As head of the UK’s climate change committee, Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer was a key figure behind last week’s controversial decision to ban fossil fuel central heating in new homes.
But in pushing for the radical change, he failed to declare that the firm he runs has received more than £500,000 from companies which are set to make millions from the decision.
The ban, from 2025, was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond following the recommendations of two reports by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), chaired by Mr Gummer, now known as Lord Deben.
The reports both recommended homes should no longer be heated with natural gas but with hydrogen – even though it is an expensive, and, as yet, largely untried method.
Gummer did not declare he had any relevant private interests in either report, even though his family-run consultancy, Sancroft International, has received at least £299,699 from Johnson Matthey, which sells hydrogen technology.
Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer was a key figure behind last week’s controversial decision to ban fossil fuel central heating in new homes
The firm is also part of a lobby group, the Hydrogen Council, which campaigns for policy changes favouring the hydrogen industry.
Gummer is already being investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieffe, after The Mail on Sunday last month revealed that Sancroft was paid more than £600,000 by ‘green’ businesses, including Johnson Matthey, which stood to benefit from CCC decisions.
She is also examining more than a dozen occasions when Gummer, 79, spoke in Lords debates on matters affecting its clients.
Gummer, who as Agriculture Minister in 1990 famously fed his four-year-old daughter a beefburger at the height of the BSE crisis, has always declared his chairmanship and ownership of Sancroft.
However, he has never disclosed its clients – but has denied any conflicts of interest. It is understood he justifies this by saying Sancroft did not advise its clients how to influence Government policy.
In his spring statement, Mr Hammond also announced there would be new measures to increase the proportion of gas from biological sources supplied to homes. Sancroft has been paid more than £232,000 by businesses which make such gas, including £183,062 from Saria Ltd, which is building a network of UK plants which generate gas from waste and specially grown crops, such as maize and sugar beet.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last month that Mr Gummer’s company Sancroft International was paid more than £600,000 by ‘green’ businesses in consultancy fees
Spills from these sites, which are heavily subsidised by taxpayers, have caused numerous pollution incidents. Two years ago, a leak poisoned the River Teifi, with a devastating impact on what had been Wales’s finest trout and salmon stream.
In another report issued in November, the CCC also strongly supported such ‘biomass’ fuel, saying its use should be increased. Gummer did not declare any interests in it.
Last night MPs from both main parties voiced concern that Mr Hammond had followed CCC recommendations – adding to house-building and energy bills – despite Ms Scott-Moncrieffe’s ongoing investigation. Labour’s Graham Stringer said: ‘Gummer’s denials he has conflicts of interest now lack any credibility. It’s really disturbing that key Government policies are being influenced by someone who has vested interests on this scale.’
Monmouth Conservative MP David Davies added: ‘I’m very concerned that the Chancellor has announced huge and costly policy changes while the chairman of the committee which recommended them is being investigated. Until the inquiry is complete, these policies should be put on hold.’