Conservative MPs have voted down a proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal.
MPs rejected Labour’s bid to establish a committee to investigate the lobbying of government by 357 votes to 262, with a majority of 95.
Under the proposal, ministers would be forced before parliament to give evidence and the government would make public all communications relating to Greensill between top ministers, special advisers and senior staff.
The controversy surrounding Greensill Capital and David Cameron has raised questions about a “revolving door” between Whitehall and the private sector.
Senior civil servant Bill Crothers began working for Greensill as a part-time adviser to the board in September 2015 and did not leave his role as government chief commercial officer until November that year.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson said he shared the “widespread concern about some of the stuff that we’re reading at the moment”, and cabinet secretary Simon Case also had concerns.
“I do think it is a good idea in principle that top civil servants should be able to engage with business and should have experience of the private sector,” Johnson said.
“When I look at the accounts I’m reading to date, it’s not clear that those boundaries had been properly understood and I’ve asked for a proper independent review of the arrangements that we have to be conducted by Nigel Boardman, and he will be reporting in June.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeatedly questioned Johnson about the row, saying an “overhaul of the whole broken system” was needed.
“The Greensill scandal is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“Dodgy contracts, privileged access, jobs for their mates, this is the return of Tory sleaze.”
There was a “revolving door, indeed an open door, between this Conservative government and paid lobbying”.
The Opposition also criticised the appointment of Nigel Boardman, whose father was a Tory minister, to lead the inquiry established by Johnson.
He is pausing his role as a non-executive director of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will be unpaid for his work on the inquiry.
But Sir Keir said law firm Slaughter and May, where Boardman is a senior consultant, had “lobbied to loosen lobbying laws”.
Downing Street said Boardman was a “distinguished legal expert” and “an independent reviewer”.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “He was asked to lead this review independently, he has been asked to do it thoroughly and promptly, and we trust him to do that.”