- The probe has partially been triggered by the allegations of five MPs
- Gummer is under investigation as he failed to declare his interest in Sancroft
- Standards Commissioner Lucy Scott-Moncrieff will be heading up the case
Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer spoke in support of measures that would benefit green businesses that paid his private company more than £600,000 during a dozen House of Lords debates, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The former Minister, who has been chairman of the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) since 2012, is being investigated by Standards Commissioner Lucy Scott-Moncrieff over claims that he breached the Lords’ Code of Conduct by failing to declare his interest in Sancroft International – his family consultancy – and its green technology clients.
The probe was triggered in part by allegations from five MPs that he had backed measures that could benefit Sancroft’s clients in three Lords debates – but our investigation suggests he did so on a further nine occasions.
Green probe: The former Environment Minister is being investigated over claims that he breached the Lords’ Code of Conduct
They include three contributions to a debate on an Energy Bill going through Parliament in July 2013.
During the debate, the former Environment Secretary, who became Lord Deben in 2010, told peers that carbon-free electricity was the ‘key to the future’ and that it was important not to restrict the activities of companies which made power from biological sources such as food waste and wood.
Such firms include Saria, a biofuel producer, which has paid more than £183,000 to Sancroft. In June 2015, Lord Deben used another Lords debate to call on the Government to ‘give security’ to companies investing in low-carbon generation.
By then, Sancroft’s clients included Temporis Capital, venture capitalists with interests in wind farms and solar energy projects, which paid £50,000 to the consultancy.
Speaking about the EU Withdrawal Bill in the Lords last year, the peer said that Britain must maintain EU rules on the environment after Brexit.
That would include the EU Renewables Directive, which says 20 per cent of the country’s energy needs must come from renewable sources by 2020.
Sancroft has been paid £15,500 by Drax, a green energy producer that receives £700 million a year in Government subsidies.
Probe sparked: Gummer backed measures that could benefit Sancroft’s clients in three Lords debates according to MPs but following a probe by the Mail on Sunday it is said he did so on nine further occasions
The Mail on Sunday has also learned that in his capacity as CCC chairman, Lord Deben wrote to Business Secretary Greg Clark and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to urge the Government to provide more ‘financial support’ to the electric vehicle industry, and to bring forward the date when all new cars would have to be electric.
But he failed to mention in the letter – dated October 11, 2018 – either his involvement with Sancroft or that the firm had received almost £300,000 from Johnson Matthey, a firm investing more than £200 million in electric vehicle batteries, since 2012.
Lord Deben, who famously fed a beefburger to his then four-year-old daughter Cordelia at the height of the BSE crisis in 1990 when he was Agriculture Minister, has declared his chairmanship of Sancroft in the Lords register of interests, but not details of its clients.
Probe launched: He said he ‘welcomes the fact that an independent person will be looking into these allegations’
He did not refer to Sancroft or his links to the consultancy in any of the 12 Lords debates analysed by this newspaper. Two weeks ago, we revealed how Sancroft had been paid a total of £600,000 by the green firms.
Lawyers acting for Lord Deben did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, but it is understood that he considers allegations that there has been any conflict of interest or impropriety as false and misconceived, and believes that he has made disclosures in line with advice received from the House of Lords and the CCC.