David Cameron defends lobbying ministers on behalf of finance company

Former British leader declines to say under questioning by MPs how much he was paid

Former British prime minister David Cameron:  told MPs  the company paid him more than his salary as prime minister for a part-time role and that he also owned shares in the business. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images

Former British prime minister David Cameron: told MPs the company paid him more than his salary as prime minister for a part-time role and that he also owned shares in the business. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images

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Former British prime minister David Cameron has denied that greed motivated him to lobby ministers in Boris Johnson’s government on behalf of failed finance firm Grensill Capital.

Under questioning by MPs, Mr Cameron said the company paid him more than his salary as prime minister for a part-time role and that he also owned shares in the business but he declined to say how much he earned for his lobbying.

“It was the greatest honour of my life to be prime minister of this country. When my service as prime minister came to an end, I wanted to build a new career based on a mix of charitable and pro-bono work for causes that I care about, like dementia and international development, and business interests in areas of cutting-edge technology. I believe that an ex-prime minister should be able to do that and I thought carefully about the choices I made, and took extensive advice,” he said.

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Mr Cameron sent a barrage of text messages to ministers and senior officials on behalf of the supply chain finance firm.

More formal channels

He admitted that he should have used more formal channels of communications but denied breaking any rules and he said he was not aware that the company was failing when he was pressing the government to give it access to coronavirus support programmes.

“I thought very carefully before picking up the telephone and I thought the circumstances warranted it because they were unique,” he said.

“I really believed in the solution that we had and thought it would make a difference. That was my motivation. My motivation for contacting ministers and others, was to help UK firms at this moment of difficulty and to ensure that fintech firms and Greensill in particular, were listened to as well as the major clearing banks.”

He said that financial schemes to support businesses were being devised quickly at the start of the pandemic and he wanted to present Greensill’s proposal for how its supply chain financing could get funds to businesses more easily.

‘Had a good idea’

“It was a particularly acute time in the British economy,” he said. “The government was introducing plans to try and help businesses, we thought we had a good idea,” he said.

“I was keen to get it in front of government but, as I said, there are lessons to learn and lessons for me to learn. In future the single formal email or formal letter would be appropriate. Obviously what’s happened is deeply regrettable and being part of a company that goes into administration is depressing, but never mind me, for the people who lost their jobs they had whole futures invested in this company being their future and it’s incredibly depressing to see it go wrong.”

Labour MP Angela Eagle said the former prime minister’s frenetic texting of ministers and officials, who ultimately rejected the Greensill proposal, came across more like stalking than lobbying.

“Are you at least a little bit embarrassed by the way you behaved?” she asked.