Mr Cameron to give evidence.
Boris Johnson has acknowledged the boundaries between civil servants and the private sector had not always been “properly understood”.
The Government used its Commons majority this week to defeat an attempt by Labour to force the creation of a new committee of MPs specifically to examine the issues of lobbying and the Greensill affair.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “wrong” of the Government to vote the proposal down and that the current lobbying rules “obviously aren’t working”.
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Tory MP John Penrose, the Prime Minister’s anti-corruption champion, said he believed Mr Cameron would be “mortified by what is happening at the moment and I’m sure he will want to make his case and clear his name”.
He called for greater transparency, telling BBC’s Newsnight the reaction within Whitehall and the ministerial ranks had been “shocked and horrified” by the slew of revelations in recent weeks.
Mr Penrose said: “We are turning over rocks and uncovering things.”
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