THE Tory MP in charge of scrutinising new energy laws has been caught boasting about how he can use his leadership of a powerful Commons committee to push his private business interests.
Tim Yeo told undercover reporters — posing as representatives of a firm offering to hire him — that he was close to “really all the key players in the UK in government” and could introduce them to “almost everyone you needed to get hold of in this country”.
He said he could not speak out for them publicly in the Commons because “people will say he’s saying this because of his commercial interest”. But he assured them: “What I say to people in private is another matter altogether.”
Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change committee, was approached by reporters claiming to represent a green energy company.
He was filmed revealing that he had coached a paying client on how to influence the committee.
The former environment minister described how he had advised John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight, before the executive gave evidence to the committee last month. Yeo is a paid director and shareholder of Eurotunnel — the firm’s parent company.
Yeo publicly excused himself from asking questions because of the conflict of interest. However, he did not tell his fellow MPs that he had coached the executive. “I was able to tell him in advance what he should say,” Yeo later confided to the reporters.
Yeo has earned about £530,000 from private firms since taking over the committee in 2010, and has shares and options worth about £585,000 in low-carbon companies that have employed him.
He has always insisted that his views as an MP have “never been influenced at any time or in any way by my financial interests”.
The reporters approached Yeo posing as representatives of a solar energy company offering to hire him as a paid advocate to push for new laws to boost its business for a fee of £7,000 a day.
He told them he could commit to at least one day a month, despite the fact that he already held four private jobs and was in negotiations to take a further two. Setting out what he could offer, the MP said: “If you want to meet the right people, I can facilitate all those introductions and I can use the knowledge I get from what is quite an active network of connections.”
Asked if that extended to government figures, Yeo replied: “Yes.”
The House of Commons code of conduct forbids members from acting as paid advocates, including by lobbying ministers.
Yeo also said he could help them by guiding them on submitting evidence to his own committee, which he described as “a good way of getting your stuff on the map”.
Mr Yeo is the latest in a series of politicians to have become embroiled in the lobbying scandal sweeping through Westminster. Patrick Mercer MP resigned the Tory whip after he offered to help Fiji return to the Commonwealth in a joint investigation by The Daily Telegraph and the BBC’s Panorama programme.
The Lords authorities have launched an investigation into Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, Lord Cunningham and Lord Laird following similar undercover investigations. All three peers deny wrongdoing.
Mr Yeo denied “absolutely” that he had breached the MPs’ code of conduct and said he made no firm commitment to work for the reporters posing as lobbyists.
He denied offering to provide parliamentary advice or advocacy, which he said were roles he had never performed for any company, because he said that would be a breach of the code. No tutoring of Mr Smith had ever taken place by him, he said…