Former UK prime minister David Cameron is being investigated for the second time this year by the lobbying regulator over whether he should have registered as a consultant lobbyist.
The Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, a body aimed at improving transparency within the government lobbying sector, confirmed on Friday that it was investigating Cameron “in relation to potential unregistered consultant lobbying”.
Documents seen by the Financial Times indicate that a formal inquiry began on around August 2. The office of the registrar declined to give any details and told the FT that a summary of its findings would be published once the investigation was complete.
The revelations follow reports earlier this year that the former prime minister lobbied the then vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, and the then health secretary, Matt Hancock, on behalf of US biotech company Illumina — for which he has worked as a paid adviser since 2019.
Open Democracy reported in July that Cameron met Zahawi less than two months before Illumina was awarded £870,000 of contracts relating to genome sequencing by Public Health England in late April.
The Times newspaper reported in August that in April 2019 Cameron lobbied Hancock regarding a multimillion-pound contract with a company owned by The Department of Health and Social Care.
Under 2014 legislation, people and organisations that lobby ministers or permanent secretaries on behalf of clients are required to register with the regulator.
Cameron, who stepped down as prime minister in July 2016, has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after the Financial Times revealed that he lobbied on behalf of the now-collapsed finance firm Greensill Capital, during the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
This year, the Registrar investigated Cameron over concerns that he acted as an unregistered consultant lobbyist in reference to his conduct while employed by Greensill. The body concluded that the former prime minister’s activities did not “fall within the criteria that require registration on the Register of Consultant Lobbyists”.
A summary of the investigation noted that Cameron had said that any contact he had with government officials was as an employee of Greensill. “Mr Cameron provided comprehensive assurance that lobbying is not included in any of the contractual agreements he has entered into in relation to his other business interests,” the report went on to state.
Following the Greensill scandal, some 13 separate inquires were launched to investigate lobbying practices within Whitehall, including the behaviour of the former prime minister.
Earlier this month, one of the inquiries published 19 recommendations aimed at improving transparency. The Boardman review, an independent review led by lawyer Nigel Boardman, called for former UK government ministers and senior civil servants to register as consultant lobbyists and argued that the guidance relating to virtual and physical official communication ought to be clearer.
Cameron did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
DHSC said that the 2019 contract was a follow-on deal to a 2014 sequencing contract with Illumina. “[It] was awarded in the correct way, through the proper process and any suggestion of undue ministerial involvement in the decision making is completely wrong,” the department said.
Illumina said: “Illumina always follows the correct and necessary process in its negotiations with customers. We have worked with Genomics England since 2013 when we won a competitive tender process for the £78m contract for the 100,000 Genomes Project.
“For the £123m award, Genomics England again did their due diligence and issued a voluntary ex ante transparency (VEAT) notice which sets out their reasoning for choosing a provider, and invites responses from competitors. The 2020 agreement included the sequencing of Covid samples as ‘research samples’ within the framework of the 2019 agreement.”