Matt Hancock (C) reportedly had a private drink with David Cameron (R) and financier Lex Greensill (Getty/Rex)
David Cameron has said he followed rules when lobbying the Government on behalf of a finance company but accepted he should have communicated ‘through only the most formal of channels’.
In his first comments after weeks of silence over the Greensill Capital lobbying controversy, the former prime minister said in a statement having ‘reflected on this at length’ he accepts he should have acted differently ‘so there can be no room for misinterpretation’.
His remarks on Sunday came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock became the fourth minister to be caught up in the controversy that has also involved Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Conservative former leader arranged a ‘private drink’ between Mr Hancock and Greensill Capital financier Lex Greensill to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.
Mr Cameron also lobbied ministers and a senior Downing Street adviser to rethink Mr Greensill’s application for an emergency coronavirus loan.
Issued after weeks of silence, Mr Cameron’s statement said: ‘In my representations to Government, I was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules.
‘Ultimately, the outcome of the discussions I encouraged about how Greensill’s proposals might be included in the Government’s CCFF (Covid Corporate Financing Facility) initiative – and help in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis – was that they were not taken up.
‘So, I complied with the rules and my interventions did not lead to a change in the Government’s approach to the CCFF.
‘However, I have reflected on this at length. There are important lessons to be learnt. As a former Prime Minister, I accept that communications with government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation.’
It’s the latest in a lobbying controversy that has dogged David Cameron (ITV/Rex)
The Sunday Times reported the Treasury reconsidered Mr Greensill’s application for an emergency coronavirus loan after the former Conservative leader messaged a senior adviser to current PM Boris Johnson.
Mr Cameron was said to have described the decision to exclude his employer’s firm, Greensill Capital, from the multibillion-pound scheme as ‘nuts’ and pressed for Mr Sunak to reconsider.
‘What we need is for Rishi to have a good look at this and ask officials to find a way of making it work,’ Mr Cameron emailed on April 3 last year.
The developments are the latest in a lobbying controversy that has dogged the Conservative former prime minister in recent weeks.
Questions were mounting over his efforts to secure access for the finance company, which later collapsed putting thousands of UK steelmaking jobs at risk.
An ally of Mr Hancock confirmed a drink took place (Reuters)
Mr Greensill was understood to have written to Mr Hancock’s office about the payment scheme in August 2019, copying in NHS England chairman Lord Prior, before the Health Secretary commissioned advice from officials.
An ally of Mr Hancock confirmed a drink took place between Mr Cameron, the Health Secretary and the Australian financier in October 2019.
According to the ally, Mr Hancock had referred Mr Greensill to work directly with the NHS rather than his department, who insisted the final decision to use the scheme was for local NHS employers.
‘Matt acted in entirely the correct way – he updated officials on the business that was discussed, as is appropriate,’ the friend said.
A DHSC spokesman said: ‘The wellbeing of NHS staff is the top priority of the department and Health Secretary.
‘Our approach was and is that local NHS employers are best placed to decide how different pay flexibilities fit with their overall pay and reward offer for their staff.”
Meanwhile, it was understood that Mr Cameron’s message to the Prime Minister’s adviser was forwarded on to the Treasury.
But it could not be immediately confirmed whether the lobbying did lead to the Treasury reconsidering its move to reject the loan scheme application.
A No 10 spokesman: ‘Throughout the pandemic, an immense number of businesses contacted Downing Street with representations; these were passed on to relevant departments.’
Mr Cameron was prime minister between 2010 and 2016 before being hired as an adviser by Greensill in August 2018, who also acted as an advisor to Mr Cameron when he was in office.
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