Cameron faces grilling over Greensill lobbying role

David Cameron and Lex Greensill

David Cameron and Lex Greensill

With former British Prime Minister David Cameron facing tough questions from the House of Commons Treasury Committee on Thursday, we take a look at the texts he sent minister and civil servants begging aid for his friend Lex Greensill's doomed finance company.

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". "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".

Cameron, in power from 2010 to 2016, has faced a series of damaging claims that he improperly lobbied former government colleagues seeking support for the finance firm at the outset of the pandemic.

Cameron insisted he had not been aware of financial difficulties at Greensill at the time he had made use of his government contacts book, saying he felt the firm was in "good financial health" and not "in any serious financial difficulty".

"I did not believe in March or April past year when I was doing this contact there was a risk of Greensill falling over".

Cameron potentially stood to make millions if Greensill went public.

While it first emerged in March that Cameron had been sending inappropriate texts to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his juniors, a fresh slew of cringeworthy messages came to light on Tuesday.

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 a year ago.

Cameron said government schemes were being introduced in "rapid time", which is why he chose to contact the chancellor and ministers "directly".

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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".

"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 said. "But do you have a moment for a word? All good wishes Dc". "There is a looming problem you can help solve..."

Describing the dozens of texts, WhatsApps and emails which Cameron sent to ministers and Whitehall officials as "more like stalking than lobbying", Dame Angela asked him: "Looking back, aren't you at least a little embarrassed by the way you behaved?".

Cameron did not start working for Greensill Capital until 2018.

"But every proper tax is paid - income and capital gains".

Cameron says he met Lex Greensill after he left office and that Greensill told him about "the business he had created and was growing".

But he said Greensill was not asking for "some form of bailout" from the government when asking to be being included in COVID support schemes and that - in April 2020 - he had "no sense at all" that the business was in any danger of going under.

Asked how many times he used its aircraft to fly to Newquay airport in Cornwall, where he has a third home, and for other personal trips, Mr Cameron replied: "I haven't got a complete record of the use of the planes".

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