David Cameron's involvement with finance firm Greensill Capital "was not relevant", Rishi Sunak has said, as he told MPs all requests from businesses for economic support were dealt with "on merit". The chancellor said the identity of someone who presented a request for financial assistance during the pandemic had no impact on the "attention and proper due diligence" it got amid the ongoing Greensill lobbying row.
Speaking at a Treasury select committee hearing, Sunak added that it was "entirely right" that officials should have considered any proposal, including those from the former prime minister, to help businesses given the scale of the impact of Covid-19. Earlier this month, the Treasury released two text messages sent by Sunak to Cameron.
The messages, sent by Cameron to the chancellor's private phone in 2020, show the ex-PM asking for help for finance firm Greensill Capital where he worked as an adviser. In the texts, Sunak told Cameron - who got a job for the company upon leaving office - his request for access to government-backed loans was being examined. Greensill Capital, which filed for insolvency in March, was run by Lex Greensill - a former adviser to Cameron during his time in Number 10.
Cameron, who was in Number 10 from 2010 to 2016, said he broke "no codes of conduct and no government rules". But, in a written statement, did acknowledge "communications with the government need to be done through only the most formal of channels, so there can be no room for misinterpretation". Pressed on how allocations of support were made at the Treasury Committee, the chancellor said: "We look at the issue and I look at the issue on the merits of it.
"And so the identity of the person talking about it was not relevant to the amount of attention and proper due diligence got and required." Regarding his correspondences with Cameron, Sunak said: "Actually everything that… my interaction with David Cameron has been disclosed through the various FOIs (Freedom of Information requests) and other things."
Sunak told MPs that the total of his interaction with the former prime minister "is in the public domain". He said it was "a surprise" to receive a message from the former Conservative leader, adding: "I don't know David Cameron very well at all." Asked by Conservative Anthony Browne whether he agrees with Cameron that lessons should be learned, the chancellor said: "No I don't.
"As I said, I stand very firmly behind the approach we took. I think it was entirely right that we considered the proposals on their merits given the context at the time and I stand by the decision we made not to take the proposals forward."