Tim Yeo’s intervention strengthens the calls for stricter curbs on select committee chairmen
The ruckus over calls for a 3rd runway at Heathrow has been greeted with disbelief in Whitehall. Tory backbencher Tim Yeo has challenged David Cameron to prove that he is a man, not a mouse, by reneging on his election pledge and ordering an expansion at the airport. The DfT has said that building a runway would take 10 years, so definitely would not “kickstart the economy now.” Tim Yeo’s outburst has actually strengthened Justine Greening’s position, as Cameron would look “like a mouse” if he now moved her. Tim Yeo’s position as Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee now looks questionnable, due to potential conflicts of interest – his links with biofuel companies, and vested interest in not wanting Stansted expanded. The Telegraph asks if perhaps the time has come to apply much stricter rules to select committee chairmen.
Lift-off from Heathrow is a flight of fancy
Tim Yeo’s intervention strengthens the calls for stricter curbs on select committee chairmen
By Sue Cameron
29 Aug 2012 (Telegraph)
The ruckus over calls for a third runway at Heathrow has been greeted with disbelief in Whitehall. Tory backbencher Tim Yeo has challenged David Cameron to prove that he is a man, not a mouse, by reneging on his election pledge and ordering an expansion at the airport.
The scepticism among the mandarins starts with Mr Yeo’s timing. Asked how long it would take to build a third runway, one Transport Department insider said: “You might have to have a planning inquiry, possibly a judicial review… you’d have to demolish the houses… I’d say 10 years. It definitely wouldn’t kickstart the economy now.”
Ironically, Mr Yeo’s outburst has strengthened the position of Transport Secretary Justine Greening – popular with officials – who is against a third runway. To sack her now would indeed make Mr Cameron look like a mouse. Not that he would want to risk all those Tory seats near Heathrow, many of them vulnerable to the Lib Dems. He will come out of the row looking manly and Miss Greening’s job looks safe. But what of Mr Yeo, who is chairman of the Commons select committee on energy and climate change?
His position looks much more questionable. The Commons’ register of members’ interests shows he earns more than £160,000 a year in addition to his MPs’ salary – plus extra for being a select committee chairman. Some £40,000 of this comes from AFC Energy, and a further £60,000 from TMO Renewables, a biofuels company that has just signed a memorandum of understanding with China. One of Mr Yeo’s arguments for a third runway is… to boost trade with China. Perfectly fair argument, but it might raise questions about Mr Yeo’s motives.
Besides, UK businessmen can easily fly to China from other airports. Stansted, for example, if it were expanded. Except Mr Yeo is against that. Also for perfectly understandable reasons: his constituency of Suffolk South is about 20 miles from Stansted.
Some Tories are speculating that No 10 was worried about Mr Yeo’s outside interests and that his challenge was meant as a “get your tanks off my lawn” warning. Whether true or not, perhaps the time has come to apply much stricter rules to select committee chairmen when it comes to potential conflicts with their outside interests. Maybe they should be subject to similar rules to ministers, giving up outside jobs in the fields their committees cover. There is enough controversy about expanding various airports round London – or not – without muddying the waters over people’s motives.
See House of Commons guidance on avoiding conflicts of interest in Select Committees below
Conservative MP who chairs climate committee earns £140k from green energy firms
By GERRI PEEV (Daily Mail)
PUBLISHED: 23:31, 13 August 2012
MPs are plotting to overthrow the Conservative chairman of the energy and climate change committee because of his links to the green power industry.
Tory MP Tim Yeo rakes in almost £140,000 a year from the controversial industry while juggling his role as chairman of the select committee.
The former environment minister, who is also president of the Renewable Energy Association, has criticised cuts in taxpayer-funded subsidies to the green energy industry he champions.
Mr Yeo lists just over £139,450 in payments linked to green companies in the latest MPs’ register of interests.
Furious MPs are now trying to depose him as chairman of the select committee.
One insider told the Mail: ‘We are seeking advice on how this can be done as select committee chairmen are now elected. But there is obviously a potential conflict of interest here.’
The process can be difficult, but some are hoping Mr Yeo will be embarrassed into standing down voluntarily.
MPs are concerned that Mr Yeo earns so much money from energy companies while also being asked to hold the industry to account in his role as chairman of the powerful select committee.
This is on top of his salary of more than £65,000, plus a top-up of nearly £15,000 for his role as a select committee chairman.
The MP is chairman of a biofuel company, TMO Renewables. He worked 197 hours for the firm, earning more than £68,000 in a year.
He also spent 141 hours working for AFC Energy, a Surrey-based firm developing alkaline fuel cell technology. He was paid £55,450.
Mr Yeo chairs meetings of an environmentally friendly car firm, Eco City Vehicles. For just 39 hours of work, he earned more than £16,000.
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris suggested on his Twitter page that Mr Yeo may have a potential conflict of interest
The Suffolk South MP also works with the Eurotunnel group. He is a non-executive director and attends meetings of the Channel Tunnel’s safety and environment committee.
Last month, Mr Yeo accused the Treasury of sacrificing green energy plans to placate Tory backbenchers opposing plans to concrete over the countryside with wind farms and pylons.
Mr Yeo told the Guardian: ‘They are working particularly to target some Conservative backbenchers, pursuing a policy designed to prove that they are not going to get into so-called costly green initiatives. It is extraordinary.’
The MP also attacked the Treasury’s record on the environment, saying: ‘The Treasury has never been signed up to the green agenda, but this has got much more serious in the past year.
‘Their interventions on the energy bill, and clear interference over ROCs [renewable energy subsidies], have shown this – it all adds up to a clear sign that they are not supportive of progress on the low-carbon energy sector.’
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris hinted at a potential conflict of interest on Twitter, saying: ‘Unsurprised by Tim Yeo’s comments. I’m sure he’s genuinely worried about the subsidies 4 green jobs, esp as he holds so many of them himself.’
Select committee chairmen are allowed to earn money from external work but Parliament’s Standards and Privileges Committee has said in its report on pay that ‘in some cases of conflict, or the appearance of a conflict, this may mean that a chairman must either divest himself or herself of an interest, or stand aside’.
Mr Yeo said: ‘Not only have my interests been correctly registered at all times but… they were listed in full on the ballot paper circulated to all MPs when I was elected chair of the committee in June 2010.
‘Furthermore, I’ve held the views I’ve expressed regularly on renewable energy consistently and strongly since 1993, as many publicly available documents over the last 19 years show.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2187948/Conservative-MP-chairs-climate-committee-earns-140k-green-energy-firms.html#ixzz251szbFj8
Information on Select Committees from the UK Parliament
Commons Select Committees
There is a Commons Select Committee for each government department, examining three aspects: spending, policies and administration.
These departmental committees have a minimum of 11 members, who decide upon the line of inquiry and then gather written and oral evidence. Findings are reported to the Commons, printed, and published on the Parliament website. The government then usually has 60 days to reply to the committee’s recommendations.
Some Select Committees have a role that crosses departmental boundaries such as the Public Accounts or Environmental Audit Committees. Depending on the issue under consideration they can look at any or all of the government departments.
Other Commons Committees are involved in a range of on-going investigations, like administration of the House itself or allegations about the conduct of individual MPs.
Following the adoption by the House of recommendations from the Reform of the House of Commons Committee (which was chaired by the former MP, Dr Tony Wright);
- the majority of Select Committee Chairs are now elected by their fellow MPs. This applies to departmental committees and the Environmental Audit, Political and Constitutional Reform, Procedure, Public Administration and Public Accounts committees.
- a Backbench Business Committee has been established with the ability to schedule business in the Commons Chamber and in Westminster Hall on days, or parts of days, set aside for non-government business.
Guide for Select Committee members:
of which Page 44 (page 47 out of 5 7 ) has a long section on avoiding conflict of interest).