politics

David Cameron lobbying row explained – and why you should care


David Cameron is facing serious questions over his dealings with banker Lex Greensill, as calls mount for an inquiry into the links between the Tory former PM and Greensill Capital.

Labour wants a probe into the role played by Mr Greensill in the coalition government and also the company’s access to a taxpayer-backed loan schemes during the pandemic.

His firm Greensill Capital went into administration earlier this month, raising questions about the future of more than 5,000 jobs at Liberty Steel, which was financially backed by the company.

It might sound complicated but the row is important as it raises broader questions about who has access to Government and whether the system around lobbying is tough enough.

Here we break down what the story is about and why you should care.



Lex Greensill, a former Government adviser, whose firm Greensill Capital went into administration in March
Lex Greensill, a former Government adviser, whose firm Greensill Capital went into administration in March

Who is Lex Greensill?

Australian banker Lex Greensill founded a financial services company called Greensill Capital in 2011, which collapsed in March this year.

Greensill was the main financial backer of Liberty Steel – which employs around 5,000 people at 11 sites across Britain – and its collapse has left these workers facing an uncertain future.

Mr Greensill, a former billionaire, also acted as an unpaid Downing Street adviser during the coalition years and was reportedly given access to a number of Government departments.

During the pandemic, his firm was accredited to a scheme known as the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, allowing it to make state-backed loans of up to £50million at a time.

What are his links to David Cameron?

Mr Greensill was brought in as an unpaid adviser when Mr Cameron was Prime Minister.

During this time, he was also given security passes to various Government departments, according to the Sunday Times.

The reports suggest Mr Greensill was able to promote a financial product for pharmacists that he had been working on during this period.

After leaving Downing Street in 2016, Mr Cameron himself went to work for Greensill Capital as an adviser two years later.

He came under fire when reports emerged that he had sent texts to Chancellor Rishi Sunak ‘s private phone to plead for financial support through the Government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.



David Cameron reportedly lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak about support for Greensill Capital
David Cameron reportedly lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak about support for Greensill Capital

The company was subsequently went bust after its application for support was rejected.

What about the business card?

Fresh questions are being asked about Mr Greensill’s role after Labour got hold of his business card from 2012, which described him as a “Senior Advisor” in the Prime Minister’s office.

The card includes a Downing Street email address and a landline telephone number, laying out in black and white how Mr Greensill had an official role in Government.

It is understood that this information was available on the Greensill website at the time and a source at Greensill verified the card’s authenticity.



A business card for Lex Greensill when he worked as a Government adviser
A business card for Lex Greensill when he worked as a Government adviser

Downing Street said he acted as a Supply Chain Finance Adviser from 2012 to 2015 and as a Crown Representative for three years from 2013.

While it is not uncommon for business people to hold advisory roles, Labour says it raises questions about the kind of access Mr Greensill was granted.

Why does it matter?

It might sound techy but the row is important for several reasons.

It raises questions about who gets access to the heart of Government and why.

The disclosures provoke fresh concern about whether lobbying rules – aimed at creating transparency over who is seeking to influence the Government – are tough enough.

The term lobbying can cover all sorts of things, including charities pushing for more funding or trade associations and businesses trying to change policy.

Former ministers are banned from lobbying the Government for up to two years after leaving office and must also seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments if they want to take on new jobs in this time.



Lex Greensill's business card described him as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister
Lex Greensill’s business card described him as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister

Mr Cameron didn’t join Greensill Capital until 2018 so there is no suggestion he broke these rules.

But the row raises fresh questions about the role of former Prime Ministers and ministers in public life beyond this period.

How has it been investigated and is it enough?

Mr Cameron was cleared of breaking lobbying rules over his pleas to Mr Sunak to help Greensill Capital as it teetered on the brink of collapse.

The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists concluded that Mr Cameron was an employee of Greensill Capital so he was not required to declare himself on the register of consultant lobbyists.

However, Labour says this isn’t enough and has called for a probe by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which advises the Government on ethics rules.

The Committee has made it clear that it cannot investigate individual cases but said it would accept submissions on the row as part of a broader review.

Labour also highlighted the fact that Mr Cameron asked Tory peers to vote against changes to the Lobbying Act in 2014 which would have increased transparency around in-house lobbying – like Mr Cameron did for Greensill.



David Cameron has not commented on any reports on the issue
David Cameron has not commented on any reports on the issue

What does David Cameron say?

Nothing. His office has been repeatedly approached for comment by the Mirror and other newspapers but it has not responded to any of the reports.

Greensill’s administrators have also declined to comment.





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