Investigation to focus on David Cameron’s efforts to lobby ministers on behalf of financier Lex Greensill.
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he was not motivated by his own financial interests when he lobbied the United Kingdom government on behalf of the now-collapsed supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital.
Cameron, who was in office from 2010 to 2016, has faced a series of damaging claims he improperly lobbied former government colleagues seeking financial support for the stricken London-headquartered company at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although Cameron’s extensive efforts did not result in policy changes, they have raised pressing questions about the extent to which former UK leaders can or should use their status to try to influence government policy.
Addressing a parliamentary committee on Thursday, the one-time Conservative Party leader declined to say how much he was paid by Greensill, or how much he would have made from shares he owned if the business had prospered.
He did, however, admit he had “a big economic investment” in its future and wanted the business to succeed.
“I was paid an annual amount, a generous annual amount, far more than I earned as prime minister,” Cameron told the House of Commons’ cross-party Treasury Committee.
When he left office in 2016, Cameron was entitled to a salary of just over £150,000 ($210,680).
Asked if it was fear of losing out on financial gains that motivated him to contact ministers, Cameron said: “That is not what I felt at the time, and it is not what motivated me.”
He said he was motivated by, and believed in, Greensill’s ability to help other businesses and the country during the early stages of the pandemic.
The firm’s implosion threatens about 50,000 jobs at companies around the world that relied on its financing for their supply chains.
Cameron repeatedly contacted senior ministers over a four-month period in 2020 to lobby for Greensill, which was founded by Australian banker Lex Greensill in 2011 and filed for insolvency protection in March, documents published by the Treasury Committee on Tuesday revealed.
Cameron and his office staff sent ministers and officials 45 emails, texts and WhatsApp messages, bypassing official channels, the documents showed.
Cameron said that he had not initially been hired by Greensill as a lobbyist, but the situation changed at the start of the pandemic. At the time he was lobbying ministers, Cameron said he had no sense that Greensill was in difficulty.
“I did not believe in March or April, when I was doing this contact, that there was a risk of Greensill falling over,” he said.
Cameron said he thought his use of text and WhatsApp messages was appropriate given the severity of the COVID-19 crisis, but that different rules could apply in the future.
“One of the lessons I take away is ex-prime ministers should only ever use letter or email, and should restrict themselves far more,” he said.
He added it was difficult for him to have to face parliamentary scrutiny over Greensill’s collapse.
“This is a painful day coming back to a place that I love and respect so much, albeit virtually, but in these circumstances,” Cameron said.
“Lobbying itself is a necessary and healthy part of our democratic process, but I accept that there’s a strong argument that having a former prime minister, engage on behalf of any commercial interest, no matter how laudable the motives and cause, can be open to misinterpretation.”
The Bank of England said in April that no changes were made to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility as a result of communication between Cameron and BoE officials.
Current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month ordered a senior lawyer to investigate the lobbying efforts for the firm.
Greensill, 44, appeared before the Treasury Committee on Tuesday and insisted he took “full responsibility” for the company’s collapse but refused to be drawn over its links to UK government lobbying.
He told the committee the company was “thinking about how we could develop and expand our brand as a company” when it had hired Cameron.