Sunak has dodged Labour’s Urgent Question on Cameron’s Greensill lobbying, sending junior business minister Paul Scully to put up a defence instead. The government claims this is because BEIS were responsible for dealing with the bank, not the Treasury. Scully can’t answer questions about the Chancellor’s private texts with David Cameron. Sunak is now not only copying Gordon Brown’s tax and spending habits, he’s following suit in going missing when trouble arises…
UPDATE: The Treasury is kicking back, saying basically that Dodds asked the wrong question, Cameron was lobbying Sunak for Greensill over the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) not the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) which Dodds asked her Urgent Question about. The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme is a BEIS responsibility as Scully explained, Dodds therefore should have asked a different question:
Labour say in response that the policy “literally had the Chancellor’s name all over it: his scheme, his launch, his headlines. But he refused to come to Parliament today to explain why Cameron’s Greensill Capital gained access to that scheme. The Chancellor is frit.”
— Anneliese Dodds 💙 (@AnnelieseDodds) April 13, 2021
The Treasury is pendantically correct on the precision of the question. Labour however point to all the times Rishi was happy to take personal credit for the scheme he is now disowning:
3/ To maximise the support available, I’m extending the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) April 3, 2020
Sunak’s claims that the scheme is nothing to do with him or the Treasury simply don’t really ring true. Labour point out that Rishi’s fingerprints are all over the scheme, he is cited as the authority in the ministerial direction pushing the scheme forward. On balance Dodds screwed up her line of questioning, letting the Chancellor escape direct questioning on the lobbying by Cameron. This will only increase the whispering campaign against her from Labour MPs who want to see her replaced in a reshuffle. Dodds should ask another Urgent Question about the scheme Cameron was actually lobbying about (CCFF). If she wants to hold on to her frontbench position she will need to develop a line of questioning that hits home, Rishi needs to tackle it head on, not hiding in No. 11 behind junior ministers in other departments.