David Cameron repeatedly lobbied Bank of England for coronavirus cash

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Ben Riley-Smith
·4 min read
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Some of the emails sent to bank bosses by David Cameron are signed off 'DC' and indicate he had a prior working relationship with at least one figure he was attempting to persuade
Some of the emails sent to bank bosses by David Cameron are signed off 'DC' and indicate he had a prior working relationship with at least one figure he was attempting to persuade

David Cameron repeatedly lobbied the Bank of England to help grant Greensill Capital access to a state-backed coronavirus support scheme, newly released documents reveal.

The former prime minister complained in one email about the “incredibly frustrating” situation as the company was rejected access to the financial support by the Treasury.

The 24 pages of documents, released under Freedom of Information laws, included emails Mr Cameron sent in March and April 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic escalated.

The messages raise fresh questions about whether Mr Cameron, who left Number 10 four years earlier, was granted better access than others because of his political connections.

Some are signed off “DC”, for David Cameron, and indicate he had a prior working relationship with at least one figure he was attempting to persuade.

They also shed light on the full scale of Mr Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Greensill, a company that he began working for as an adviser after leaving politics.

It also emerged on Thursday that Sir Tom Scholar, the Treasury’s top civil servant, had been called and texted on his mobile phone by Mr Cameron in relation to Greensill.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour shadow chancellor, said the emails amounted to Greensill figures “sending the begging bowl round to the Bank for England for up to £20 billion”.

Mr Cameron has previously defended his attempts to garner support for Greensill Capital, a supply chain financing company, arguing that he believed in the work it was doing.

However, he has accepted that some of his informal approaches should have been made more formally. A review has been ordered by Boris Johnson into the saga.

At the heart of the documents released yesterday are Mr Cameron’s communications with Sir Jon Cunliffe, the Bank of England’s deputy governor for financial stability.

Mr Cameron wanted Greensill Capital to benefit from the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), a government scheme to help large companies through the pandemic.

Greensill Capital ultimately was not granted access to the scheme. The business’s recent collapse has risked an estimated 50,000 jobs worldwide, including 5,000 UK steel jobs.

David Cameron and Lex Greensill, the founder of Greensill Capital, during a trip to Saudi Arabia
David Cameron and Lex Greensill, the founder of Greensill Capital, during a trip to Saudi Arabia

The correspondence shows there was a disagreement about whether Greensill was eligible for support under the scheme because it was deemed a financial company.

“Jon. Hope all is well. I have a quick question for you,” Mr Cameron began in an email to Sir Jon on March 5 2020, requesting a telephone call to discuss Greensil.

The email ended: “Do you have a moment for a quick word? I am on my old number or can call you whenever convenient. All good wishes. Dc.”

A phone call was arranged for two days later.

On March 17, Mr Cameron and Lex Greensill, the Australian founder of the firm, held a separate call with Bank officials to explain Greensill Capital’s supply chain finance operation.

The minutes of the call note that Greensill Capital “explained that they were coming under significant pressure in current market conditions”.

On April 3, Mr Cameron wrote to Sir Jon again.

“Jon. Am writing to ask for your help. Greensill – who I work with – have had numerous conversations with HMT [Her Majesty’s Treasury] but have failed to get anywhere,” Mr Cameron wrote.

“The request is simple – please include in the CCFF the ability to purchase bonds issued in respect of supply chain finance.”

Mr Cameron added later: “I think I must be missing something here. Am obviously talking to HMT, but would be grateful for any light you could shed on this ... All good wishes. Dc.”

Sir Jon’s reply included the lines: “I understand you talked to the Chancellor and that there will be now further discussions with Lex Greensill.

“We are, as you know, the agent for the scheme, but the policy and risk lie with HMT.”

Around three weeks later, on April 22, Mr Cameron wrote to Sir Jon once again, with his email stressing frustration that Greensill had not been approved.

Mr Cameron wrote: “Apologies for bothering you about this again. We (Greensill) have had lots of conversations with HMT and while every question seems to have been answered, we haven’t yet got to the green light.”

He added: “It is incredibly frustrating because (as you know) trade finance paper was included in a similar scheme in 2008/9 and it would work again.”

In a separate development yesterday, George Freeman, a Tory MP and former minister, was reported to the Cabinet Office by Westminster’s lobbying watchdog for failing to seek approval for four roles since he left government last year.

Mr Freeman has apologised for misunderstanding the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments requirements, adding that he had “apologised and sought their guidance with full disclosure of all my various projects since being an MP”.