David Cameron couldn’t tell MPs how many times he had used a Greensill Capital private jet to fly to his Cornwall vacation home.
The former Conservative Prime Minister practically appeared before the Commons Treasury Committee to answer questions about the Greensill Capital lobby controversy.
Labor MP Angela Eagle asked Mr Cameron how many times he had used one of Greensill’s private jets to fly to or from Newquay near his third home, or other non-business explanations.
He told the Commons Treasury Committee: “I do not have a full record of the use of the aircraft.
“It has been used quite often by Lex Greensill and senior managers, and sometimes by me on business visits.
“I’ve used it a couple of times on other visits and of course all reasonable taxes and all of those things have been handled in the right way.”
Mr Cameron also said Greensill Capital paid him a “generous, high salary” but refused to say if it was less than or more than £ 1 million a year.
Under pressure from committee chairman Mel Stride, the former prime minister said, “It was a generous big salary you could make or have as someone in my position at a bank.”
He also insisted that “every reasonable tax be paid” when asked if he would keep any of his earnings offshore.
“Everything I’ve done I’ve paid in full in the UK, whether it’s capital gains tax or personal income tax,” the former Prime Minister told the Commons Treasury Committee.
“I have no money offshore, I have David Cameron’s office that I finance with part of my job, and I make some money on a personal basis.
“But every real tax is paid – income and capital gains.”
But he accepted that he’d described himself as a director of Greensill in an email, but insisted it was a mistake.
“I wasn’t a director of the company. I was an advisor and didn’t sit on any of these subcommittees of the Board of Directors. “
He denied being a “shadow director” of Greensill – someone who controls the company without actually being on the board.
“In my case, there is no question that I controlled this company in any way while I was not on the board. I think that doesn’t apply to me at all,” he said.
Mr Cameron also said there were “flaws” at Greensill Capital but denied that it was a “huge scam”.
He told the Finance Committee: “I am very sorry and I am sad that it came to this end. Obviously there were bugs in the business, there were weaknesses that weren’t properly addressed.
“Just because a company goes into administration doesn’t mean it was all wrong, it doesn’t mean it was necessarily a huge scam.”
He denied that his lobbying work with the NHS on Greensill’s behalf was only motivated by commercial gain.
“I wouldn’t accept that for a second,” he said.
He said NHS staff could be allowed to get their salaries as they deserve instead of having to wait until the end of the month.
He suggested that a committee of former senior officials and business people could play a role in advising former prime ministers on their business contacts after they left office.
“There really is no road map for an ex-prime minister, especially a younger one, who not only wants to be on the board of a major bank and make a speech or two around the world, but also wants to get stuck to the business expand, ”he said.
He defended contacting ministers and senior government officials by text rather than email in relation to the pandemic, but admitted that it was a “lesson” from the controversy.
“It was a time of extraordinary crisis and so I felt it appropriate to use the phone and text via e-mail and letter,” the former prime minister told the Commons Treasury Committee.
“I think one of the lessons I will take with me in the future is that prime ministers should only ever use letters or email and limit themselves a lot more.”
But he admitted that a single letter or email on Greensill’s behalf might have been more appropriate than his multiple WhatsApp messages.
Siobhain McDonagh asked Mr. Cameron, “Don’t you feel that whatsapp-ing in Whitehall has whipped you down on yourself and your position on the back of a fraudulent company based on the sale of high-risk bonds to unsuspecting investors? ”
Mr Cameron replied, “I think I made the decision to work for a company that I hoped would be the UK fintech track record – and a lot of people believed it would – and I wanted this one Help businesses grow and expand to grow.
“What I did during the economic downturn was presented to the government, which I think is a really good idea, how to get money into the hands of small businesses and pay their bills early.”
He added, “I have said that your ex-Prime Ministers, looking back and now in the future, are very important and in a different position, so a single letter or email would be more appropriate.
“But we were under very different circumstances when Covid-19 happened.”
However, Mr. Cameron said that he frequently marked his text messages with “love DC” after it was discovered that he texted it to Permanent Treasury Secretary Sir Tom Scholar.
When asked if he had a broader personal relationship with the senior official, the former prime minister told the Commons Treasury Committee, “I think I’ve seen him maybe a time or two since he left.
“Everyone I know well has a tendency to unsubscribe from text messages with“ love DC ”. I don’t know why, I just do it.
“My kids tell me you don’t have to unsubscribe from text messages at all, and it’s very old-fashioned and weird to do so.”