The public may now be able to browse 50 WhatsApp messages, texts, emails and calls that David Cameron sent to top government figures – but we still don’t know how much he was being paid to lobby on behalf of his now-bankrupt employer, Greensill Capital.
Giving evidence to the Treasury Committee today, the former prime minister said he was paid a “generous annual amount – far more than what I earned as prime minister” as an adviser to Greensill (for context, by the time he left office, his salary as prime minister was £150,402). He said he had “shares in the business, which vested over the period of time of my contract”.
While admitting he had a “big economic investment in the future of Greensill”, Cameron wouldn’t “put a number on those things”, and concluded that “as far as I’m concerned, it’s a private matter”. He did, however, describe reports that he stood to make £60m from Greensill’s success as “completely absurd”.
One argument made in Cameron’s defence is that he is now a private citizen and, as he said, it’s his business how he earns a living.
But that’s not quite true.
Former prime ministers can still access public money after leaving office through the Public Duty Cost Allowance. Cameron has claimed £383,641 from this fund since standing down in July 2016.
This allowance is capped at £115,000 per year, and is available to help former PMs with “the costs of continuing to fulfil duties associated with their previous position in public life”. The money is supposed to be “a reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office costs and secretarial costs arising from their special position in public life”.
Cameron was lobbying the government to back his employer with public money. He was trying to use contacts with ministers and senior officials gained through his influential previous role in public life to do so. The extent of his financial stake in Greensill’s success is clearly a matter of public interest – and as he still claims public money, all the more so.
[see also: David Cameron and the great sell-out]