Former prime minister David Cameron has said he has “no recollection” of approving Lex Greensill’s job in No.10.
Cameron, who after leaving government went on to aggressively lobby ministers and officials on behalf of the financier’s supply-chain finance firm, told a committee of MPs that he had had “no formal involvement” in appointing Greensill as an adviser while he was in office.
A business card handed to the Labour Party earlier this year described the founder of Greensill Capital as a “senior adviser” to David Cameron, who was prime minister from 2010 to 2016. Officials have since said Greensill was neither a civil servant nor a special adviser, nor can they find a contract for his role.
The Public Accounts Committee has been pressing former ministers and officials for answers about how Greensill was appointed to the No.10 role – where he appeared to have a government landline phone number as well as a Downing Street email address. In April, cabinet secretary Simon Case told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee he was puzzled by the lack of paperwork and that he could not explain “how these decisions were taken or why”.
In his letter, Cameron told PAC: “I have no recollection of approving Lex Greensill’s role in government and I can find no record of having done so from the papers I have been able to access.”
The letter to the committee, was sent on 25 June but published on 6 July, Cameron said that as prime minister, he spoke to then-cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood “several times a day”.
“Lex Greensill’s role might well have been mentioned verbally in one of our numerous daily conversations, but I am afraid I am unable to confirm that either way. There was certainly no formal involvement by myself,” he said.
Asked whether he had then approved the financier’s appointment as a crown representative in 2014, he said he could find “no record from the papers I have been able to access” that he had, adding: “I certainly have no recollection of doing so.”
PAC has also been asking questions about the role of Bill Crothers, whose time as government chief commercial officer overlapped with his appointment as an adviser to Greensill by around three months in 2015 before he left the civil service.
Responding to a question about whether he had had any contact with Crothers before joining Greensill himself as an adviser and lobbyist in 2018, Cameron said he could not find any record of meeting the official while he was PM.
“I thought I might have done, given his senior role in the Cabinet Office, but I didn’t,” he said.
“My first definite encounter with Mr Crothers was at a meeting at Greensill that I attended prior to joining the firm, although I don’t think we spoke. The first time I (ever) properly met Mr Crothers and spoke to him was after I joined Greensill in August 2018.”
The MPs also asked when and how it was decided, once he had joined Greensill Capital, that he was the best person to contact ministers and officials on the company’s behalf.
Cameron’s extensive lobbying included phone calls, texts and emails to top officials including Treasury permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar, and cabinet ministers including the chancellor, Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.
“I do not recall in any detail the conversation with the team at Greensill about contacting the Treasury. It is important to note that the company was already in contact with HMT before I made my representations and, as a general point, Lex Greensill, for example, talked to the government more than I did,” Cameron said.