Lord Deben faces calls to resign over £600.000 payments from ‘green businesses’ to his family firm
Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer’s private company has been paid more than £600,000 from ‘green’ businesses that stand to make millions from his advice to Ministers.
The Conservative grandee heads the Government’s powerful Climate Change Committee that vigorously supports pumping billions of pounds in public subsidies into firms developing environmentally friendly technology.
Yet a Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered that his family-run consultancy has been paid huge sums by businesses that have cashed in on those lucrative taxpayer-funded handouts.
MPs say Gummer should have declared the payments – but he never has.
Last night, he vehemently denied any conflict of interest and insisted he had fully complied with disclosure rules.
He admitted his company received the payments, but insisted the work it undertook did not involve climate change issues.
Explosive documents leaked to this newspaper reveal that Sancroft International has been paid by at least nine businesses and campaign groups involved in projects to cut greenhouse gases.
That is the main aim of the committee 79-year-old Gummer leads – although policies it champions have been criticised for forcing up taxes and household energy bills.
Among the dossier’s contents, we can reveal that:
- Engineering giant Johnson Matthey, which makes batteries for electric cars, paid Gummer’s firm nearly £300,000 over five years before he personally urged the Government to speed up plans to make all new cars on Britain’s roads battery-powered;
- Venture capitalists Temporis Capital – whose profits from windfarms and solar energy projects are bolstered by huge Government subsidies – paid the company £50,000 between 2012 and 2017;
- Controversial green energy producer Drax, which gets £700 million a year in Government subsidies, paid Sancroft £15,500 while the Climate Change Committee was writing a report on its activities.
Last night Gummer, who was a Tory MP for 40 years before becoming Lord Deben in 2010, was facing calls to resign over what appear to be ‘colossal’ and ‘scandalous’ conflicts of interest exposed by this newspaper.
MPs also demanded an urgent inquiry by Parliament’s standards watchdog. David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, said: ‘Based on the information you have given me, he appears to be unfit to hold public office.
‘As CCC chairman, he has been playing a hugely influential role, giving evidence to Parliament, making speeches, and issuing reports that have an enormous impact on both policy and household bills.’
Labour MP Graham Stringer, a member of the Science and Technology Committee in the Commons, said he was ‘staggered and appalled’ by the conflict of interest.
All MPs, peers and public officials must officially declare their outside earnings and interests to avoid conflicts of interest.
As the £1,000-a-day chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), Gummer is subject to a strict Cabinet Office code of conduct, which clearly states that officials should declare publicly ‘any private interests which may, or may be perceived to, conflict with your public duties’.
And a spokesman for the CCC said: ‘There is a clear policy on conflicts of interest and a register of committee members’ interests. It is the responsibility of members to comply with this policy and to declare any potential conflict.’
Gummer does declare his chairmanship of Sancroft, but official records show the former Agriculture Minister – who famously fed his four–year-old daughter a beefburger on TV during the BSE crisis in 1990 – has not publicly declared any payments made by ‘green’ firms to his company.
A statement from his solicitor insisted: ‘Allegations of conflict of interest and other improprieties are wholly false and misconceived… [he] has, at all times, made disclosures in accordance with the advice he has been given by the House of Lords and the CCC.’
The Committee on Climate Change, established by the 2008 Climate Change Act, is a supposedly independent quango which advises the Government on how to achieve Britain’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Chaired by Gummer since 2012, it has urged Ministers to fund vast subsidies paid to ‘renewable’ energy companies.
The cost is met by adding ‘green’ levies to household and industry fuel bills, currently totalling £8.6 billion a year.
The CCC supports green taxes that feed the coffers of renewable energy firms. It has also argued in favour of a new carbon tax – a move that would benefit the companies paying Sancroft International. […]
Gummer’s £600k ‘green’ fees
This newspaper has obtained leaked documents covering the five-year period from September 2012, when Gummer became CCC chairman, and hence a driving force behind the Government’s climate change and green energy policies. The dossier reveals how:
- Engineering giant Johnson Matthey paid Sancroft £292,699 between 2012 and 2017, while it was investing heavily in new technology for electric vehicles. The CCC strongly backed electric cars in a 2018 report, and just two weeks ago, Gummer urged the Government to bring forward its deadline for making them compulsory. His statement says Sancroft’s work for the business did not cover this subject;
- Temporis Capital, which funds UK windfarms and solar energy projects, paid Sancroft £50,000 between 2012 and 2017. Its profits are bolstered by multi-million-pound subsidies pushed by the CCC and paid for by consumers;
- Gummer was warned in a confidential 2015 report from an Exeter Business School academic that the Temporis payments were a ‘clearly unethical’ conflict of interest which would cause ’embarrassment’ if made public. Gummer ignored this and afterwards, Sancroft got a further £37,000 from Temporis. His lawyers say Sancroft did no ‘consultancy’ for Temporis but merely sent a ‘daily digest of relevant press and other material’ and this was not a conflict of interest;
- Sancroft was paid £46,625 by lobby group the Foodchain and Biomass Renewables Association, which represents several firms that make energy from wood and farm waste. A 160-page CCC report published in November last year called on the Government to increase the use of this type of energy, which is also heavily subsidised;
- Controversial British green energy company Drax, which produces electricity by burning wood pellets and receives an annual £700 million government subsidy, was backed by the CCC in a November 2018 report, after it had paid Gummer’s firm £15,500 to carry out a study of its operations. Gummer said he cleared this with the CCC compliance officer.