Former prime minister David Cameron has admitted that there are 'lessons to be learnt' from the Greensill Capital lobbying controversy, in his first public comment on the scandal he has been implicated in.
After persistently evading questions from national media and dodging a barrage of criticism, the former Conservative party leader has released a statement on Sunday night to reiterate that he had ‘not broken any rules’.
Jaw dropping statement from David Cameron, who spent several years at the top of government and now says he has lessons to learn about how to communicate with government https://t.co/sxaKyy3PxK pic.twitter.com/ukl5XaEIxe— Matthew Garrahan (@MattGarrahan) April 11, 2021
The British politician, businessman, and lobbyist conceded that it was a mistake to informally lobby ministers on behalf of the private bank set up in 2011 by Lex Greensill, who had worked for Cameron as an unpaid adviser in Downing Street during his tenure.
Having “reflected on this at length”, Cameron, who served as UK Prime Minister from 2010 to 2016 and got a job as an adviser to Greensill Capital in 2018 after leaving office, accepted that "communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation".
Weighing in on the reports of how much he had ostensibly ‘netted’ from his shares in Greensill Capital - a key financial backer of Britain's third-largest steelmaker Liberty Steel - the ex-PM said their value was “nowhere near” the figures of $30 million and $60 million that have been circulated in the press.
Regarding the probe into reports that he solicited Greensill’s access to a government-backed COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) assistance loan from UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Cameron underscored that "ultimately" his efforts "were not taken up".
"So, I complied with the rules and my interventions did not lead to a change in the government's approach to the CCFF," added Cameron.
The Former PM also challenged the recent allegations creating a ‘false impression’ that Lex Greensill, the head of the firm, was a senior member of his Downing Street team during his time in office.
Lex Greensill was at the very heart of the UK government when David Cameron was Prime Minister. pic.twitter.com/fHbxYJNftP— Osita Mba (@DrOsitaMba) April 9, 2021
Replying to the Labour Party’s claim that Lex Greensill had given out a business card stating he was a "senior adviser" to David Cameron, the lobbyist said:
"The truth is, I had very little to do with Lex Greensill at this stage - as I recall, I met him twice at most in the entirety of my time as prime minister."
In his lengthy statement Cameron argued that he had believed it was right for him “to make representations on behalf of a company involved in financing a large number of UK firms”.
"This was at a time of crisis for the UK economy, where everyone was looking for efficient ways to get money to businesses."
Greensill Capital Scandal
Earlier in March, David Cameron found himself under investigation for allegedly lobbying officials of the ruling Conservative government on behalf of Greensill Capital in 2020.
A report in the Financial Times claimed Cameron attempted to sway the ministers within the Treasury to increase Greensill’s access to COVID-19 loan schemes, specifically, the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), just months before the ailing company collapsed. Several newspapers claimed Cameron had lobbied the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, directly, to help Greensill, founded by an Australian former sugar cane farmer, Lex Greensill, in 2011.
Texts released by FT purportedly showed Sunak telling Cameron he had “pushed the team to explore an alternative with the Bank that might work”, along with a call between the two.
Former PM Cameron lobbied Government to get more state money for Greensill Capital, now in administration pic.twitter.com/O8o8P6KGTS— Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) March 18, 2021
According to newspaper reports, Cameron faced potential profits of millions of pounds through his share holdings in the firm.
However, the requests were eventually rejected by Treasury officials, and Greensill Capital filed for insolvency protection on 8 March 8, 2021.
Reports also claimed that earlier, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the fourth UK minister who was lobbied by Cameron on behalf of Greensill Capital, besides Chancellor Rishi Sunak and two Treasury ministers.
Lex Greensill met David Cameron in 2019 for a "private drink", where the ex-British prime minister lobbied Hancock to introduce a payment scheme for the National Health Service (NHS), The Times reported.
Following the recent reports, David Cameron was investigated by a watchdog over whether he broke rules by not registering as a lobbyist for his work at Greensill and was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.
"The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists has concluded his investigation into whether the Rt Hon David Cameron has engaged in unregistered consultant lobbying," the registrar said in a statement.
"His decision is that based on detailed information and assurances provided, Mr Cameron’s activities do not fall within the criteria that require registration on the Register of Consultant Lobbyists."
Nevertheless, critics have been raising questions, with the Labour Party citing concerns about the broad access Lex Greensill had when he worked as a government adviser, while also urging a major overhaul of lobbying rules.
David Cameron’s current role in the scandal is noteworthy as he had been the one to vow regulating lobbying as prime minister.
Prior to being elected, in a speech dated 2010, Cameron said he would attack “the privilege, excess and exemption from normal rules that has infected parliament”.