The Conservative Party has received nearly £1.5 million of donations from polluting interests and funders of climate science denial in the past three months, DeSmog analysis shows.
The gifts, published last week by the Electoral Commission, include £12,500 from London City Airport to the “1922 Committee” of backbench Tory MPs and £20,000 from a company that produces steel for North Sea oil rigs. The majority of the party’s donations came from the heavy machinery firm JCB, which has made two donations of £700,000 since the election.
The latest Register of MPs’ Interests shows Home Secretary Priti Patel was among those who received a total of £21,000 from current or past backers of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s principal climate science denial lobby group.
Responding to DeSmog's analysis, Labour's Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Alan Whitehead, said the findings cast doubt on the Conservative party's commitment to its climate agenda. “Businesses rarely hand over money for no reason. The question for the Conservative Party is, what have these companies bought?” he asked.
JCB’s chairman Lord Bamford, a key financial backer of the Leave campaign, has given more than £5 million to the Conservatives since 2010. The UK government estimates that the construction industry influences almost 47 percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Vehicle import business International Motors donated £3,500 to the party. International Motors’ founder and chairman Lord Edmiston chairs the little-known Midlands Industrial Council, a group of Brexit-backing Tory party donors. OpenDemocracy revealed that members of the group, which also includes Lord Bamford, played a key role in providing targeted donations to Conservative candidates in many of the so-called “red wall” seats ahead of the election.
Oil industry supplier Offshore Group Newcastle has donated £20,000, despite apparently going into administration in 2017. The company has given a total of nearly £600,000 to the Conservatives since 2012. It has called for the government to provide greater support to UK companies in the North Sea.
Offshore Group Newcastle’s former director, Ukrainian energy tycoon Alexander Temerko, has also donated to numerous Tory MPs including Business Secretary and COP26 President Alok Sharma, former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, International Trade Minister Conor Burns, and former Communities and Local Government Minister Andrew Percy, through his new company Aquind.
The company is building an electricity interconnector between the UK and mainland Europe, with the aim of creating more grid flexibility to cope with increasing levels of renewable energy, so these donations have not been included in this analysis.
Climate science denial funders
Both the central party and individual MPs have received a number of donations from known funders of climate science denial.
Hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze, one of the few known backers of the GWPF, has given £2,000-£3,000 each to five Tory MPs: Home Secretary Priti Patel, former Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom, former Defence Secretary and now Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt, former International Trade Minister Mark Garnier, and former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Robert Halfon, a key figure in the anti-fuel duty Fair Fuel UK campaign. Hintze has given more than £4 million to the Conservatives since 2002, according to official figures, as well as £100,000 to the Vote Leave campaign.
Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has received donations from Neil Record and Edward Atkin, both GWPF funders. Record is chairman of the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaign arm of the GWPF, as well as the libertarian Institute of Economic Affairs, which has received funding from oil giant BP.
Lee Rowley, who defeated pro-fracking Labour MP Natascha Engel in 2017 and has campaigned against shale gas extraction in his Derbyshire constituency, has also received £3,000 from Record.
DeSmog revealed last November that the vast majority of political donations from GWPF backers had gone to Conservatives, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock receiving the most.
Shipley MP Philip Davies, who has dismissed climate change as a “ridiculous concept” and railed against “idiotic windmills”, and is one of only two remaining MPs that voted against the UK's landmark Climate Change Act, received £2,000 from financial services company Flowidea Ltd. Mark Francois, former deputy chairman of the European Research Group of “hard” Brexiteer Tory MPs, also received a £2,000 donation. Flowidea is owned by millionaire stockbroker Sir Henry Angest, a previous funder of the Freedom Association, which has promoted climate science denial.
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Other MPs have received donations from key figures within a network of pro-Brexit, free market think tanks and lobby groups based in and around 55 Tufton Street.
Both Priti Patel and Steve Baker, former chairman of the hard Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, have enjoyed gifts of £2,000 from Jon Moynihan, chairman of the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), originally housed at 57 Tufton Street.
The IFT, launched in 2017 by MEP Danial Hannan with the help of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, produced a “blueprint” for a US-UK free trade deal in collaboration with US groups known to spread misinformation on climate change including the Cato Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Moynihan is a former trustee of the IEA and was chairman of Vote Leave’s finance committee. Another IEA trustee, Bruno Prior, who previously wrote a foreword to a series of essays for the thinktank that argued there was “enormous uncertainty relating both to the economics and to the science of climate change”, has also given £3,000 to Baker.
Former International Trade Secretary Fox received £5,000 from David Ord, former director of the pro-Brexit Open Europe think tank, which closed last month. Ord is the business partner of Terence Mordaunt, the new chairman of the GWPF – the pair own First Corporate Shipping, which operates Bristol port.
Other parties also received donations from sources with a less-than-perfect record on climate policy.
Since the December election, Labour received a total of around £60,000 from the Unite and GMB unions, both vocal supporters of Heathrow expansion. GMB last week called for a “law change” to enable the third runway to go ahead, following a successful legal challenge by campaigners that found the government had not taken the UK’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement into account when drawing up the plans.
The Brexit Party received a £25,000 donation from Christopher Harborne, CEO of AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier. DeSmog previously reported that the businessman had given a £5 million boost to Nigel Farage’s party in the months leading up to the general election.
Reacting to the findings, Labour's Alan Whitehead said: “News that the Conservative Party is funded by fossil fuel interests raises worrying questions about Tory sincerity on net zero and the green economy.”
“Nothing has changed since Parliament accepted Labour’s motion to declare a climate emergency, and millions of pounds of tax relief are being funnelled by this Government towards fossil fuel interests.”
Green Party co-leader and London mayoral candidate Sian Berry said the findings showed none of the UK's biggest political parties could be trusted to clean up the economy.
“Money talks, but we cannot have business as usual in this climate emergency. This is proof that, for all the greenwash, the Tories and Labour are not serious about tackling the climate crisis,” she said.
The Conservative Party did not respond to a request for comment.
Only donations from individuals or organisations participating in or lobbying for high carbon industries, and donations from known funders of the GWPF, were included in the headline calculations and £1.5 million figure. All other donations mentioned in this analysis are for context.
See this spreadsheet for a full list of donations included in the headline analysis.
Image credit: Policy Exchange/Flickr CC BY 2.0