• Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Rishi Sunak and David Cameron texts released in Greensill lobbying row

Rishi Sunak (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Sattwik Biswal

THE release of text messages between Rishi Sunak and David Cameron has put the chancellor in a spot, where he is accused of trying to facilitate Greensill Capital to gain access to emergency Covid loans.

The text messages shows Sunak telling Cameron that he has told his team to see if it can be done.

Cameron, the former prime minister, an adviser and shareholder in the now-collapsed Greensill, has remained silent on the issue.

According the the Treasury, Cameron also “informally” phoned two other ministers from the department, and reports suggest he too sent multiple texts to Sunak’s personal phone.

The text messages from Sunak in April to the former prime minister released after a freedom of information request, could have broken ministerial rules and called for a full investigation.

The messages show how Cameron lobbied for the finance firm to qualify for the government-backed loans, and the chancellor’s responses. Two text responses of Sunak to Cameron from April 3 and April 23 were released.

First one promising a response: “Hi David, thanks for your message. I am stuck back to back on calls but will try you later this evening and if gets too late, first thing tomorrow. Best, Rishi.”

In the second text, Sunak explained that he hoped to find a way for Greensill.

“Hi David, apologies for the delay. I think the proposals in the end did require a change to the Market Notice but I have pushed the team to explore an alternative with the Bank that might work,” Sunak wrote. “No guarantees, but the Bank are currently looking at it and Charles should be in touch. Best, Rishi.”

Here “Charles” is understood to be Charles Roxburgh, the second most senior civil servant in the Treasury.

Documents released under freedom of information rules showed that day after Sunak’s second text, Roxburgh contacted Greensill. But in June the company was told it did not qualify, with Greensill collapsing in March this year. The collapse has put 5,000 jobs at risk at UK steelmaker Liberty Steel, which it had financially backed.

Earlier, Cameron was exempted of any investigation by a watchdog, nonetheless his role for lobbying ministers has come under criticism.

Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor said, the texts “raise very serious questions about whether the chancellor may have broken the ministerial code”.

In a statement released by the Treasury, Sunak has said: “It is right that as an institution the Treasury engages with stakeholders and considers policy suggestions that are put to us, especially in an unprecedented crisis. In this instance, it became clear through officials’ discussions with Greensill that their proposal was not workable and would not deliver sufficiently for UK SMEs. And I stand by my decision to reject their request.”

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