Tory Sleaze Is Worse than Ever: Yeo and Deben Must Go!

Ever more putrescent and loathesome

How Lord “BSE” Deben got his nickname. (Photo: PA)

I’m a bit concerned that the ordurous stench emanating from Tory peer Lord “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy” Deben (formerly John Bovine Selwyn Encephalopathy Gummer) and Tim “Ebola” Yeo MP has yet to assail sufficiently large numbers of nostrils.

All right, so Yeo got a proper going over in the Mail last week in a piece headlined Jolly Green Hypocrite: Tory MP earns £140,000 a year from Green firms and want to carpet Britain with wind farms (except in his own back yard)

Guido also had a go at Yeo, noting more potential conflicts of interest, this time one apparently benefiting his chairmanship of a London cab manufacturer called ugh Eco City Vehicles.

Then on Sunday, the excellent David Rose did a number on the possibly-even-more-putrescent-and-loathsome-in-every-conceivable-way Lord Deben. Here’s the gist:

A former Tory Minister set to provide the Government with crucial advice on climate change is at the centre of a new conflict-of-interest row after it was revealed he is chairman of a consortium bidding to build one of the world’s biggest offshore windfarms.

John Selwyn Gummer, who was Environment Secretary under John Major and Agriculture Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, is the newly designated chairman of the powerful Committee on Climate Change (CCC). It was set up to provide David Cameron with independent advice on energy policy and climate change.

But a Mail on Sunday investigation has learned the former MP – who became Lord Deben in 2010 – is also chairman of Forewind, a consortium trying to build thousands of turbines in the North Sea’s Dogger Bank.

Lord Deben already chairs Sancroft, a lobbying and consultancy firm based in Queen Anne’s Gate, Westminster. One of its specialities is advising businesses on how to make money from policies enacted to combat global warming.

Its website states: ‘Climate change will be the most disruptive influence on business. The risks it poses are immense; the potential rewards are considerable We show our clients how to make the most of quickly evolving market opportunities.’

Last night, Lord Deben insisted there was no conflict of interest. His spokeswoman said: ‘The appointment will be the subject of a parliamentary pre-appointment scrutiny hearing in September.

Ah yes, that parliamentary pre-appointment scrutiny hearing. And who will be chairing that, I wonder?

Why, none other than our old friend Tim Yeo MP, famed throughout the land for, amongst other things, his unimpeachable neutrality on green issues.

The good Bishop detects a certain absurdity here:

So Tim Yeo, the conflicted committee chairman, will question Deben, the conflicted candidate on whether conflicts are acceptable. I imagine this could be a penetrating cross-examination. It promises to be Commons comedy gold.

The date for your diaries is 4 September 2012 at 3pm.

The Bishop’s comment threads have also brought more fascinating information on Lord Deben’s financial involvements in a mooted £32 billion scheme to build a tidal barrage across the Severn estuary. Though Lord Deben is of course denying any conflict of interest, he and his family have a significant shareholding in the company angling for the contract. The £240 million which according to the Bishop’s calculations the Gummer family stand to make if the project goes ahead makes the hundreds of thousands “Ebola” Yeo has made from his various green side-projects look like chicken feed.But the Severn Barrage Scheme has already been rejected once for several very good reasons, as Christopher Booker explained back in 2008 (in those distant days when the mooted cost of the scheme was a mere £20 billion.)

But the Government also knows that we haven’t a chance of meeting that target by building 10,000 ludicrously expensive, largely useless wind turbines. Hence its recent revival of the scheme to provide ‘5 per cent of our power’ by building a £20 billion tidal barrage across the Severn Estuary a vast concrete wall from Weston-super-Mare to Wales.

It is amazing how little the fans of this quixotic dream recognise what it would involve. Its 300 turbines would, we are told, have a ‘generating capacity’ of ‘8,640 megawatts (MW)’. But, as even the Sustainable Development Commission tacitly recognises on its website, these would generate, thanks to the variation of the tides, only 22 per cent of capacity, namely 1,900MW. That is £10 million per MW, even more than the £8 million per MW of those ridiculous offshore wind turbines.

One modern nuclear power station, costing £2.7 billion, could generate almost as much electricity as the barrage, at barely an eighth of the cost. (The barrage would also need several new power stations as back-up for when the tides are not generating.)

But if we did decide to build the barrage to meet our renewables obligation, its impact on wildlife, particularly the birds that feed in their millions on the Severn’s tidal mudflats, would render it illegal under the EU’s habitats directive. Forget the barrage (and our renewables target, since it is not remotely achievable) and let the Government, even if it must use ‘climate change’ as an excuse, build those reactors before the lights go out.”

Anyway, to repeat what I said at the beginning, I’m a bit concerned that the ordurous stench emanating from Lord “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy” Deben (formerly John Bovine Selwyn Encaphalopathy Gummer) and Tim “Ebola” Yeo MP has yet to assail sufficiently large numbers of nostrils.

It seems to me that we have compelling evidence here that there is something exceedingly rotten in the state of our parliamentary democracy. Maybe Lord Deben’s and Yeo’s behaviour would not have looked quite so out-of-place were they 18th century Whigs. But surely not today. Aren’t we supposed to be living in a more accountable, transparent and honest age? Wasn’t one of the lessons learned from the MPs expenses scandal that our elected representatives must henceforward learn to act in the interests of the public they supposedly serve rather than appearing merely to feather their own nests?

David Cameron cannot allow this kind of behaviour to go unchecked. The tangled interests of Lord Deben and Tim Yeo are well in the public domain now. Cameron cannot plausibly pretend that he didn’t know about them. And if he fails to address the problem it will reflect extraordinarily badly both on his personal morality and on the integrity of the Conservative party and the Coalition he leads.

I’m very surprised the Opposition isn’t making more of this. The Tory sleaze meme was what brought down the Major administration: why on earth shouldn’t it be revived to bring down the Cameron one?

The sooner, frankly, the better.

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