David Cameron has repeatedly refused to reveal his annual salary for Greensill Capital – the company he lobbied government ministers for – but did not deny he earned millions from the now collapsed firm.
The former prime minister faced a tough – and, at times, tempestuous – quizzing by two House of Commons’ committees on Thursday over his efforts to secure Greensill access to government-backed COVID support schemes.
Mr Cameron began his first evidence session, in front of the Treasury committee, by admitting he was facing a "painful day".
He acknowledged there were "important lessons to be learned" following his bombardment of government ministers and officials via texts and emails on behalf of Greensill at the height of the COVID crisis.
He told MPs he had a "big economic investment" in the future of Greensill, but refused to state how much he was paid yearly by the firm as he insisted it was a "private matter".
Mr Cameron said the exact amount he earned was not "particularly germane" to the questions he was facing from MPs, while he regularly stressed his enthusiasm for helping what he hoped would be a "UK fintech success story".
The ex-premier also told MPs that Greensill’s business model of supply chain finance could have a "real social benefit" and that he "really believed" that Greensill’s access to government-backed COVID support schemes would "make a difference".
"I have spent most of my adult life in public service, I believe in it deeply," he told MPs.
"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."
Although he repeatedly refused to reveal his exact salary, Mr Cameron did not deny that he would have been a multi-millionaire if Greensill – in which he owned shares – had turned out to be a success.
He also did not deny reports he earned several million dollars from cashing out stock options in 2019, or that he used the firm’s fleet of private jets to visit his third home in Newquay, Cornwall.
Mr Cameron told MPs that "every proper tax" had been paid on his earnings from Greensill, while he said that suggestions he was in line to make £60m from his involvment with the company were "completely absured".
The ex-prime minister said it was a "great regret" that Greensill – who he joined as an adviser in August 2018 – collapsed into insolvency earlier this year and that he was "desperately sorry" over the firm’s demise.
But he said Greensill was not asking for "some form of bailout" from the government when asking to be being included in COVID support schemes and that – in April 2020 – he had "no sense at all" that the business was in any danger of going under.
Mr Cameron’s evidence session got off to a tetchy start when committee chair Mel Stride, a Conservative MP, queried the length of the former prime minister’s opening statement to MPs.
He also extracted a commitment from Mr Cameron to make a further appearance in front of the committee if they had more questions.
Labour’s Angela Eagle, who was a shadow minister while Mr Cameron was prime minister, suggested Mr Cameron’s lobbying of government ministers and officials – on 56 occasions – was "more like stalking than lobbying".
Mr Cameron admitted that a single email or letter would have been more appropriate from a former prime minister, but he regularly pointed to the "extraordinary crisis" of the COVID pandemic at the time of his contacts.
And he conceded that former PMs should "think differently and act differently" when it comes to lobbying.
"Rules alone are never enough," he said.
"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."
Asked about one of his messages about Greensill – to Treasury permanent secretary Sir Tom Scholar which ended "love DC" – Mr Cameron said he often used the sign-off.
"Anyone I know even at all well, I tend to sign off text messages with ‘love DC’ – I don’t know why, I just do," he said.
"My children tell me that you don’t need to sign off text messages at all and it’s very old fashioned and odd to do so."