Sir Alex Allan questions why family of Sir Jeremy Heywood not given chance to defend his reputation
Last modified on Fri 16 Jul 2021 06.57 EDT
Boris Johnson’s former adviser on ministerial standards has criticised the government’s independent inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal for acting “contrary to natural justice”.
In his first major intervention since resigning last year, Sir Alex Allan said the family of the late cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood should have been given the chance to represent his interests and gain access to government papers.
Nigel Boardman, the solicitor appointed by Johnson to run the inquiry, is expected to heavily criticise Heywood in the report, which could be released before parliament rises on 22 July.
Heywood’s widow, Suzanne, has claimed Boardman would neither read her submissions to the inquiry nor give her access to government files so that his family could defend his reputation.
Allan, who conducted inquiries into allegations of wrongdoing against ministers for Johnson, Theresa May and David Cameron, questioned why friends and family of Heywood were not being given an opportunity to defend his reputation.
“It seems to me contrary to natural justice that no one was provided with the relevant papers and allowed to represent Jeremy at the inquiry, as is usual in these circumstances.
“Others were able to put their perspective across and it would have been only right that there should have been [a] proper opportunity for Jeremy’s to have been put alongside others,” he told the Guardian.
Heywood’s friends have said the recent Dyson inquiry into Panorama’s interview with Princess Diana allowed the widow of the BBC programme’s editor, Steve Hewlett, to offer a detailed response to accusations against him.
Allan resigned from his civil service post in November after the findings of his report concluded that Priti Patel had bullied civil servants but Johnson refused to sack her.
A former chair of the joint intelligence committee, he has never intervened in an ongoing Whitehall inquiry before.
Johnson appointed Boardman, 70, in April to run an independent investigation into government contracts and lobbying involving a number of senior Conservative politicians including Cameron, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, the MP and former health secretary Matt Hancock and the peer Francis Maude.
It appeared that the supply-chain financier Greensill had been given privileged access to Downing Street when Cameron was prime minister and Heywood was cabinet secretary. After leaving government, Cameron became an adviser to Greensill Capital, and lobbied ministers including Sunak for access to government-backed loans.
Lady Heywood has claimed Boardman has refused to accept a submission from her or anyone else representing her husband, who died in 2018. However, it is understood she was called to a meeting with Boardman on Monday at which Boardman made clear that the report would be critical of her husband.
At the meeting, Lady Heywood read a statement that claimed she had been excluded from the three-month inquiry and invited once he had already reached his conclusions. “I invite you to hand over conduct of the review to someone else,” she said from a prepared statement.
She also claimed that Boardman has at least seven potential conflicts of interest including that, as previously disclosed in the Guardian, he is a former Conservative party member who stood as a council candidate; he has had a close working relationship with Lord Maude; and he was on the board of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) when it allowed the British Business Bank to give Greensill Capital access to the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme.
Boardman’s report is believed to be over 200 pages long and is expected to make recommendations for reforms of both lobbying and declarations of interest for ministers, civil servants and non-executive directors.
While Cameron is expected to face criticism, Maude and Sunak are not thought to be in the firing line.
Reacting to Allan’s comments, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Lady Heywood has been treated in equal terms representing her husband as others. It is untrue to say she hasn’t had access to relevant papers.”
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