Between the lines

The questions David Cameron needs to answer

Government announces review into the Greensill scandal

David Cameron

No 10 has announced an investigation that will look into David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital.

Lawyer Nigel Boardman will lead the independent review of the now-collapsed finance firm’s activities in government.

The news comes after the former prime minister issued a public statement last night for the first time since he was accused of lobbying the government using personal messages to the chancellor on behalf of the financial services firm before it went bust.

Although he has been cleared of breaking lobbying rules or codes of conduct, his critics say there are still questions that remain unanswered.

What Cameron said

The former PM insisted he was right to lobby the government for Greensill to access a scheme called the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which would have enabled the firm to issue loans using taxpayer cash. “I sincerely believed there would be a material benefit for UK businesses at a challenging time,” Cameron said.

While the firm did not ultimately gain access to the CCFF scheme, it was given access to a separate pandemic programme called the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).

Cameron also defended himself against accusations that the company’s founder, Lex Greensill, had been allowed into the heart of government when he was in office. He said Greensill was brought into the civil service in “good faith” and added that “as I recall, I met him twice at most in the entirety of my time as Prime Minister”.

The former Tory leader said the value of his shares in the company was also “nowhere near” the figures of $30m and $60m that have been reported. 

However, he did admit: “There are important lessons to be learnt. As a former Prime Minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.”

And what Cameron didn’t say

Labour has accused the government of a “culture of cronyism” and said Cameron’s statement left “many serious questions” unanswered, The Times reports. The opposition wants to see him address those issues before parliament.

The Sunday Times, which has been investigating the scandal, agrees that “the list of questions about Cameron’s conduct keeps growing”. The newspaper suggests the most important is: “Why was Cameron able to get one man and one company such access to the people who shaped Britain’s response to the pandemic?”

James Kirkup at The Daily Telegraph questions how much money Cameron stood to gain, while Adam Fleming at BBC News wants to know how “deep” Cameron’s contacts in the government go, including what he was doing and who he was in contact with “week by week”. Speaking on Today on Radio 4 this morning, Fleming also wondered how much the former PM knew about Greensill’s potential problems before it collapsed.

Fleming’s colleague Chris Mason has drawn up a longer list of questions he would ask Cameron should he agree to sit down in front of a camera with him. It includes: how soon after Cameron left Downing Street was Greensill in touch to offer a job, how much was he paid, and: “Does all this prove you were right all along in 2010 when you were so outspoken about the perception of lobbying held by so many beyond Westminster?”

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