David Cameron took scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill for a ‘private drink’ with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS.
As Prime Minister, Mr Cameron brought Lex Greensill – the Australian who ran the company – into No10 as an unpaid adviser on supply chain finance and went to work for his firm after leaving office.
Mr Cameron is facing mounting scrutiny over his efforts to get the company access to Covid loans – efforts which involved lobbying Chancellor Rishi Sunak and two other Treasury Ministers.
Mr Greensill was understood to have written to Mr Hancock’s office about the payment scheme in August 2019, copying in NHS England chairman Lord Prior, before the Health Secretary commissioned advice from officials.
An ally of Mr Hancock confirmed a drink took place between Mr Cameron, the Health Secretary and the Australian financier in October 2019.
Mr Greensill’s firm at the time wanted to introduce a flexible scheme to pay doctors and nurses either daily or weekly.
NHS SBS, a joint venture between the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and a French IT firm, went on to announce in October last year that Earnd, a mobile app that was then a division of Greensill, would be available free-of-charge to NHS employees to access their pay.
David Cameron took scandal-hit financier Lex Greensill (right) for a ‘private drink’ with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to discuss a payment scheme later rolled out in the NHS
Mr Hancock had referred Mr Greensill to work directly with the NHS rather than his department, according to the ally, who insisted the final decision to use the scheme was for local NHS employers.
‘Matt acted in entirely the correct way – he updated officials on the business that was discussed, as is appropriate,’ the friend said.
Greensill Capital has now filed for insolvency although Mr Sunak faced claims yesterday his officials tried to redesign one of the main pandemic support schemes to accommodate the firm.
The Treasury reconsidered Mr Greensill’s application for an emergency coronavirus loan after the former Prime Minister messaged a senior adviser to Boris Johnson. The Sunday Times reports.
The paper also claimed the ex-PM emailed Boris Johnson’s senior special adviser last year to say the Treasury was ‘nuts’ to exclude Mr Greensill’s company from a Covid loan scheme.
‘What we need is for Rishi (Sunak) to have a good look at this and ask officials to find a way of making it work,’ Mr Cameron wrote last year.
Allies of the former PM – cleared of breaking lobbying rules – claim he has been caught in a ‘pincer movement’ between No10 aides loyal to Mr Gove and former mandarins Lord Macpherson and Lord Kerslake, now crossbench peers.
Mr Greensill was understood to have written to Mr Hancock’s office about the payment scheme in August 2019, copying in NHS England chairman Lord Prior, before the Health Secretary commissioned advice from officials
Greensill (its UK base is pictured) wanted the Bank of England to act as a final guarantor to protect its clients in the event of further economic difficulties
Mr Cameron was said to have described the decision to exclude his employer’s firm, Greensill Capital, from Rishi Sunak’s multibillion-pound Covid scheme as ‘nuts’ and pressed for the Chancellor to reconsider
They are suspicious about the roles played by Simone Finn, Downing Street’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and Henry Newman, senior adviser, who both worked for Francis Maude when Paymaster General in the Cameron government, before joining Mr Gove’s leadership campaign.
Baroness Finn was also romantically involved with Mr Gove after they left Oxford University.
It had been reported that a proposal from Mr Greensill, while he worked in No10, for NHS-affiliated pharmacies to be paid using private finance was ‘handed directly to Mr Cameron, who signed it off… bypassing Francis Maude entirely’.
One of the Cameron friends said: ‘It has been noted how Maude has come out of all this smelling of roses. It has also helped to put Rishi back in his box a bit, and distracted from stories about the cost of renovations to Downing Street.’
The former Prime Minister (pictured) has suffered mounting scrutiny over his efforts to intervene on behalf of Greensill Capital to get the company access to Covid loans
And it was today suggested that Mr Cameron ’s embarrassment has been stoked by aides of Michael Gove (pictured)
Both ex-civil servants dismissed the allegations, while a No10 source also categorically denied Ms Finn and Mr Newman were involved.
Lord Kerslake was head of the Civil Service during Mr Cameron’s premiership, and at the time Mr Greensill joined the Number 10 team in 2012.
After stepping down in 2014, Lord Kerslake was commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn to help prepare Labour for power. Cameron allies suspect he fed information over the affair to the media through Labour contacts.
Senior sources also suggest Lord Macpherson, Treasury permanent secretary under Mr Cameron, could have briefed against him and the late Lord Heywood – now post-humously embroiled in the row – after losing out to Heywood for the plum Cabinet Secretary job.
Lord Macpherson has denied the claims saying: ‘I have never met Greensill and never saw anything relating to him while at HM Treasury.’ He also insisted he had ‘never had access to inside information or documents relating to Greensill’.
Lord Kerslake dismissed any suggestion he had briefed against Mr Cameron as ‘complete nonsense’.
Allies of Mr Hancock insisted he had behaved entirely correctly and informed officials of the meeting. Sources close to the ex-PM said last night Mr Cameron himself was not casting blame on anyone.