Delivering a pep talk to his newly-minted Cabinet, the Prime Minister said it was time to ‘make the long-term decisions that are going to change our country for the better’.
Joking about the return of Lord Cameron, who was prime minister between 2010 and 2016, Mr Sunak said: ‘A warm welcome to those for whom it’s their first Cabinet and also a welcome to those for whom it may not be their first time.’
Lord Cameron’s return was kept a closely-guarded secret for a week and stunned Westminster when he was unveiled as Foreign Secretary on Monday morning.
However it can be revealed that he had lunch with his new Foreign Office colleague development minister Andrew Mitchell in an exclusive private members’ club while his appointment was still under wraps.
Top Table – 1: Rishi Sunak 2: Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor 3: Claire Coutinho, Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary 4: Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary 5: Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary 6: Alister Jack, Scottish Secretary 7: Tom Tugendhat, security minister 8: Andrew Mitchell, development minister 9: John Glen, Paymaster General 10: Simon Hart, Chief Whip 11: Victoria Prentis, Attorney General 12: Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary 13: Lord True, Lords Leader 14: Penny Mordaunt, Commons Leader 15: Victoria Atkins, Health Secretary 16: Grant Shapps, Defence Secretary 17: Lord Cameron, Foreign Secretary 18: Oliver Dowden, Deputy PM. Other ministers on the left and right are obscured
The pair were spotted dining last Thursday at Oswald’s in Mayfair, a favoured haunt of billionaires, A-list celebrities and royalty.
Downing Street said yesterday that Lord Cameron would bring ‘great experience’ to his new role, with sources predicting his status as a former PM would unlock diplomatic doors that less high-profile figures might struggle to.
But former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg warned that the return of the former Remain campaign chief could push Brexiteer voters into the arms of the Reform Party, led by Richard Tice. And Sir Jacob warned that the former PM might ‘outshine’ Mr Sunak.
‘When you saw David Cameron arrive at Downing Street yesterday, to everyone’s surprise, he looked very prime ministerial and so people may be confused as to who is actually representing the UK at the highest level,’ he told Times Radio.
There are also fears that Lord Cameron may lobby Mr Sunak to boost spending on foreign aid. In his first meeting with staff at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, he vowed to make Britain a ‘development superpower again’.
And in his first public statement upon his return, Lord Cameron highlighted the UK’s ‘aid and development capabilities as some of the finest assets of their kind anywhere in the world’.
Delivering a pep talk to his newly-minted Cabinet, the Prime Minister said it was time to ‘make the long-term decisions that are going to change our country for the better’
When he was in Downing Street he enshrined in law the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid – and after Boris Johnson scrapped it during the pandemic, his Tory rival said he ‘deeply regretted’ the move.
But former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob warned against any attempt to revisit the aid target, which triggered civil war among the Conservative party when it was removed in 2021.
He told the Mail: ‘When the tax burden is so high, the Government must not be extravagant with public spending. Anyone who wants to see overseas aid return to that level [0.7 per cent] is completely out of touch with Conservative voters.’
Sources close to Lord Cameron stressed he had pledged to accept Cabinet collective responsibility and support Mr Sunak, despite previously criticising some of his decisions.
He also wrote in an opinion piece earlier this year that he is a ‘realist’ about the 0.7 per cent commitment and appreciates that ‘money is tight’.
Mr Mitchell insisted that he and Lord Cameron backed current Government policy on aid, which is to spend 0.5 per cent of gross national income until the public finances improve.