A businessman credited with helping spark the 1970s North Sea oil boom has moved into offices at 55 Tufton Street in Westminster, where the UK’s principal climate science denial organisation and many pro-Brexit campaign groups are based, DeSmog has learned.
John “Algy” Cluff, whose company Cluff Mineral Resources specialises in “support activities” for oil and gas extraction, as well as gold mining in West Africa, joins an influential hub of free market think tanks and lobby groups housed in the building.
Cluff has multiple ties to the groups operating out of offices at 55 and 57 Tufton Street, but told DeSmog that his decision to move his operations was due to the building being close to his home and had nothing to do with the other organisations residing there.
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Fossil fuel and mining companies
One of Cluff’s companies, Cluff Natural Resources, attempted to kickstart a controversial extraction method in the UK known as “underground coal gasification” (UCG) during David Cameron’s premiership.
But despite personally lobbying then Energy Minister Matt Hancock to endorse the scheme, the government has refused to support the technology, after a review in 2016 found UCG could produce up to double the emissions of traditional methods.
Located opposite the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it currently focuses on exploiting North Sea oil and gas, partnering with Shell and winning exploration licences for an area the size of Bedfordshire last year, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The company has been advised on its exploration strategy by Chris Matchette-Downes, a petroleum geologist who signed a letter in September entitled 'There is no climate emergency', which claims there is “no proof” that carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming. The letter was coordinated by Netherlands-based climate science denial group, Clintel.
Cluff told DeSmog: “I have a small office there because it is close to my house. I am 79 so it is very convenient. I have no knowledge or acquaintance with any of the other tenants, nor have I made any financial contribution to any of them.”
Cluff is, however, listed as a “Business Supporter” of the Eurosceptic Global Vision pressure group, based at 55 Tufton Street. The group is directed by GWPF trustee Ruth Lea, and other listed supporters include GWPF donors Sir Michael Hintze, Lord Nigel Vinson and Richard Smith, who owns the building. Neil Record, Chairman of the GWPF’s campaign wing, the Global Warming Policy Forum, sits on Global Vision's Economic Advisory Panel.
During Cluff's time as owner of the Spectator magazine, he oversaw the appointment of former Daily Telegraph editor and GWPF trustee Charles Moore as editor. Cluff went on to become Chairman of the magazine while both Dominic Lawson, Nigel Lawson’s son, and Boris Johnson were editors in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. He donated to Johnson’s successful London mayoral bid in 2008.
In 1995, the same year his gold mining company made the biggest gold discovery in Africa since World War II in Tanzania, Cluff started an 11-year stretch as a Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, based next door at 57 Tufton Street.
The Thatcherite thinktank’s Executive Director Tessa Keswick reportedly introduced City investors to Cluff while he was forming his North Sea consortium in the early 70s. Keswick, now Chancellor of the private University of Buckingham, which has a history of promoting the work of climate science deniers and has taken large donations from GWPF donor Nigel Vinson, received shares from Cluff at the time and worked for his investment company in the 1990s.
Cluff's property at 57A Tufton Street was used by Dominic Raab’s Conservative leadership campaign earlier this year. Former Brexit Secretary Raab regularly contributes to the anti-tax group the Taxpayers' Alliance and has served on the political advisory board of pro-“hard” Brexit campaign organisation Leave Means Leave, both of which are based two doors along at No. 55.
After DeSmog presented these Tufton Street ties to Cluff, he said:
“I am not and never have been a supporter of Global Vision. I was not aware until you told me that it is based at 55 Tufton Street. Of course I oversaw and strongly supported the appointment of both Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson (and Boris Johnson) as editors of The Spectator. I have never discussed Global Vision with them or anyone else for that matter.”
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