Questions are bring raised about David Cameron’s latest lobbying attempt after it emerged he pressured the chancellor in private texts to issue hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of emergency Covid loans to a company he was advising.
The Sunday Times reported the former prime minister sent multiple texts to Rishi Sunak’s private phone in April 2020 badgering him to issue government-backed loans to Greensill Capital – a private lending firm he was an adviser and shareholder in.
Greensill hoped to use the money to lend cash to its client, which included Liberty Steel’s owner, GFG Alliance. The move would have undermined the rules governing the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which was set up to issue loans to struggling businesses during the pandemic, because lenders are allowed to borrow money through that programme.
Most of Cameron’s texts to Sunak went unanswered, the newspaper said. The chancellor reportedly backed officials who said Greensill did not qualify for the scheme and referred Cameron to senior officials at the Treasury – including the permanent secretaries Tom Scholar and Charles Roxburgh – who were later contacted by the former prime minister.
The allegations have been brought to Cameron’s office, which has not replied.
Cameron’s attempt to sway officials was part of wider lobbying efforts by Greensill, which, according to public records, held 10 virtual meetings with Treasury officials. Greensill went into administration this month.
The Treasury would not comment on whether Cameron had contacted Sunak but a spokesperson said: “Treasury officials regularly meet with stakeholders to discuss our economic response to Covid.
“The meetings in question were primarily about broadening the scope of CCFF to enable access for providers of supply chain finance, which – following a call for evidence and discussions with several other firms within the sector – we decided against and informed the businesses concerned.
Labour doubled down on calls for an investigation. Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: “Rishi Sunak already had questions to answer as to why Greensill was given so much more access to the Treasury than other Covid lenders.
“The suggestion that David Cameron was also contacting the chancellor directly to further Greensill’s commercial interests raises even bigger concerns.
“This is public money, and the processes involved in decision-making should be fully transparent and beyond reproach. We need a full and thorough investigation into what’s happened here.”