David Cameron to face MPs over Greensill lobbying

Greensill offices

Former prime minister David Cameron has given evidence to MPs over his lobbying of the government on behalf of the now-collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital.

Cameron said there may also be a case to include in-house lobbyists in Britain's transparency register, provided that can be done "without excessive bureaucracy or damaging the interests of charities".

The former United Kingdom prime minister has been at the center of Britain's biggest lobbying row in a generation after it emerged he pressed senior ministers and officials to include Greensill Capital - a supply-chain finance specialist that employed him as an adviser after he left governent - in a coronavirus lending scheme.

Cameron lobbied chancellor Rishi Sunak, cabinet minister Michael Gove and Jon Cunliffe, a deputy governor at the Bank of England.

"You're one of only five people post-war to have been reelected to lead our government", she said, asking Cameron: "Do you not feel that you have demeaned yourself and your position by WhatsApp-ing your way around Whitehall?"

The former prime minister is appearing at back-to-back hearings by the Commons Treasury and Public Accounts committees.

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".

At the time he was lobbying ministers, Cameron said he had no sense that Greensill was in difficulty.

But he insisted "the motivation was about trying to help the Government and get those schemes right".

"I was paid an annual amount, a generous annual amount, far more than I earned as prime minister, and I had shares", said Cameron, who earned about 200,000 pounds ($280,000) a year when he was United Kingdom leader.

- His text message style is "old-fashioned".

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In documents published Tuesday by the committee, the ex-prime minister and his office staff sent ministers and officials dozens of emails, texts and WhatsApp messages previous year relating to Greensill, bypassing official channels.

Greensill collapsed earlier this year.

"I did not believe in March or April. that there was a risk in Greensill falling over", Cameron continued.

Mr Cameron told the Treasury Committee he had not broken any rules when he tried to influence ministers and officials on behalf of Greensill Capital around the start of the Covid pandemic in spring past year.

The same day, Cameron texted Sunak begging a "very quick word" on the Treasury's refusal to give Greensill access to the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

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".

He told MPs he had a "big economic investment" in the future of Greensill, but refused to state how much he was paid yearly by the firm as he insisted it was a "private matter".

Labour MP Angela Eagle claimed Mr Cameron's behaviour was "more like stalking than lobbying".

Cameron said his lobbying was motivated by a desire to help support British workers and businesses "in the economic turmoil caused by COVID" and not by the prospect of making millions from his Greensill shares.

"Of course! Any time", Mr Gove responded.

- Rules may need to be toughened up for former occupants of No 10.

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