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.

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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.

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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