Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
13 May 2021updated 22 Jul 2021 5:42am

How awkward will today’s Greensill hearings be for David Cameron?

The former prime minister is up before the Treasury select committee and Public Accounts Committee.

By Ailbhe Rea

David Cameron faces a long afternoon of questions as he gives evidence to both the Treasury select committee and Public Accounts Committee for their inquiries into Greensill capital.

As readers will be well aware, the Greensill affair has raised countless questions, spanning the access that Lex Greensill was given to the heart of government, the extent of that access, the appropriateness of supply-chain finance schemes pursued by David Cameron’s government on Greensill’s advice, the (public money) loan that Greensill accessed during the pandemic, the transparency or otherwise of the company’s financial arrangements, the appropriateness of the former Prime Minister’s lobbying on Greensill’s behalf, and the global impact of the company’s collapse. 

The big question ahead of both evidence sessions with Cameron is how many of these issues will be within each select committee’s scope. The Treasury committee is understood to be planning to ask some probing questions about the extent of the former Prime Minister’s knowledge of Greensill’s troubles ahead of its collapse and about Cameron’s reflections on the appropriateness of his own behaviour as a former prime minister. Those could make for uncomfortable exchanges for Cameron, even as an adept former politician.

But the case against a terribly revealing session at the Treasury committee is that the committee’s ultimate aim is not to pass judgement on Cameron, but to answer two rather different questions. The first is whether the Treasury responded appropriately to lobbying by Greensill and Cameron, and the second is whether there are lessons for regulators from Greensill’s collapse. Neither directly corresponds to the questions facing Cameron personally or to decisions he took in government.

The Public Accounts Committee’s brief is slightly wider, considering transparency in how government conducts its commercial affairs, the role of “influence”, as well as the allocation of coronavirus business support and, crucially, the role of supply-chain finance in government contracts. This has more direct implications for Cameron’s judgement while in No 10, as well as after, and it is probably the session the former prime minister is more nervous about.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up