David Cameron’s Greensill statement: key passages and what they mean

David Cameron refused for 30 days to respond to questions about claims he lobbied ministers including Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock, the Bank of England and civil servants on behalf of his employer Greensill Capital and its founder, Lex Greensill.

Greensill Capital went into administration, leaving taxpayers potentially liable for hundreds of millions of pounds in loans. Thousands of jobs are threatened as a consequence.

On Sunday night, with the media focused on the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, Cameron’s publicly funded office released a 1,771-word statement acknowledging mistakes had been made.

Here are the notable passages and their significance:

Since the collapse of Greensill Capital, many questions have been raised about my dealings with Lex Greensill in government, and my subsequent involvement with the company.

I completely understand the public interest in this issue, given the impact of Greensill’s collapse on the hundreds of people who worked for the company and on other businesses and livelihoods.

For the first time, the former prime minister acknowledges that his role in lobbying for Greensill is in the public interest. It invites the question: why has it taken him more than five weeks to respond to questions about how he came to be employed by Greensill, a company that has collapsed with the loss of 440 jobs, what he did for the company and his relationship with its founder?

It’s important to understand that I was not on the board of Greensill Capital, nor was I a member of the risk or credit committees.

I played no role in the decisions to extend credit, or the terms on which such credit was extended, to GFG or any other customer.”

Cameron seeks to distance himself from Greensill’s potentially devastating decision to extend credit to Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance business empire. More than 5,000 UK jobs are threatened by the potential collapse of Gupta’s company.

Lex Greensill was brought in to work with the government by the former cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood in 2011. He was not a political appointee, but part of the civil service drive to improve government efficiency.

In bringing him in, Jeremy was acting in good faith to solve a real problem – how to ensure companies in supply chains, particularly SMEs, could access low cost credit.

Cameron blames the late Sir Jeremy Heywood for bringing Lex Greensill into government, a move that may quash claims he had a role in doing so.

The statement does not explain why Greensill carried a business card describing himself as “senior adviser” to “the prime minister’s office”, or if Cameron signed off permission for him to pitch financial projects across Whitehall, as reports have claimed.

While visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in January 2020 to advise on their forthcoming chairmanship of the G20, I also – with Lex Greensill – met with a range of business and political leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

While in Saudi Arabia, I took the opportunity to raise concerns about human rights, as I always did when meeting the Saudi leadership when I was prime minister.

Cameron confirms one of the most extraordinary disclosures of this affair: that he flew with Greensill to meet the Saudi crown prince, who has been accused of approving the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

My remuneration was partly in the form of a grant of shares. Their value was nowhere near the amount speculated in the press.

Cameron rejects suggestions he was motivated by the prospect of a £60m payout. His shares are now worthless.

While I understand the concern about the ability of former ministers – and especially prime ministers – to access government decision-makers and the sense, and reality, of ease of access and familiarity, I thought it was right for me to make representations on behalf of a company involved in financing a large number of UK firms. This was at a time of crisis for the UK economy, where everyone was looking for efficient ways to get money to businesses.

Concern has been raised about the nature of my contact, via text message and email. 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.

It was a time of national crisis with fears about businesses’ access to credit. Greensill Capital wanted to offer a genuine and legitimate proposal to help with this.

Without acknowledging that he was a paid adviser of Greensill Capital, Cameron lays out his defence for his actions: he was acting in the national interest at a time of crisis by pitching for Greensill’s proposals to be included in the government’s Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF). This does not explain why his approaches to ministers and civil servants were made privately and without public acknowledgement.

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.

Cameron admits he should have approached the government formally rather than sending Sunak private texts or approaching Hancock for a private drink with Lex Greensill. This raises questions for the ministers concerned: why did they act upon informal approaches when there is room for misinterpretation?


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