David Cameron will next week be put under the spotlight to answer hugely uncomfortable questions over his lobbying of chancellor Rishi Sunak and HM Treasury perm sec Sir Tom Scholar on behalf of failed financial firm Greensill Capital.
Members of the Treasury Select Committee are running one of three parliamentary probes into the firm’s activities and its access to government ahead of its collapse into administration earlier this year.
Today the committee said it would be taking evidence from Cameron, who was prime minister from 2010 to 2016, and then worked for Greensill from 2018, on Thursday 13 May. It will subject Lex Greensill to a grilling two days earlier.
Treasury perm sec Scholar last month told a Public Accounts Committee hearing that Cameron had personally lobbied him as part of a bid by Greensill to be included in the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility support scheme last year. He said the firm had behaved “quite persistently” in its efforts, although they ultimately failed.
Treasury No.2 Charles Roxburgh told the same hearing he had nine meetings with Greensill over its proposals between March and June last year.
Former Treasury perm sec Lord Nick Macpherson told the Treasury Committee’s Greensill probe last week that he believed the firm had been granted an “unusual” amount of access to the Treasury in comparison with the business’ size.
He said he feared the lobbying was more about securing the business’ survival than helping boost liquidity among the nation’s small and medium-sized enterprises – as Greensill claimed. Former Treasury minister Lord Paul Myners told the same session he believed Greensill’s business model appeared to have “many elements of a Ponzi scheme”.
Treasury Committee chair Mel Stride – himself a former financial secretary to the Treasury – warned Cameron and Greensill to expect detailed questioning about their actions.
“The committee is determined to answer the key question as to whether HM Treasury responded appropriately to the lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital, including that carried out by David Cameron,” he said.
“We also want to establish what lessons there are from Greensill’s collapse for the operation of the financial system.
“The committee will want to carefully examine their actions in relation to Greensill Capital and its interactions with HM Treasury.”
The Treasury has already published responses chancellor Rishi Sunak sent to Cameron in reply to text messages from the former PM. The department has not published Cameron's original messages, however.
Last week cabinet secretary Simon Case admitted that he had been “alarmed” to discover that Australian businessman Greensill had been given a pass that gave him access to Downing Street in 2012 – at the time Cameron was prime minister – even though his role had been unclear.
Cabinet Office director general for propriety and ethics Darren Tierney told the same session of parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee that Greensill had also been given a Cabinet Office pass and IT.
"We've been unable to find a contract. What we've found so far is an appointment letter and subsequent reappointment letter," Tierney said.
Cameron is due to appear before the Treasury Committee at 2.30pm on 13 May. Greensill’s session is scheduled to start at 4pm on 11 May.