Chief of Government Climate Advisor Cleared of Wrongdoing by House of Lords

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Tory peer John Gummer, chair of the government’s official climate advisors, was this week cleared of accusations of misconduct by a House of Lords independent watchdog.

Gummer, also known as Lord Deben and head the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), was accused of failing to properly register the commercial activities of environmental consultancy Sancroft, which he chairs. The claims also said he had failed to declare the company’s clients when talking in debates in the Lords.

But the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, on Monday dismissed the claims.

Having  investigated  the  allegations  and  gathered  the  relevant  facts,  I  do  not  consider  Lord  Deben’s  interest  in  Sancroft  or  its  clients  to  be  relevant  interests that required declaration in the instances explored,” she said.

[F]or  the  code  to  be  breached  the  connection  between  the  interest  and  the  matter  under  discussion needs to be clearer than simply being related to the broad policy topic,” she added in her finding.

Accusations

The accusations of wrongdoing originated in a Mail On Sunday article published in February 2019, which said Sancroft had been “paid more than £600,000 from ‘green’ businesses that stand to make millions from his advice to Ministers”.

The article was written by journalist David Rose, known for publishing articles spreading disinformation on climate change.

The article was followed by a slew of comment pieces from climate science deniers including Conservative hereditary peer Matt Ridley, who accused Gummer of making the CCC “partisan” and called on him to “come clean”.

Soon afterwards, the Commissioner received a letter from Conservative MP David Davies. The letter was co-signed by Labour MP Graham Stringer and three other Conservative MPs: Craig Mackinlay, Andrea Jenkyns and Nadine Dorries. Stringer is a trustee of the UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The letter alleged that Gummer had breached the House of Lords Code of Conduct in two ways.

Firstly it claimed that he had not “adequately described the nature of Sancroft’s activities in the Register of Lords’ Interests”. But Scott-Moncrieff said she found “no grounds” for concluding that Gummer’s description in the Register is insufficient.

Secondly, it said Gummer had several times failed to declare his interest in Sancroft when intervening in debates in the Lords. But Scott-Moncrieff also dismissed this complaint, concluding that there was not a direct link between Gummer’s parliamentary activities and Sancroft’s work for its clients to breach the code.

In a statement, Sancroft thanked the commissioner for the report, saying it was  “pleased” she had dismissed all the complaints.

We have always been especially careful to ensure no conflicts of interest,” Sancroft added. “Nowhere is that more important than with climate change, which is the defining challenge of our time.”

Gummer’s activities as part of the CCC are not governed by the House of Lords Code of Conduct, so did not form part of the commissioner’s investigation. The CCC and Gummer have not made any statement on the decision.

Image: Praseg/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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