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The Liberal Democrats have written to Rishi Sunak’s ethics advisor, calling on him to launch an investigation into David Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary.
It comes as Cameron is set to officially take up his peerage in the House of Lords today as Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton.
Lib Dem Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain has raised five key questions in a letter to the ethics advisor, Laurie Magnus. These include whether Cameron will be publishing a full list of ministerial interests as soon as he is appointed, and if he will be placing his investments into a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest.
Cameron isn’t expected to publish his register of interests until January.
The former Prime Minister was at the heart of one of the biggest political scandals of recent years, after being accused of lobbying for Greensill Capital to secure Government support after leaving office. The firm collapsed owing millions to creditors including the taxpayer. A 2021 estimate for Parliament put the cost to UK taxpayers at up to £5 billion, though the true final cost to the public purse isn’t yet known.
A subsequent BBC Panorama investigation claimed that, through his salary and share sales, Cameron earned around $10 million before tax for just 30 months of part-time work. He has claimed his lobbying on Greensill’s behalf did not break rules.
Now questions are growing over what interests Cameron retains in business and lobbying ventures, after having been involved in several projects linked to the Chinese state.
Failure to prevent any conflicts of interests would risk breaching the Ministerial Code, which requires ministers to be transparent about their private financial interests to avoid any real or perceived conflicts of interest, the Lib Dems argue.
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The letter also asks whether Cameron will come clean over any of his recent lobbying work, including involving foreign governments such as China.
It calls for clarity over whether Cameron will recuse himself from any Cabinet discussions on decisions related to his recent and current financial interests, including on the Greensill scandal. This could include extradition requests related to the various ongoing international criminal investigations into Greensill including in Switzerland and Germany.
Labour has sharply criticised Cameron’s appointment to one of the great offices of state.
As Byline Times has covered, before Greensill collapsed, Cameron “made multiple calls and sent dozens of texts to civil servants from outside Government, in a successful bid to allow Greensill to lend £10 billion in emergency Covid loans”.
Cameron also lobbied minister Nadhim Zahawi, who was central in securing Greensill the right to lend hundreds of millions of pounds to eight separate companies under the Government scheme, the BBC reported. A Commons committee found the now Foreign Secretary showed poor judgement.
And the Lib Dems are demanding answers over what conversations took place between Sunak and David Cameron prior to his appointment, and if these touched on Cameron’s financial interests and lobbying work.
Wendy Chamberlain MP, Lib Dem Chief Whip, said: “We need urgent clarity over David Cameron’s financial interests, which could lead to serious conflicts of interest whilst he represents the UK on the world stage. If he was serious about acting with integrity, Rishi Sunak would address these concerns by asking his ethics advisor to launch a full investigation into Cameron’s appointment.
“David Cameron has serious questions to answer over whether he can act impartially in the best interests of the British people. His judgement and integrity have all been questioned in recent years and for good reason. Everybody could hear Rishi Sunak scraping the bottom of the barrel when he made this appointment. He is a desperate Prime Minister appointing an equally desperate politician trying to rehabilitate his image. Frankly, the country deserves better.”
After questions were raised over Cameron’s backing of Beijing-funded development in Sri Lanka, a spokesperson for Cameron told the Guardian at the weekend: “David Cameron spoke at two events in the UAE, organised via Washington Speakers Bureau, in support of Port City Colombo, Sri Lanka. The contracting party for the events was KPMG Sri Lanka and Mr Cameron’s engagement followed a meeting he had with Sri Lanka’s president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, earlier in the year. Mr Cameron has not engaged in any way with China or any Chinese company about these speaking events. The Port City project is fully supported by the Sri Lankan Government.”
The Times has reported that now-Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton was involved in a China-organised study tour – not the first – offering VIP access, as recently as last year. He has also charged “as much as £12,000 for a photo opportunity and dinner at a ball in Shanghai,” the newspaper reported.
Chinese state media has apparently welcomed the appointment of Cameron as UK Foreign Secretary.
The Letter in Full
Dear Sir Laurie, I am writing to request you launch an investigation into the appointment of David Cameron as Foreign Secretary.
As you will be aware, the Ministerial Code states that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests.”
There are serious concerns around David Cameron’s failure to be fully transparent over his financial interests and lobbying work in the past, in particular around the Greensill scandal.
The Cabinet Office in its own report into the scandal found that Cameron “on occasion understated the nature of his relationship with Greensill Capital”. Meanwhile the Treasury Select Committee concluded that he had shown a “significant lack of judgement” while lobbying for Greensill, including by sending text messages to former colleagues about the bank.
Given these previous concerns and the speed of Cameron’s appointment to the Lords, it is right that there should be full transparency and public scrutiny of his financial interests to address any potential conflicts of interest that could arise.
In particular, there are five key questions which urgently need to be addressed:
- Will David Cameron be publishing a full list of ministerial interests as soon as he is appointed, including his recent sources of income?
- Will he place his existing investments into a blind trust to avoid any potential conflict of interest, and if so will this trust be located overseas in a low-tax jurisdiction?
- Will David Cameron publicly disclose details of his recent lobbying work, including a list of clients and in which countries they are based?
- Will Mr Cameron recuse himself from any Cabinet discussions and decisions over issues in which he has a current or recent interest? This could include any decisions related to the Greensill scandal including any extradition requests from countries carrying out criminal investigations into it.
- What conversations took place between the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and David Cameron prior to this appointment, and did these touch on Cameron’s current and former financial interests and lobbying work?
It is vital these are answered urgently, particularly given it is expected that David Cameron won’t have to publish his register of interests until January.
Rishi Sunak promised when he became Prime Minister to lead a government with integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. As his Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests, I hope you agree that full transparency over this appointment is crucial in order to live up to that promise.
Liberal Democrat Chief Whip
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