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April 11, 2021

David Cameron lobbied a senior Downing St aide and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on behalf of a now collapsed company run by the scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill, it has emerged.

In further revelations that show the lengths the former prime minister went to in his attempts to secure political access for Greensill Capital, which paid him as an adviser, Cameron emailed a No 10 adviser after the Treasury rejected his attempts to secure the company access to a Covid emergency loan scheme.

Cameron said it was “nuts” to exclude Greensill’s company from the scheme, according to emails seen by the Sunday Times. As a shareholder, Cameron stood to gain from Greensill’s long-term success. However, his shares are worthless after its collapse.

A Downing St spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic, an immense number of businesses contacted Downing Street with representations; these were passed on to relevant departments.”

It also emerged on Saturday night that, in 2019, Cameron took Greensill along with him to a “private drink” with Hancock. They lobbied Hancock to introduce a payment scheme that was later introduced for NHS staff. There are no minutes of Hancock’s meeting with Cameron and Greensill. Later, NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) announced a pilot scheme with Earnd, an outfit owned by Greensill, to pay NHS workers weekly or daily. It was a free service. An ally of Hancock said: “Matt acted in entirely the correct way – he updated officials on the business that was discussed, as is appropriate.”

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson 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.”

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, called on chancellor Rishi Sunak, who was repeatedly lobbied by Cameron, to “make a statement to parliament at the earliest opportunity and answer questions on this growing scandal. And we need a full and thorough investigation into what happened”.

The Observer can reveal that Cameron was in line to profit from a $30m (£21.8m) employee benefit trust registered in Jersey thanks to his role with the collapsed Greensill Capital. The revelation comes amid calls for the former prime minister to disclose just how much he was in line to gain from his role advising the firm. It follows a week in which further details emerged of Cameron’s lobbying of ministers, as he sought to persuade them to hand Greensill access to government-backed financial aid schemes.

Cameron repeatedly texted chancellor Rishi Sunak to grant the lender access to the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF). Text messages released last week show Sunak telling Cameron he had “pushed the team to explore an alternative with the Bank that might work”. There was also a call between the men, but it is not known if officials listened in on the call or whether notes were taken.

While access to the CCFF was ultimately rebuffed, Britain’s public spending watchdog is considering a request to investigate how Greensill Capital was later accredited to the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), handing it the ability to access government-backed loans of up to £50m.

Greensill records show 13,931 shares were held in two blocks by an offshore wealth manager, named as Jersey-based Sanne Fiduciary Services. A spokesperson for Sanne confirmed that these shares were held by two employee benefit trusts, reserved for stock options issued to employees. It is understood that none of the shares in these trusts had been distributed to staff by the time Greensill collapsed.

Sanne said in a statement that it acted as a trustee to two employee benefit trusts established by Greensill Capital, and that it was a common structure used by companies who wanted to hold shares until they can be distributed to staff. Asked whether Cameron was one of the intended recipients of shares held in the trusts, Sanne and a source close to Cameron did not deny this was the case. A source close to Cameron said: “These Sanne stake figures bear no relation to David Cameron’s remuneration and presumably refer to a large number of employees and advisers.”

The source disputed reports that Cameron told friends he was set for a $60m windfall if Greensill floated on the stock exchange. “The figures being bandied around about his subsequent remuneration from Greensill are becoming increasingly inaccurate,” the source said. “His reported ‘boast’ to friends about his remuneration is fiction, but people keep repeating it.”

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office (NAO) is examining whether to investigate claims that Greensill Capital’s access to the scheme created a risk to public funds. While the NAO cannot look into Greensill’s business, it is able to investigate issues where value for public money is at stake. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, has now written to Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, asking for an investigation.

The government has stated that the decision to accredit Greensill to the loan scheme was taken independently by the British Business Bank (BBB) and involved a “robust accreditation process”. The BBB later withdrew the state guarantee to Greensill’s loans. A spokesperson for Greensill Capital did not comment.

 





Source: Bloomberg
Image Source: Getty Images