What Is The David Cameron Greensill Lobbying Scandal About?

The newly-appointed foreign secretary faced questions over his work for Australian financier Lex Greensill.
Former prime minister David Cameron leaving Downing Street, central London after being appointed Foreign Secretary and will be made a peer, No 10 said. Picture date: Monday November 13, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
Former prime minister David Cameron leaving Downing Street, central London after being appointed Foreign Secretary and will be made a peer, No 10 said. Picture date: Monday November 13, 2023. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
James Manning - PA Images via Getty Images

Following a shock move today that saw former prime minister David Cameron assume the role of foreign secretary, questions are being asked about his past.

After his time as prime minister came to a close and Cameron was employed by Greensill Capital, he was at the heart of a lobbying scandal that came to light in 2020.

It’s a controversy that has lingered to this day and will no doubt resurface due to his new appointment.

HuffPost UK explains what it’s all about...

What is Greensill Capital?

Australian financier Lex Greensill setup the firm that specialises in supply-chain finance. It settles business bills immediately in exchange for a fee, assisting with the issue of late payments.

What did David Cameron do?

After his time as prime minister came to a close, Cameron was employed as an adviser at the now bust finance firm.

He was given share options reportedly worth tens of millions of pounds.

In 2020, Cameron attempted to persuade ministers to allow Greensill to join a scheme called the Corporate Covid Financing Facility (CCFF).

The four-month long campaign conducted at the height of the Covid pandemic asked for government support for the firm and included no less than 56 texts to serving Tory ministers.

It was found that Cameron sent texts to Rishi Sunak, the then chancellor, and phoned two other senior Treasury ministers asking for Greensill Capital to get the largest possible allocation of government-backed loans under the CCFF.

He also lobbied a No 10 aide, and in 2019 took Greensill to a “private drink” with Matt Hancock, the health secretary.

What was he earning?

For years Cameron denied claims that he was earning a hefty salary from his work with Greensill, saying it was “way less than his earnings as prime minister”.

It was later reported that he was actually on a salary of around £720,000 and then later made £3.29m after selling some Greensill shares in 2019.

In total, it looks like he made around £8m before tax for two-and-a-half years’ part-time work.

What was the government response?

Texts from Sunak in 2019 show that the chancellor told Cameron he had “pushed the team” in the Treasury to see if he could arrange full access to Covid corporate financing facility loans.

Other documents show Treasury ministers had meetings with Greensill Capital but eventually refused it access to the Covid corporate financing facility.

Why is it controversial?

Cameron was accused of lobbying – when someone tries to persuade a member of parliament to support a policy or campaign. The issue is that he was trying to do so for his own financial benefit.

The former prime minister had also personally promised a crackdown on lobbying, when he said the industry smacked of “cronyism” and had “tainted our politics for far too long”.

Were official rules broken?

Current rules state that “on leaving office, ministers will be prohibited from lobbying government for two years”.

The House of Commons Treasury select committee said that while no lobbying rules were broken, Cameron’s actions proved there to be a “good case for strengthening them”.

It also said that the Treasury was right to reject the former prime minister’s proposals.

A Cabinet Office review commissioned by Boris Johnson also criticised Cameron. It claimed he had played-down his relationship with Greensill when lobbying the Treasury. However, it too deemed that “his actions were not unlawful”.

Several other reviews are still investigating matters related to both lobbying and Greensill.

And what has Cameron got to say?

Cameron admitted that he should have used more formal channels of communication, but said the intentions were good. He claimed his main reason for doing it was because he felt the firm could help small businesses during an economic crisis.

What next?

Well, since the appointment to his new role, his lobbying debacle has already been a big talking point. Labour are already capitalising on the new foreign secretary’s past.

In a letter seen by HuffPost UK, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams has slammed the appointment and called on Sunak to release all documents relating to the scandal and requested that the standards adviser investigates his appointment.

“The Seven Nolan Principles of public life call for ‘integrity’. These actions are contrary to these principles,” reads the letter.

“I am asking that you release all Treasury documents relating to the Greensill scandal to the House of Lords appointments commission and request that your adviser for ministerial standards investigates the implications of this on Lord Cameron’s appointment.”


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