Labour has demanded that the prime minister answer questions over David Cameron’s tax affairs when he worked for the collapsed lender Greensill Capital.
Pat McFadden, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has written to Rishi Sunak after the Guardian revealed HMRC was examining perks and payments received by Lord Cameron, the new foreign secretary, while he lobbied for Greensill, the finance firm that collapsed amid scandal in 2021.
Cameron was criticised by a parliamentary inquiry for a “significant lack in judgment” in his work for the firm, including directly messaging ministers and other contacts made during his time in public office. He told MPs in 2021 he was paid “far more than what I earned as prime minister”.
With Cameron’s tax affairs from the time now under scrutiny by officials, McFadden called on the prime minister to explain the process that was followed in Cameron’s accelerated appointment to the cabinet and House of Lords last week.
McFadden says in a letter seen by the Guardian that Sunak’s promise to lead a government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” means he should answer a range of questions about Cameron’s sudden return to the cabinet table.
“Were you aware of any investigations into or concerns about the foreign secretary’s tax affairs prior to his appointment?” McFadden asks the prime minister.
Cameron took an array of personal flights using private aircraft provided by Greensill Capital to and from airports near his Oxfordshire and Cornwall homes, according to evidence seen by the Guardian.
Officials are examining whether he disclosed the full number of flights, which might qualify as taxable perks, as well has how he was paid via an offshore trust in Guernsey.
Cameron – who has not yet revealed how much money he made during his role in one of the biggest lobbying scandals in decades – should be more transparent about his remuneration and the resulting tax, McFadden suggests.
“His personal company, the Office of David Cameron Ltd, was converted into an unlimited company in April 2020, meaning there are no public filings after 2019 although in his evidence to the Treasury select committee he stated that ‘[he was] paid an annual amount, a generous annual amount, far more than what I earned as prime minister.’ And that ‘[he] had shares – not share options but shares in the business – which vested over the period of time of my contract,’” McFadden’s letter says.
Labour has also asked whether No 10 or the Cabinet Office inquired whether HMRC was examining the foreign secretary’s tax affairs, and if any concerns were raised about them during the appointments process for the House of Lords.
Labour has also demanded to know whether the government will now conduct an investigation into the matter.
Flight logs seen by the Guardian reveal at least 13 flights to and from Newquay airport in Cornwall, which are understood to have been for the benefit of the former prime minister, on Greensill’s Piaggio P.180 private aircraft. Flight logs also show two involving RAF Brize Norton, again understood to have been for the benefit of Cameron. Brize Norton is a short drive from his Oxfordshire home.
This is not thought to be the full extent of the flights made by Cameron during his work for Greensill. Such flights would constitute a benefit in kind, but the employer’s national insurance contributions and some of Cameron’s related personal tax liabilities may not have been paid, sources believe.
There may also be further income tax liabilities to address, sources said. Cameron was paid for his work at Greensill via an employee benefit trust in Guernsey, a Channel Islands tax haven. It appears that Lex Greensill, the company’s founder, paid shares into and created this trust as a way to effectively pay Cameron an additional benefit. UK income tax, rather than a lower rate of capital gains tax, may therefore have been payable on the £7m in salary and shares that Cameron is said to have received via the trust, according to sources who valued it at £20m prior to the company’s collapse.
A spokesperson for Cameron said: “As already made clear in David Cameron’s evidence to the Treasury select committee in May 2021, he did use Greensill’s company plane a number of times on a personal basis, all for short-haul flights, and tax was paid appropriately for any benefit received. Further, all income received from Greensill has been properly declared to HMRC and all tax paid in full.”
A spokesperson for HMRC said: “We cannot comment on identifiable taxpayers.”
Sunak’s spokesperson said at the time Cameron was made foreign secretary that all usual appointments processes had been followed. This included the House of Lords Appointments Commission processes, the spokesperson said, which ordinarily involved liaison with HMRC and other Whitehall departments to check if they have any concerns.
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