Oh look, another member of the great and the good is in the soup. And, not for the first time, it’s one of those who preaches to us about our duty to ‘save the planet’.
Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday revealed that a private company owned by Lord Deben (who, as John Selwyn Gummer, was Environment Secretary under John Major) had received more than £600,000 in undeclared payments from businesses which come under the purview of the Government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), which he chairs.
The most significant payment came from the firm Johnson Matthey, which makes batteries for electric cars.
It paid Gummer’s company, Sancroft, almost £300,000 over five years — before he urged the Government to speed up plans to make all new cars on British roads battery-powered.
All MPs and Peers are required to declare any outside earnings and interests in order that the public (and fellow legislators) can determine if there is any conflict of interest.
Gummer declared his chairmanship of Sancroft, but apparently not these payments — including one from so-called ‘green energy’ producer Drax, which paid Sancroft £15,500 while Gummer’s committee was writing a report about its activities.
Gummer’s solicitor insists that ‘allegations of conflicts of interest and other improprieties are wholly false … [he] has at all times made disclosures in accordance with the advice he has been given by the House of Lords and the CCC’.
In which case, one wonders at the advice he receives.
There does seem to have been an unfortunate series of incidents involving legislators most associated with preaching the green gospel.
A few years ago, Gummer’s Tory colleague Tim Yeo, as chairman of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, was caught out by Sunday Times reporters posing as representatives of a solar energy company pushing for new laws to help their business.
Yeo appeared to gobble at the chance to act as their paid advocate. After the Sunday Times published, Yeo sued.
But the judge in the case, Mr Justice Warby, said the story was ‘substantially true’, and that parts of Yeo’s evidence were, variously, ‘unreliable and untruthful’, like ‘a fish wriggling on a hook’ and ‘unworthy of belief’.
This was, at least, nothing like as bad as the dishonesty of the former Energy and Climate Change secretary of state Chris Huhne. The Liberal Democrat was the most influential advocate of carbon emission reduction in the Conservative-led Coalition of 2010-2015.
Perhaps it was because he didn’t think getting a speeding ticket would sit well with those credentials that Huhne fraudulently got his then wife, Vicky Pryce, to say that she had been driving the family car at excessive speeds (when it was, in fact, Huhne behind the wheel).
Even after his wife told a journalist of the deception, Huhne continued to lie repeatedly, looking straight at the lens of the TV companies’ cameras to declare he was ‘innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts, and I’m confident that a jury will agree’.
Not that confident, it turned out. At the last moment, when he realised the game was up, he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
Still, after seven weeks served at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in 2012, Huhne immediately found a remunerative refuge on the board of a ‘green energy’ company: he is European chairman of Zilkha Biomass Energy.
Two years earlier, it was a couple of Labour MPs, who were much admired within the Green movement, and were sent to prison for fraudulent expenses claims (out of the total of just four such MPs convicted in 2010). These were Elliot Morley and David Chaytor.
Tim Yeo, as chairman of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, was caught out by reporters posing as representatives of a solar energy company pushing for new laws to help their business. He is seen at the Tory Party conference in Bournemouth in 2004
The latter was the long-serving secretary of the British branch of an international network of environmentalist parliamentarians, while Morley’s conviction prompted a howl of disbelief from The Independent’s environment correspondent: ‘This man spent all his long ministerial career defending the environment. Most of all, he became concerned about climate change.’
Well, that, and lining his pocket with money illicitly purloined from the taxpayer.