Rishi Sunak has said Greensill Capital and David Cameron were not given preferential treatment by government – a claim blasted as “not credible” by the chair of a prominent Westminster committee.
Sunak told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee that Greensill Capital’s failed bid for a large government loan “did not occupy a huge amount of my time”, despite relentless lobbying from Cameron.
Sunak said he doesn’t “know David Cameron very well at all” and that “the person working on it was not relevant to the attention and due diligence the issue got and required”.
However, committee chair and Tory MP Mel Stride said that this did not seem likely considering Cameron’s former position as Prime Minister.
“It just doesn’t seem credible that if a former Prime Minister pushing something as vigorously as he did at the highest level that one wouldn’t immediately expect it to get a little more consideration at least than if it was somebody who was completely unknown,” Stride said.
Cameron, who worked as an adviser for the failed firm, sent more than 50 text messages, Whasapps and emails to ministers, civil servants and Bank of England officials in a bid to get Greensill Capital involved in the government’s emergency Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
The CCFF saw the Bank of England buy £37bn of bonds in British investment grade firms to inject liquidity into the private sector.
Grensill Capital were denied entry to the scheme on multiple occasions, despite the former Prime Minister’s efforts.
Sunak was one of the main targets of Cameron’s lobbying, with disclosed records showing that he received a wave of texts and emails in April last year.
However, the chancellor said he only had two phone calls with Cameron during the pandemic.
“We worked pretty hard on lots of different things – this just did not occupy a huge amount of our time,” he said.
“The time we spent on this…was really not very expansive, it really was not.”
However, committee member and Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said Cameron had “25 texts, eight emails, 11 calls and nine meetings with senior ministers and officials”, making it unlikely the former PM had the same access to government as other businesses.
Treasury deputy permanent secretary Charles Roxburgh held the line and told MPs earlier that Sunak and the Treasury did not push officials to give Greensill Capital special treatment.
“Frankly I did not spend a lot of time on this because I too was working on more time consuming and intense situations at the time,” he said.
The Treasury Select committee is conducting an inquiry into Cameron’s lobbying efforts on behalf of Greensill Capital.
It is one of several probes that have been announced, including one by Boris Johnson.