‘Lessons to be learnt’: David Cameron breaks silence over lobbying for Greensill
London: Britain’s former prime minister David Cameron says he has learned lessons from his dealings on behalf of Australian businessman Lex Greensill whose company, Greensill Capital went bust, putting 50,000 jobs at risk.
After months of pressure, Cameron explained his repeated calls and texts to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and a string of other ministers seeking changes to a government scheme so that Greensill could access a £37 billion ($67 billion) COVID-support fund set up for businesses.
Former British prime minister David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill has raised eyebrows.Credit:Bloomberg
Sunak asked officials to look into Cameron’s request although no changes to the scheme were made in Greensill Capital’s favour.
Cameron’s dealings are within the law but his conduct in using his former position to personally advocate for Greensill Capital at the highest levels of power has put his relationship with the Australian businessman under renewed scrutiny.
Cameron has refused to respond to questions about his dealings for weeks, but with the British media consumed by the death of Prince Philip, released a 1775-word statement on Sunday evening local time.
“I have reflected on this at length,” Cameron said.
“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,” he said.
Cameron denied media speculation that he stood to gain as much as $60 million in shares as remuneration for his work for Greensill Capital although did not state the actual figure.
He said that he had “very little to do with Lex Greensill” and only met him twice when he worked as an advisor in Number 10.
Greensill was personally recruited by the late cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood; the pair worked together at JP Morgan.
Cameron said he began working for Greensill in August 2018, more than two years after he left Downing Street having lost the EU referendum.
He said his responsibilities included providing geopolitical advice to the leadership, helping to win new business, speaking for the company at conferences and events, and helping with plans for international expansion.
He said he also helped with presentations the company made in Australia, United States, Singapore, South Africa and the Gulf.
He confirmed that he and Greensill together met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salaman in January 2020, following a report the trio camped under the stars in the Arabian desert.
Greensill had wanted to open a new office in the repressive kingdom.
The trip took place against the backdrop of renewed scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was hacked to death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018.
Cameron said he raised human rights issues with the Saudi leader.
But the opposition said it was not satisfied with Cameron’s explanation and is demanding he front a parliamentary hearing into Greensill Capital’s collapse.
Labour frontbencher Rachel Reeves said: “many serious questions remain unanswered.”
“It is crucial that the former prime minister appears before Parliament so that all the information is brought to light.
“The events unfolding over the last few weeks stretch across government and affect thousands of people,” Reeves said.
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