I am ‘v free’: David Cameron sent 68 messages to ministers and mandarins about Greensill Capital

Lex Greensill answering questions from select committee MPs - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Lex Greensill answering questions from select committee MPs - Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

David Cameron bombarded ministers and officials with 68 messages about the collapsed lender Greensill, it has emerged, as the scale of his intense lobbying campaign has been laid bare.

The communications fired off by the former Conservative prime minister on behalf of the controversial finance firm - totalling up to 19 calls, text and emails in a single day - were published on Tuesday afternoon by a committee of MPs.

The Treasury committee, which is one of three Commons select committees conducting an inquiry into Greensill Capital and its collapse, released the messages supplied by Mr Cameron ahead of his appearance before its panel on Thursday.

Australian banker Lex Greensill, the eponymous founder of Greensill Capital, faced questions from MPs on Wednesday. He is expected to be quizzed about the 5,000 jobs put at risk by the collapse of the company.

Mr Cameron has faced heavy criticism over his efforts to lobby the Government on behalf of the finance firm.

He began working for the firm as a paid advisor following the end of his administration, during which he had brought Mr Greensill into the heart of Downing Street as an advisor on supply chain finance.

The former prime minister’s ultimate aim in his messages to frontbenchers, officials and aides last year was to increase access to Covid loan schemes for the firm.

He sought a number of one-on-one phone conversations and conference calls in a bid to unblock barriers to Greensill being admitted to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

While it previously emerged that Mr Cameron had lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Treasury ministers Jesse Norman and John Glen, on Tuesday it became clear he also contacted Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

In addition, Mr Cameron discussed Greensill with Sir Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury, as well Sir Jon Cunliffe, deputy governor of the Bank of England, and Sheridan Westlake, senior special adviser to the Prime Minister.

One text message to Mr Gove on April 3 last year read: "I know you are manically busy - and doing a great job, by the way (this is bloody hard and I think the team is coping extremely well. But do you have a moment for a word? I am on this number and v free. All good wishes Dc."

On the same day, Mr Cameron sent a separate message to the Chancellor asking for a "very quick word" on the Treasury refusal to grant access to the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).

In various messages he said he was “genuinely baffled” by the Treasury’s refusal, and described the decision as “bonkers”, “nuts” and likely to be based on a “simple misunderstanding that I can explain”.

After arranging a discussion with Mr Sunak, the former prime minister messaged Mr Gove: “Am now speaking to Rishi first thing tomorrow. If I am still stuck, can I call you then?”

Following the talks, Mr Cameron wrote to Treasury permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar saying that his ultimate ask was for “one more high level chat” with him, adding that the Chancellor had “agreed”.

But on April 22, the former Conservative leader texted Mr Sunak again to apologise “for troubling you again” but asking if he could help on CCCF and if he could “give it another nudge over the finish line”.

Communications, however, continued and he asked “for the last time, I promise” for Mr Sunak to instruct senior Treasury official Charles Roxburgh for another look at the matter.

Another message to Sir Tom, in March last year, read: “I am riding to the rescue with Supply Chain Finance with my friend Lex Greensill… See you with Rishi's for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc.”

David Later that month, he texted Sir Tom again to “warn” him of impending media coverage of Greensill Capital making requests of the Treasury and Bank of England, describing the prospect as “annoying”.

In a follow up text in April to the Treasury permanent secretary, Mr Cameron urged: “Please do all you can to expedite this and not let us get stuck in the pending tray!”.

It also emerged in correspondence published by the Treasury Committee that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also announced on Tuesday that it is formally investigating the failed finance company Greensill Capital UK (GCUK).

FCA chief executive Nikhil Rathi said they were looking at matters relating to GCUK, Greensill Capital Securities (GCSL) and the oversight of GCSL by its principal, Mirabella Advisers LLP.

He said some of the allegations relating to the firm's collapse were “potentially criminal in nature” and added: “We are also co-operating with counterparts in other UK enforcement and regulatory agencies, as well as authorities in a number of overseas jurisdictions.”

Last month, Mr Cameron broke his silence on the row over his links to Greensill and role in lobbying the Government.

He said there were “important lessons to be learnt”, and that he should have acted differently “so there can be no room for misinterpretation”.

In a statement he said by making representations to Government on behalf of Greensill, he “was breaking no codes of conduct and no government rules”.

He stressed his proposals “were not taken up” by the Government, but sought to clarify the use of text message and email, as a means of communication.

“I understand that concern, but context is important: at that time the Government was - quite rightly - making rapid decisions about the best way to support the real economy and welcomed real time information and dialogue,” he said.