A review commissioned by Boris Johnson into the Greensill affair was a “travesty” that sought to “scapegoat” Lord Heywood, the former cabinet secretary’s widow has said.
Lady Heywood said on Friday that the former senior civil servant was “effectively gagged” during the process that made only mild criticism of Conservative former prime minister David Cameron.
Labour accused Mr Johnson of a “cover-up and whitewash to protect the Government” over the inquiry launched to investigate concerns about Mr Cameron’s lobbying for collapsed financial firm Greensill Capital during the Covid-19 crisis.
The firm’s boss, Lex Greensill, was found to have enjoyed an “extraordinarily privileged” relationship with government after he was enlisted during Mr Cameron’s time in No 10.
The review by lawyer Nigel Boardman – a non-executive board member in the business department – said Mr Cameron “could have been clearer” about his role with the firm as he lobbied ministers.
But it found the former Conservative Party leader “did not breach the current lobbying rules”, and saved most criticism for Lord Heywood.
Lady Heywood said she was “horrified that I have to be here to try and defend my husband against what has been a fabricated attack against him and an absolutely horrible process”.
She said Mr Boardman “completely denied” her representation for her late husband when she approached the inquiry after it was set up in April, and continued to do so “systematically” throughout the process.
“One week before it was published I was called in and Mr Boardman read his conclusions to me, and I tried to challenge him on his independence to which he wouldn’t respond,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“So it’s been a travesty of a process, they’ve basically been trying to set up my husband, as far as I can see to divert attention from things that happened much later after he died.”
She said Mr Boardman’s move to only take evidence from eyewitnesses was a “very convenient way” to exclude evidence given on behalf of her husband, who died in 2018.
Lady Heywood said it “goes against every possible precedent”, such as in the Bloody Sunday review.
“He effectively gagged my husband in order to scapegoat him in this process, as far as I can see,” she added.
A Government spokesman defended the Boardman review and said it does not dispute Lord Heywood’s “incredible contribution to public life”.
“This has been a fair process and we have listened to Lady Heywood’s concerns,” a statement said.
“We will now consider the report carefully and will respond in due course.”
But Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner condemned the review.
She said it “was set up as a classic Boris Johnson cover-up and whitewash to protect the government – a government non-executive director whose firm worked with the Treasury on corporate financing and had previously campaigned against lobbying reforms was appointed to lead a review”.
The 141-page report found Lord Heywood, who previously worked with Mr Greensill at Morgan Stanley, was “primarily responsible” for securing him a role in government.
Mr Greensill was given two sets of official IT and security access for the Cabinet Office and, with Lord Heywood’s support, No 10, the review said.
The role in government provided Mr Greensill “with a marketing platform for Greensill Capital’s business with the private sector”.
“This enabled Mr Greensill to promote a product which did not, in fact, provide material benefits to government (except possibly in relation to the pharmacy supply chain finance programme, although even here the benefits are disputed), although it could have been of benefit to his incipient business and was of immediate benefit to his former employer, Citibank,” the report said.