A leading lobbyist for a climate science denial campaign group has unfettered access to UK lawmakers by being registered as a “staff” member of an associated Lord, but does not declare his role in the official register of interest.
Hiding in plain sight on the House of Lords’ staffers register of interests is John Constable, the energy editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaign arm of the climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (both known as the GWPF). Constable is also part of the Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council.
Constable’s undeclared presence in the House of Lords casts light on how the GWPF operates within the corridors of power.
On the register, Constable is listed as a staff member of Matt Ridley – also part of the GWPF – but his only interest is listed as being director of Taxa Publishing.
This is despite Constable acknowledging the GWPF is a client of his, and the GWPF regularly lobbying parliament.
By being listed as a member of hereditary peer Viscount Matt Ridley’s staff, Constable gets almost free reign to wander the back corridors of Westminster and lobby whomever he may find with relative anonymity.
Constable was previously the director of the anti-wind energy campaign group, the Renewable Energy Foundation. He is known for being a vocal critic of the government’s energy policy and has long opposed subsidies for renewable energy.
The House of Lords’ Code of Conduct says peers’ staff must declare “all employment outside the House” and “any other financial interest in businesses or organisations involved in parliamentary lobbying”.
The GWPF regularly sends MPs and Lords promotional material and briefing papers, according to documents seen by DeSmog UK.
Constable confirmed to DeSmog UK that “Taxa Publishing Ltd is my main source of income. The company provides consultancy services to clients. Lord Ridley is one; Global Warming Policy Forum is another.”
Taxa Publishing’s shareholder funds were just £130 in 2016, £605 in 2015, and £1 for every year between 2011 and 2014 according to accounts filed with Companies House.
Constable told DeSmog UK that he had checked whether his GWPF interest needed to be listed on the register, the House of Lords’ Registrar told him that “members must list any personal clients they have but there is no requirement for their staff to do the same”.
Dani Paffard, a campaigner with Divest Parliament, a group that yesterday announced Jeremy Corbyn as the one-hundredth MP to sign a pledge calling for MPs’ pensions to stop investing in fossil fuels, said Constable’s failure to disclose his GWPF interest epitomised the uncomfortably close relationship between lobbyists and politicians.
“The fact that someone paid to spread climate disinformation is able to wander the halls of the House of Lords in this day and age, without declaring their financial interests is disgraceful. It exemplifies the cosy relationships that the fossil fuel industry uses to corrupt our politics to line executives pockets, and we need to stamp it out,” she said.
“As the Divest Parliament announcement today shows, there is growing momentum within parliament to move away from fossil fuels, and act on climate change. That means making sure the interests of a fossil fuel elite aren't being heard above science and justice.”
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, called the situation “shady”. He told DeSmog UK:
“This throws a light on the murky world of lobbying by Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation. The Foundation has already fallen foul of the Charity Commission’s rules and this evidence suggests that it is engaged in further shady shenanigans.
“Viscount Ridley frequently uses his column in The Times to promote the Foundation’s cause without disclosing his affiliation, and this looks like an example of him failing to come clean when helping the Foundation to push its agenda in Parliament.”
Constable’s failure to declare his role is particularly odd because two other staffers do list the GWPF as an outside interest: researcher Harry Wilkinson, and administrator Alexandra Rathbone (who also lists her work as a PA for CET Capital,the self-proclaimed “advisor of choice for Central and Eastern Europe”, of which GWPF founder Nigel Lawson was previously a director).
Lawson himself lists his role as chairman and director of the GWPF as a “non-financial interest” on the register.
Ridley does not declare his position on the GWPF’s academic advisory board on the register. He does declare his financial interest in the rent he receives from leasing land from his estate for coal mining.
DeSmog UK did not receive a response when it contacted the GWPF or Matt Ridley for comment for this story.
For more information on key actors lobbying against action on climate change, take a look at DeSmog UK’s newly launched Climate Disinformation Database.
Photo: Screengrab via Parliament TV