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Bundaberg billionaire's links to ex-Prime Minister at centre of UK probe

Business

The UK government has opened an independent investigation into lobbying after former prime minister David Cameron’s activities on behalf of finance firm Greensill Capital raised questions over access to ministers.

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Australian banker Lex Greensill, originally from Bundaberg, was brought in as an adviser to the government while Cameron was prime minister from 2010 to 2016.

After leaving office, Cameron in turn became an adviser to Greensill’s now-insolvent company.

The Financial Times and Sunday Times newspapers have reported that Cameron contacted ministers directly to lobby on behalf of Greensill Capital, including sending texts to finance minister Rishi Sunak and arranging a private drink between Greensill and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Cameron, in his first comments on the row on Sunday, said he had not broken any rules but that he accepted communications with government had to be completely formal.

The UK Treasury has said that the former prime minister contacted Sunak and two other ministers in the department to ask if Greensill could access the government’s COVID-19 loan schemes at the start of the pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister understood the “significant interest” in the matter and wanted to launch the review to “ensure government is completely transparent about such activities”.

“The cabinet office is commissioning an independent review on behalf of the prime minister to establish the development and use of supply chain finance and associated activities in government and the role Greensill played in those,” he told reporters.

“This independent review will also look at how contracts were secured and business representatives engaged with government. It will be led by legal expert Nigel Boardman,” he said, adding Johnson wanted it to be concluded promptly.

Cameron said that in his representations to government he did not break any codes of conduct or government rules.

Ultimately the outcome of the discussions on Greensill’s proposals regarding a loan were not taken up, he said, and therefore his interventions did not lead to a change in the government’s approach.

“However, I have reflected on this at length,” he said in a statement to the Press Association news agency.

“There are important lessons to be learnt. 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.”

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