David Cameron: Key things we learned from his evidence to MPs
David Cameron has been grilled by MPs about his lobbying work for the now-collapsed financial firm Greensill Capital.
Here are some of the key things thrown up by his evidence:
– Mr Cameron was an accidental lobbyist.
“I was not employed as a lobbyist – and lobbying the UK Government was never intended to be part of my role,” the former prime minister said.
But MPs have seen evidence of dozens of text messages and emails sent by Mr Cameron to ministers and officials in Whitehall and the Bank of England.
He said that was because he thought Greensill could help make the Government’s coronavirus funding schemes more effective.
“It was a time of extraordinary crisis and so it was a time when I think it was appropriate to use phone and text over email and letter,” the former prime minister told the Commons Treasury Committee.
One of the lessons he has learned is that contact from ex-prime ministers should only be by letter or email and they “should restrict themselves far more”.
– Mr Cameron insisted he was not in it for the money.
“I wanted this business to succeed – I was being paid, I had shares, I had an interest in it and I think that’s important for the community to know,” he said.
But he insisted “the motivation was about trying to help the Government and get those schemes right”.
Mr Cameron told MPs he was paid a “generous annual amount” – which was “far more” than his salary of around £150,000 as prime minister – and he had shares in the business.
– His text message style is ‘old-fashioned’.
Explaining why he signed text messages to the Treasury’s chief civil servant Sir Tom Scholar “love DC”, Mr Cameron said: “Anyone I know even at all well, I tend to sign off text messages with ‘love DC’ – I don’t know why, I just do.
“My children tell me that you don’t need to sign off text messages at all and it’s very old fashioned and odd to do so.”
– He did not believe Greensill was at risk of collapse at the time of his lobbying.
“I did not believe in March or April last year when I was doing this contact there was a risk of Greensill falling over,” he said.
Greensill went into administration in March 2021, with the fallout leaving thousands of workers at Liberty Steel facing an uncertain future because the firm owes billions to the collapsed lender.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that “clearly there were faults” with Greensill and “vulnerabilities that weren’t properly addressed”.
But he added: “Just because a business goes into administration doesn’t mean that everything was wrong, it doesn’t mean the whole thing was necessarily a giant fraud.”
– The former prime minister may have used a Greensill private jet for non-business trips.
Labour MP Angela Eagle asked how many times he used a private plane to get to Newquay, close to his Cornish holiday home, or any other non-business declarations.
“It was used quite a lot by Lex Greensill and senior managers, and sometimes myself on business visits,” Mr Cameron said.
“I did use it a handful of times on other visits, and of course all proper taxes and all those things would be dealt with in the proper way.”
– Rules may need to be toughened up for former occupants of No 10.
Mr Cameron insisted he abided by the rules but acknowledged that “personal conduct and codes of behaviour” – and how they can appear and be perceived – were also important.
“I completely accept that former prime ministers are in a different position to others because of the office that we held and the influence that continues to bring,” he said.
“We need to think differently and act differently.”
Mr Cameron said lobbying is a “necessary and healthy” part of the democratic process but “there’s a strong argument that having a former prime minister engage on behalf of any commercial interests – no matter how laudable the motives and cause – can be open to misinterpretation”.