Government acting like a 'tinpot dictatorship' over lobbying and ministerial interests, says Labour

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed called for an independent inquiry and for the release of all correspondence between David Cameron and the government

Government acting like a ‘tinpot dictatorship’ over lobbying and ministerial interests, says Labour (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour has said the Conservative’s behaviour is “what you would associate with a tinpot dictatorship” over the Greensill lobbying scandal and health secretary Matt Hancock’s links to a shredding firm which won government contracts.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed called for an open parliamentary inquiry into the matters, “not one where the Conservatives are marking their own homework”.

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Reed said that the “era of Tory sleaze is well and truly back” and called for the publication of all correspondence between David Cameron and government officials.

‘He meticulously followed the rules’

On the same programme, Conservative environment minister George Eustice defended his party, saying Cameron had “abided by the rules he put in place” and that Hancock had declared his interests in Topwood ltd “in the right way”.

He said: “I don’t think [Cameron] took advantage of any rules, he meticulously followed the rules he put in place himself in office, but he himself has conceded that with hindsight he wouldn’t have texted the chancellor.”

Eustice also said that Greensill Capital didn’t not get any special favours as a result of Cameron’s lobbying, despite the chancellor saying he would “push” his team to try and find a solution.

Reed said that it is “not entirely clear” how Greensill Capital got access to the government’s framework loan schemes.

He also disagreed that Matt Hancock had properly declared his links to Topwood Ltd, saying he should have declared that he had a connection to the firm, which is run by members of his family, prior to receiving the shares he declared earlier this month.

He said: “The kind of behaviour we’ve been seeing from this government is not the behaviour you would expect of an advanced western democracy, it's what you would associate with a tinpot dictatorship, and Britain deserves an awful lot better than that.

“We have to shine a light on the sleaze that is corroding the heart of this government so we can stop it and get back to the kind of government that the British people can have trust in.

Calls for an independent parliamentary inquiry

Eustice confirmed that the government ordered review into the Greensill scandal will not have, and doesn’t need, the powers to change policy based on its findings.

He said: “The purpose of this review is to answer questions that people are asking, not to prescribe policy.

“What it needs to do is get the bottom of what happened, if there is a view in parliament that the rules should be changed slightly, well then that’s a policy decision. This review doesn’t need enforcement powers."

Reed said the prime minister has, “shown repeatedly over the past year that he is not interested in exposing what is going wrong or stopping what’s going wrong”.

He said: “If we have an independent parliamentary inquiry into what’s going on, open and transparent – and in David Cameron’s own words, sunlight is the best disinfectant – let’s expose this whole situation to sunlight, let’s see exactly what’s going on, let’s pull in everybody to public hearings that the public can see as well as MPs and find out what’s going on and let’s put in measures that prevent it from occurring.”