FORMER Prime Minister David Cameron he has 'great regret' over the collapse of a Daresbury firm which left hundreds of people out of a job.

Mr Cameron said he had 'plenty of time' to reflect on the Greensill Capital controversy in an opening statement to MPs.

The former Conservative leader, appearing virtually before the Commons Treasury Committee, said: "This is a painful day, coming back to a place that I love and respect so much, albeit virtually, but in these circumstances.

"I have had plenty of time to reflect on what has happened.

"I welcome this inquiry and its related reviews, and I believe there are important lessons to be learned."

And he said he felt most sorry for people from Warrington who lost their jobs

More than 300 people worked there when it went out of business.

He added: "I have a great regret that this company has failed, that it went into administration. The people I feel most sorry for are the people who worked for Greensill, many of them at the HQ in Warrington, who worked very hard, who believed deeply in what the company was doing and have lost their jobs."

Greensill Capital

Greensill Capital

David Cameron said in his opening statement to the Commons Treasury Committee that he abided by the rules that were in place, but added: "Rules alone are never enough.

"We learnt that in this place over so many issues, personal conduct and codes of behaviour, and how such conduct and behaviour both appears and can be perceived, these things matter too.

"I completely accept that former prime ministers are in a different position to others because of the office that we held and the influence that continues to bring.

"We need to think differently and act differently."

Mr Cameron said that Lex Greensill wanted the former premier to "help grow" Greensill Capital, insisting he had only met the Australian financier "very briefly" when he was advising his government.

"I started working as a senior adviser to Greensill Capital in August 2018," the former prime minister told the Commons Treasury Committee.

"Lex Greensill wanted me to help him grow what was becoming a successful UK-based FinTech firm.

"There was geopolitical and strategic advice, helping with international expansion, speaking at customer and supplier events, and helping to win new customers."

Mr Cameron said he liked that the business used technology to help small businesses and supply chains, adding: "I had seen how this had worked in government when Lex Greensill was brought in by Jeremy Heywood to advise my administration from 2011.

"Though at the time, as I have explained, I only met him very briefly."

David Cameron confirmed he was a "regular" attendee at Greensill Capital board meetings but said there was "no sense of jeopardy" about the firm's future.

The former prime minister told the Commons Treasury Committee: "Obviously Covid was going to have its impact but at no stage in those conversations was I aware in any way of any concern that Greensill would be in any serious financial difficulty.

"This might be the tougher one than the year before, no-one could quite tell what was around the corner but there was certainly no sense of jeopardy."

David Cameron has refused to say how much he stood to gain from his involvement with Greensill, saying only he had a "big economic investment" in its future.

He told the Treasury Committee: "I was paid an annual amount, a generous annual amount, far more than what I earned as prime minister, and I had, shares, not share options but shares in the business, which vested over the period of time of my contract."

He continued: "I had a big economic investment in the future of Greensill, so I wanted the business to succeed, I wanted it to grow."

"The fact that I have this economic interest in a serious economic interest that's important, but I don't think the amount is particularly germane to answering those questions, and as far as I'm concerned it's a private matter."

David Cameron said that lobbying the Government was "never intended" to be part of his role at Greensill Capital until the coronavirus crisis.

He said: "In terms of my role, I was not employed at Greensill as a lobbyist and lobbying the UK Government was never intended to be part of my role.

"However, in the economic turmoil caused by Covid, the Government, quite rightly, introduced several schemes to help ensure that credit would continue to be expanded to business.

"The Greensill proposal was to make this even more effective and I believed that it should be considered by Government."

Mr Cameron refused to comment on whether or not he could have profited to the tune of millions of pounds if Greensill had been successful, saying he had believed his lobbying was in the public interest.

David Cameron has denied that he lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of Greensill Capital because he feared he would lose out financially if the firm went under.

Treasury Committee chairman Mel Stride told Mr Cameron he had sent a "barrage" of texts and messages in the spring of last year when the pandemic broke.

"Many people would conclude at the time of your lobbying your opportunity to make a large amount of money was under threat," he said.

Mr Cameron replied : "I have spent most of my adult life in public service. I believe in it deeply. I would never put forward something that I didn't believe was absolutely in the interests of the public good.

"I did not believe in March or April last year when I was doing this contact there was a risk of Greensill falling over."

Mr Cameron acknowledged that as a former prime minister, a single letter or an email on behalf of Greensill might have been more appropriate than his multiple WhatsApp messages.

Siobhain McDonagh asked Mr Cameron: "Do you not feel that you have demeaned yourself and your position by WhatsApp-ing in your way around Whitehall, on the back of a fraudulent enterprise, based on selling bonds of high-risk debt to unsuspecting investors?"

David Cameron leaves his home in London ahead of giving evidence to the Commons Treasury Committee on Greensill Capital. Picture date: Thursday May 13, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Cameron. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Mr Cameron replied: "My view is that what I did was I made a choice to work for a business which I hoped would be the UK fintech success story - and many people believed that it would - and I wanted to help that company grow and expand.

"What I did at the time of economic crisis was put to the Government what I genuinely believe to be a good idea of how to get money into the hands of small businesses and get their bills paid early."

He added: "I've said that, you know, looking back and now looking forward, your ex-prime ministers are very important and in a different position, and so a single letter or email would be more appropriate.

"But we were in very different circumstances when Covid-19 happened."

The former prime minister added: "Obviously what's happened is deeply regrettable and being part of a company that goes into administration is depressing, but never mind me, for the people who lost their jobs they had whole futures invested in this company being their future and it's incredibly depressing to see it go wrong."

Angela Eagle MP said Mr Cameron's behaviour was "more like stalking than lobbying" in her questions.

She asked the former prime minister: "I read your 56 messages and they're more like stalking than lobbying - looking back are you at least a little bit embarrassed about the way you behaved?"

Mr Cameron replied: "The Government was introducing plans to try and help businesses, we thought we had a good idea.

"I was keen to get it in front of Government, but as I've said, there are lessons to learn, and lessons for me to learn, and in future the single formal email or formal letter would be appropriate."

Mr Cameron added: "I think it's easy to forget now just what sort of time of economic shock it was."