Calls for an inquiry into David Cameron’s dealings with a scandal-hit financier have intensified, after new details emerged in the lobbying affair which threatens to tarnish his legacy as prime minister.
The former Conservative party leader is facing fresh questions on his relationship with Lex Greensill, the Australian founder of financial firm Greensill Capital.
An investigation by the Sunday Times alleged that Mr Greensill enriched himself through a government-backed loan scheme he designed after Mr Cameron gave him access to 11 different Whitehall departments and agencies during his time at No 10.
Greensill Capital went on to employ Mr Cameron but later collapsed – causing current uncertainty over thousands of jobs at Liberty Steel, having been its main financial backer.
The former Tory leader is said to have told friends he stood to make around $60m from the firm before its collapse, according to a new report in The Times. Mr Cameron was reportedly “candid” about the sums of money he could potentially receive from shareholdings.
Both the Labour party and Sir Alistair Graham, the respected ex-chair of the committee on standards in public life, have called for a full inquiry into the “scandal”.
Wasn’t the former PM cleared by a lobbying watchdog?
Mr Cameron was last week cleared of breaking lobbying rules by a watchdog after reportedly asking chancellor Rishi Sunak to support Greensill Capital through the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
The Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists concluded that MrCameron was an employee of Greensill Capital – so was not required to declare himself on the register of consultant lobbyists.
But the former Tory PM is facing new under scrutiny over his time at No 10. The Sunday Times report alleged that Mr Greensill was given access to the departments while Mr Cameron was in office so he could promote a financial product he specialised in.
The Pharmacy Early Payment Scheme, announced in 2012, saw banks swiftly reimburse pharmacists for providing NHS prescriptions, for a fee, before recovering the money from the government.
Greensill Capital went on to provide funds for the scheme. Mr Greensill could not be reached for comment, but the newspaper said he was understood to deny making large returns from a pharmacy deal.
Who is calling for an inquiry?
Labour’s shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, said the latest details “raise very serious questions about the conduct of former Conservative prime minister David Cameron and the access he gave Lex Greensill to ministers and Whitehall departments.”
She added: “The British people deserve answers to those questions. That’s why the Conservatives should agree to an urgent inquiry so we can get to the bottom of this latest scandal.”
Sir Alistair Graham, former chair of the standards committee, said: “There clearly should be a full inquiry because it sounds like a genuine scandal in which the public purse was put at risk without proper political authority.”
What’s the government’s reaction?
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden defended his long-term ally on Sunday, saying Mr Cameron is a “man of utmost integrity and I’ve no doubt at all he would have behaved properly”.
The cabinet minister told the BBC: “As far as I can tell, no decision in government policy was changed as a result of any meetings that took place. They’d be properly declared.”
A government spokesman said: “Lex Greensill acted as a supply chain finance adviser from 2012 to 2015 and as a crown representative for three years from 2013. His appointment was approved in the normal manner and he was not paid for either role.”
The office of Mr Cameron, who was prime minister between 2010 and 2016, has not responded to a request for comment.
Isn’t Cameron under scrutiny over the National Citizen Service?
There are concerns in Whitehall that Mr Cameron’s flagship legacy project – the National Citizen Service (NCS) – is failing to deliver and should now be defunded, an investigatioon by The Independent revealed on Sunday.
Despite being handed 90 per cent of the government’s youth budget, participation has continued to dwindle. One former board member criticising the programme as little more than “a holiday camp for mostly middle-class kids”.
The continued high level of funding of NCS has raised questions about Cameron’s continued influence with Boris Johnson’s government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Jo Stevens, the shadow culture secretary, said there are “serious questions for both David Cameron and the government to answer”, and said Labour would be tabling a question in parliament regarding his lobbying over the NCS.
“The former prime minister seems to be under the impression he is still in office,” said Ms Stevens. “Any abuse of his access to ministers and influence over them makes a mockery of promises of transparency around lobbying.”
What’s the impact of Greensill’s collapse?
Concerns over the future of the Liberty Steel company have been expressed after financial backer Greensill Capital went bust.
Liberty Steel employs around 5,000 workers at a number of sites across the UK, but the government has rejected an appeal by Liberty Steel for £170m in financial support, according to sources.
A government spokesman said: “The government is closely monitoring developments around Liberty Steel and continues to engage closely with the company, the broader UK steel industry and trade unions.”
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said ministers must have a “plan B” for the steel giant. “All options should be on the table, including public ownership.”