David Cameron came under fire over his lobbying efforts for Greensill Capital (Image: Getty Images)

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Top ministers could be banned from lobbying for up to five years after they leave office in the wake of the Greensill scandal.

Lord Evans, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life called for "significant reform" to ethics rules after leading an emergency review prompted by concern over David Cameron's lobbying efforts after leaving No10.

The Tory ex-PM bombarded ministers and senior officials with calls, texts and emails as he sought to secure Covid support for the now collapsed firm, where he was employed as a paid adviser.

A string of inquiries were set up to look into the row, which raised wider questions about who has access to people in Government and Whitehall.

In a new report, Lord Evans called for an overhaul to the ministerial code, and changes to rules on lobbying and how ex-ministers' new jobs are scrutinised.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Lex Greensill, founder of Greensill Capital, in Saudi Arabia in January 2020

The standards chief proposed banning lobbying for up to five years after ministers and officials leave office – and penalties for those who flout the rules.

Under current rules, ministers and top civil servants are effectively prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving their post.

Lord Evans recommended the rules be written into employment contracts for civil servants and special advisers and there should be "parallel legal arrangements" for ministers.

Informal lobbying by Whatsapp and Zoom should also be disclosed, with regular updates every four weeks, the report said, as it pointed to Mr Cameron's communications with ministers.

"For this reason, former prime minister David Cameron's extensive lobbying of ministers and officials on behalf of Greensill Capital in late 2020 was not included in any departmental disclosures," according to the findings.

Mr Cameron told MPs last month there was "absolutely no wrongdoing" in his lobbying but he accepted that former prime ministers must "act differently".

He began working as an adviser to Greensill Capital in August 2018, just over two years after he resigned as prime minister in July 2016

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Ministers could also be prevented from taking jobs for two years in sectors over which they had direct responsibility in office, he said.

Lord Evans also said there should be sanctions for ministers who break their code of conduct.

But he stopped short of strengthening the ministerial code – saying the PM should still have the final say on whether to sack ministers who break the rules.

Boris Johnson has previously come under fire for refusing to sack Home Secretary Priti Patel after his independent adviser found she had bullied staff.

Sir Alex Allan quit as the independent adviser on ministers' interests last year after the PM stood by the Home Secretary.

Lord Evans said: “Since our review was launched, there have been a number of high profile stories and concerns around the upholding of ethical standards in public life, leading to a number of reviews of particular areas of concern – including the Boardman review on lobbying, PACAC's inquiry into conflicts of interest in light of Greensill, the Treasury Committee's inquiry on lessons learned from Greensill Capital, and the Public Accounts Committee's inquiry on the transparency of government's commercial functions.

“As an independent advisory body, the Committee has no role in individual investigations but acts as what John Major described as ‘an ethical workshop for running repairs’.

"These findings will, we hope, contribute in a timely way to the current reviews and wider debate around our system of regulating standards in public life."