Former Tory PM David Cameron’s texts, calls and emails to ministers over the failed firm have been heavily criticised (Image: PA)
Get UK politics insight with our free daily email briefing straight to your inbox
Invalid EmailSomething went wrong, please try again later.Sign upWe use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time.More infoThank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice
Lobbying safeguards still allow "rampant cronyism" to flourish in Government, it was claimed, as a group of cross-party MPs probing the Greensill Capital scandal backed tougher rules.
MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee, which carried out one of nine investigations into the David Cameron lobbying saga, have said there is a "strong case" for tighter restrictions on lobbying.
It comes after the ex-Tory premier provoked anger when it emerged he flooded ministers' devices with calls, texts and emails appealing for Covid support for the since-failed finance firm, Greensill – which he had shares in.
But as two years had passed between Mr Cameron's resignation as PM and his lobbying job with Greensill, the committee responsible for transparency, ACOBA, said he broke no rules.
“We accept that Mr Cameron did not break the rules governing lobbying by former ministers, but that reflects on the insufficient strength of the rules, and there is a strong case for strengthening them,” said their report.
The cross-party group said the department “to put in place more formal processes to deal with any such lobbying attempts by ex-prime ministers or ministers in the future”.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Lex Greensill, founder of Greensill Capital, in Saudi Arabia in January 2020. Mr. Cameron accompanied Mr. Greensill to a meeting with Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
In what will be awkward reading for Mr Cameron, the committee called into question his judgment in relation to his lobbying on behalf of Greensill, in which he held shares, and said the Treasury was right to reject the firm’s offer.
They said that, had he “taken a broader and more enquiring assessment of the business”, there were “signals available” which might have led him to take a “more restrained approach”.
MPs were also critical of the Treasury for failing to direct him into “more formal methods of communication” after his initial contact with officials.
In the 71-page report published on Tuesday, the cross-party group of politicians said they expected the department “to put in place more formal processes to deal with any such lobbying attempts by ex-prime ministers or ministers in the future”.
The committee expressed surprise at the Treasury’s “firm conviction” that Mr Cameron did not benefit from special treatment as a result of his status as former prime minister.
“We are very surprised about this, given that Mr Cameron was an ex-prime minister, who had worked with those he was lobbying, had access to their mobile phone numbers, and appears to have been able to negotiate who should attend meetings,” they added.
“The Treasury’s unwillingness to accept that it could have made any better choices at all in how it engaged in this case is a missed opportunity for reflection.”
Permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar also came in for criticism after it emerged during the inquiry that his phone had to be wiped due to forgetting his password, although MPs accepted the move was not deliberate and called for measures to be put in place to stop such occurrences.
Taxpayers could lose hundreds of millions due to Greensill collapse, watchdog says
MPs step up pressure on Lex Greensill to appear for Liberty Steel crisis grilling
Chairman Mel Stride said the Treasury "should have encouraged David Cameron into more formal lines of communication", while the committee also expressed surprise at the Treasury’s “firm conviction” that the former premier did not benefit from special treatment as a result of his status as former prime minister.
Mr Cameron said: “While I am pleased that the report confirms I broke no rules, I very much take on board its wider points."
But Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayners said: “The fact that David Cameron apparently did not break any rules during the Greensill scandal proves that the rules that are supposed to regulate lobbying are completely unfit for purpose.
“The ACOBA system is pointless and toothless. As this case shows, it causes more harm than good by giving a veil of legitimacy to the rampant cronyism, sleaze and dodgy lobbying that is polluting our democracy under the Tories."