'Lessons to be learnt': David Cameron breaks silence on Greensill lobbying row

11 April 2021, 19:19 | Updated: 12 April 2021, 11:26

David Cameron has admitted lessons need to be learned over his lobbying row.
David Cameron has admitted lessons need to be learned over his lobbying row. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

David Cameron has accepted he should have communicated with the Government "through only the most formal of channels" as he acknowledged he made mis-steps over the Greensill Capital lobbying controversy.

In his first comments after weeks of silence, the former prime minister said in a statement to the PA news agency that having "reflected on this at length" he accepts he should have acted differently "so there can be no room for misinterpretation".

The "growing scandal" began after it emerged the Conservative privately lobbied ministers including Chancellor Rishi Sunak for access to an emergency coronavirus loan for his employer, the scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill.

Four ministers have become entangled in the controversy as it was reported that Mr Cameron arranged a "private drink" between Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Mr Greensill to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.

Mr Cameron also lobbied a senior Downing Street adviser to rethink Mr Greensill's application for access to emergency funding.

Read more: David Cameron cleared of breaking lobbying rules by watchdog

Issued after weeks of silence, Mr Cameron's statement on Sunday said: "In my representations to Government, I was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules."

He said that "ultimately" the outcomes of his efforts to win access to the Government's Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) were that "they were not taken up".

"So, I complied with the rules and my interventions did not lead to a change in the Government's approach to the CCFF," he added.

Read more: Rishi Sunak told David Cameron he had 'pushed' officials over Greensill

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"However, I have reflected on this at length. 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."

Questions were mounting over his efforts to secure access for the finance company, which later collapsed, putting thousands of UK steelmaking jobs at risk.

Mr Cameron said that "many of the allegations" made in recent weeks "are not correct" as he challenged what he said is was a "false impression" that Mr Greensill was a key member of his team while in No 10.

Texts involving chancellor Rishi Sunak were released as part of the controversy.
Texts involving chancellor Rishi Sunak were released as part of the controversy. Picture: PA

"The truth is, I had very little to do with Lex Greensill at this stage - as I recall, I met him twice at most in the entirety of my time as prime minister," Mr Cameron said.

He sought to defend the use of his profile as a former prime minister to lobby his successors in Government on behalf of Greensill, which employed him as an adviser in August 2018.

"I thought it was right for me to make representations on behalf of a company involved in financing a large number of UK firms. This was at a time of crisis for the UK economy, where everyone was looking for efficient ways to get money to businesses," Mr Cameron argued.