David Cameron’s intense text message lobbying of high-ranking ministers and officials on behalf of Greensill Capital showed a “significant lack of judgment,” according to an official parliamentary inquiry.
The Treasury selection committee said it was inappropriate for the former prime minister to send 62 messages to former colleagues asking them to help the bank, in which Cameron had a “very significant personal financial interest.”
Greensill Capital specialized in supply chain financing, where companies borrow money to pay their suppliers, but collapsed in March this year after losing insurance coverage for loans issued to their clients.
The committee’s report, released Tuesday, found that Cameron did not violate the lobbying rules, but said “that reflects the insufficient force of the rules.” He said Cameron’s behavior in the saga highlighted a “strong case for strengthening [the rules]”To prevent former prime ministers from putting pressure on serving ministers for personal financial gain.
“Cameron’s use of less formal means to pressure the government showed a significant lack of judgment, especially since his ability to use an informal approach was aided by his previous position as prime minister,” the report says. “Cameron seems to accept that, at least to some extent, his judgment was flawed.”
The committee said that, as a result of the scandal, it expected the Treasury “to launch and publish formal processes to deal with lobbying attempts by former prime ministers or ministers in the future.”
Cameron, who joined Greensill as a consultant and lobbyist exactly two years after leaving No. 10 (meaning he stayed within current lobbying rules), bombarded ministers and officials with dozens of pleading text messages during the heyday of the pandemic calling for Greensill. to be allowed access to the government’s coronavirus loan support scheme.
Nine WhatsApp messages to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
Two WhatsApp messages to Richard Sharp, Sunak’s advisor.
Twelve text messages to Sir Tom Scholar, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury.
A dozen texts, emails, phone calls and other messages to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove; the then secretary of health, Matt Hancock; the minister of vaccines, Nadhim Zahawi; the secretary of economy, John Glen; and the finance secretary, Jesse Norman.
Cameron often signed the messages “Love Dc” or with a simple thumbs-up emoji.
“We question Cameron’s judgment in connection with his lobbying on behalf of Greensill,” the report said. “Cameron appears to have relied heavily on the Greensill board for assurance of his soundness and financial health, when arguably he should have conducted a broader and more inquisitive assessment of the business. There were signals available to Cameron at the time that he was pressuring the Treasury and others that could have led him to a more moderate approach. “
Mel Stride, Conservative Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, said: “The Treasury should have encouraged David Cameron towards more formal lines of communication as soon as he identified his personal financial incentives. However, the Treasury made the right decision by rejecting the objectives of its lobbying, and the committee found that the Treasury ministers and officials behaved with complete and absolute integrity. “
Cameron’s lobbying campaign was ultimately unsuccessful as Greensill was denied access to the government’s Covid Corporate Finance Facility (CCFF), but the report found that Greensill benefited from the use of loan guarantees provided through the scheme. of loans due to the interruption of large businesses due to coronavirus (CLBILS).
The former prime minister repeatedly refused to tell the committee how much his personal stake in Greensill was worth before the bank collapsed. Newspaper reports suggested that he had told friends that he was willing to make £ 60 million from a successful IPO of the supply chain finance company.
The committee’s investigation also revealed that Cameron used Greensill’s private jet for several flights to Newquay Airport in Cornwall to visit his nearby “third” vacation home.
In a statement, Cameron said: “While I am pleased that the report confirms that I did not violate any rules, I accept its broader points. I always acted in good faith and had no idea until the end of last year that Greensill Capital was in danger of failing.
“However, it has always been clear to me that there are lessons to be learned. As I told the commission, I agree that future communications of this nature should only be made through the most formal channels.
“I agree that the guide on how former ministers relate to the government could be updated and I was pleased to provide some suggestions on this to the committee.”
The Treasury said: “This report is clear that the Treasury was right to consider Greensill’s proposals, correct to ultimately reject his proposals, and concludes that the Treasury behaved with absolute integrity throughout the process.”
The Bank of England declined to comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism