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Labour MP Says David Cameron Could Have Committed Contempt Of Parliament Over Private Greensill Flights

David Cameron was appointed foreign secretary on 14 November (Alamy)

4 min read

Lord Cameron, the newly-appointed foreign secretary, might have acted in contempt of Parliament by failing to answer a committee question on how many personal flights he took using Greensill private jets, according to a Labour MP.

In a letter seen by PoliticsHome, Labour MP Nick Smith has asked Treasury committee chair Harriet Baldwin and committee member Angela Eagle whether they will take further action to determine whether Lord Cameron could be found in contempt, given his appointment as foreign secretary earlier this month.

The former prime minister was plunged into controversy in 2021 after getting caught up in a lobbying scandal concerning Greensill Capital. Cameron was accused of lobbying ministers to get preferential treatment for Greensill to make money during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following Lord Cameron’s surprise return to government earlier this month, the scrutiny surrounding the Greensill scandal is far from over. HMRC is examining whether Cameron failed to fully disclose Greensill private flights as taxable perks, according to the Guardian.

Questions are now also being raised by Smith, a senior Labour MP, as to whether the foreign secretary committed contempt of Parliament on the same topic.

Lord Cameron addressed the Treasury Committee on 13 May 2021 to give testimony about his employment at Greensill Capital and was asked by committee member Dame Angela Eagle how many times he had used Greensill's private planes for personal flights, as well as what the value of these flights were.

He responded he did not have a "complete record” but that it had been handled “in the proper way”.

“I haven’t got a complete record of the use of planes,” he said.

“It was used quite a lot by Lex Greensill and senior managers, and sometimes myself, on business visits, and I did use it a handful of times on other visits. 

“And of course, all proper taxes and all those things would have been dealt with in the proper way.”

The Treasury Committee had then followed up on the issue via letter, asking Lord Cameron again for details of personal flights on Greensill private jets.

He replied to the letter: "As explained to the Committee on 13 May, I can confirm that I did use the company plane a handful of times on a personal basis, all for short haul flights, and tax was paid appropriately for any benefit received.”

“This failure to provide a direct answer to a direct question is potentially a contempt of the House,” Smith wrote in his letter to the Treasury Committee.

The Labour MP, who was recently promoted to Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, referred to the category where one can be found in contempt for "without reasonable excuse, refusing to answer a question or provide information or produce papers formally required by the House or a committee".

“It's important that Lord Cameron answers the direct questions that were put to him by members of the Treasury Select Committee,” Smith told PoliticsHome.

“There's clearly public interest in the number of private journeys that he took when working for Greensill's inner circle, so I hope he'll respond positively to this issue which wasn’t cleared up the second time around.

"Transparency is important and these questions have been put to Lord Cameron a number of times now, and it's up to him to put the record straight.”

Smith has also written to the head of the UK Insolvency Service asking them to consider whether Lord Cameron was a “shadow director” of the collapsed finance group, according to the Financial Times.

“It is not an offence to be a shadow director. However, if found to be a shadow director, you can be subject to the same duties and liabilities as a company director,” the MP wrote.

Lex Greensill, the boss of the disgraced finance company, is currently facing being banned as a director of UK companies and, along with four former Credit Suisse bankers, is set to face criminal charges in Switzerland. 

After Cameron was appointed foreign secretary by Rishi Sunak a couple of weeks ago, concerns were raised that he would not be subject to usual scrutiny as a holder of a high office due to being a member of the House of Lords rather than the Commons.  

Lord Cameron has been approached for comment.

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