Concern if large donations to the Conservative party, from aviation interests, affect government policy

The aviation industry contributed more than a tenth of the Conservative Party’s donations between April and June 2022, prompting questions about the government’s climate policies.  About £650,000 was given to the Tory party by companies and donors linked to the aviation industry, 13% of total donations, making it the third biggest sector behind finance and property. The Electoral Commission data was analysed by DeSmog, a website that monitors lobbying on climate change. The government has no real policies to reduce aviation CO2 emissions, except its “Jet Zero” strategy, but places its faith in unproven future technologies, while refusing to do anything to control air travel demand, which would be the most effective way to limit aviation carbon.  It is very concerning if the large donations to the Conservative party, from aviation interests, are swaying government policy on a vital area. Christopher Harborne, the owner of AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier, gave £500,000 in May and a further £15,000 in June.  Other donations were from Bridgemere UK (private jets), Knaresborough Aviation,  the Rigby Group, and the executive chairman of Jet2.


Donations from aviation anger green campaigners

By Adam Vaughan, Environment Editor (The Times)
September 16th 2022

The aviation industry contributed more than a tenth of the Conservative Party’s donations between April and June, prompting questions from environmental campaigners over the government’s emissions policies.

About £650,000 was given to the Tory party by companies and donors linked to the aviation industry, 13 per cent of total donations, making it the third biggest sector behind finance and property. The Electoral Commission data was analysed by DeSmog, a website that monitors lobbying on climate change.

Environmentalists have criticised the government over its efforts to curb aviation’s climate change impact, which accounts for 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Ministers cut a tax on domestic flights last year on the eve of the Cop26 climate conference. A government “jet zero strategy” was criticised for focusing on technological solutions, such as more sustainable fuel, with no measures to deter demand for flights.

“Government aviation policy in recent months has been nothing short of pie-in-the-sky greenwash,” Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, said. “Now we know why. The Tory party is in the pockets of an industry responsible for vast and increasing quantities of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Christopher Harborne, the owner of AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier, gave £500,000 in May and a further £15,000 the following month. He has also given millions to the Brexit Party.

“This is not a good look for the Tories,” said Matt Finch, a policy manager at Transport and Environment, a Europe-wide organisation.

Other donations with identifiable links to the aviation industry included £62,500 from Bridgemere UK, which advertises the private charter of luxury jets. Knaresborough Aviation, an airline based in West Yorkshire, gave £33,742. Rigby Group, which owns several airports, donated £25,000. Philip Meeson, executive chairman of Jet2, contributed £8,900 in total.

A Conservative Party official said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by party donations. They are entirely separate.” AML Global was approached for comment.


See earlier:


Tories received £1.3m from fossil fuel interests and climate sceptics since 2019


Gifts and donations were from oil companies, airports, petrostates and climate-sceptic thinktanks

The Conservative party and its MPs have registered £1.3m in gifts and donations from climate sceptics and fossil fuel interests since the 2019 general election, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.

Oil companies, petrostates, airports and businesses linked with Russian energy tycoons are among this set of donors, who have either made money from fossil fuels or stand to lose economically or politically from cutting emissions.

Their donations, all legally given and declared to the Electoral Commission or in the House of Commons register of interests, are overwhelmingly to the ruling party.

In the past two years combined, they have given about £812,000 to the Conservative party, compared with £18,400 registered by the Labour party.

Conservative MPs also received about 99% of the £479,000 these donors gave to individual politicians, a far higher share than their 56% of the seats in the House of Commons.

The research highlights the legitimate lobbying activities of outside organisations who give money in return for access or influence, or to support policies and ideologies.

Several Conservative MPs have received donations from sources linked to a climate-sceptic thinktank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

Chief among the donors is Australian hedge fund manager Michael Hintze, who has given between £2,000 and £3,000 each to Priti Patel, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, Mark Garnier, Robert Halfon and Brandon Lewis.

Jesse Norman also received £2,000 from another GWPF backer, Neil Record. GWPF trustee Terence Mordaunt, who is co-owner of the cargo handling business Bristol Port Company, has donated £2,000 to Conservative MP James Gray.

In addition, two other MPs have unpaid positions on the Global Warming Policy Foundation: Steve Baker, the most outspoken critic of climate action in the lower house, and Labour MP Graham Stringer, who has also been critical of action on climate breakdown.

A handful of MPs received money or gifts in kind directly from fossil fuel companies or their owners. The head of the Conservative party in Scotland, Douglas Ross, was supported in his leadership campaign by a £20,000 donation from Alasdair Locke, who has extensive North Sea interests and chairs Motor Fuel Group, which owns more than 900 petrol stations across the UK.

Leo Docherty, Conservative MP for Aldershot, received £3,000 from Majid Hamid Jafar the head of Crescent Petroleum, the Middle East’s oldest privately-held oil and gas company.

Other MPs do paid work for energy interests. Alexander Stafford, who represents Rother Valley, was paid £5,158 by Shell for communication services. John Hayes earns £50,000 per year as a strategic advisor for BB Energy, a major trader in crude oil and other petrochemical products.

The biggest donor is Aquind, an energy cable company that has donated £108,000 to individual Conservative politicians since the last general election, including £10,000 to Cop26 president Alok Sharma and £40,000 to former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. The organisation also donated £92,000 to the party’s coffers in the same period.

Although stronger energy transmission networks are necessary for decarbonisation, Aquind has close links with two former Russian oil oligarchs who have become British citizens. Its ultimate owner was revealed last summer to be Viktor Fedotov, while director and shareholder Alexander Temerko was an oil and arms executive in Russia and worked for the Yukos oil company.

Temerko, who has also been involved in offshore wind turbine installation, is among the Leader’s Group of super-rich donors to the Conservative party who have high-level access to senior figures, including Boris Johnson. He has given the party more than £1m over the past decade, but says he has “zero influence” on MPs.

Since 2019, he has made substantial donations at a national and regional level, as well as £22,000 to four MPs, including Liam Fox, the chief secretary to the treasury, Simon Clarke, and David Morris. Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole, received three donations worth a total of £17,000 from Aquind or Temerko. He has donated a further £12,000 to the Conservative party since the last election.

Ten Conservative MPs have been treated by petrostates – UAE, Qatar and Bahrain – to a total of £25,000 in expenses-paid overseas trips or hospitality at sporting events, such as the Qatar Goodwood festival.

In the aviation sector, Heathrow airport has provided its luxury Windsor suite to the value of £67,200 for Theresa May, and £3,060 for Boris Johnson. London City airport has treated one MP to football tickets and hospitality.

The findings confirm the close links between parts of the Conservative party and fossil fuel businesses and climate sceptics. It follows a similar 2019 study by the Guardian, which found fossil fuel interests, climate-contrarian thinktanks and businessmen had given at least £5m to MPs over the previous 10 years in the form of donations, expenses-paid trips, salaries and gifts – the bulk of which went to the Conservative party.

For both studies, each individual’s record of interests published since the last general election was compared to a list of more than 400 search terms, including but not limited to organisations and individuals listed on DeSmog’s Climate Disinformation Database. Interests received before 12 December 2019 but first registered after that date are included in the analysis.

Compared to the US, British politics has not suffered major political divisions over climate policy. The vast majority of Conservative MPs accept the scientific consensus and while in power, the party has enacted net-zero legislation and the House of Commons has declared a climate emergency. However, critics say there are contradictions in the government’s stated climate goals and its continued support for North Sea oil and gas, airport and road expansion, cuts in overseas aid and mixed signals over plans for a new coal-fired power plant. The previous Guardian survey in 2019 showed Conservative MPs were much less likely to vote for climate action than politicians from other parties.

While evidence of political donations having a direct impact on policy is hard to come by, Rich Collett-White of the environmental investigations outlet DeSmog said there is an incentive for a party not to take ambitious action on climate change if its finances partly depend on keeping high-carbon donors happy. “The government can – and does – act against the interests of these donors with some of its green policies, but you have to ask why they see the Conservatives as the most deserving of their support.”

Collett-White cited the example of the US, where the Democratic senator Joe Manchin, who has been blocking Biden’s green infrastructure plans, is backed by the fossil fuel industry. “One reason for the lack of progress in cutting emissions globally is the capture of political systems by powerful vested interests – and this looks like a prime example,” he said.

Outright climate denial is now politically unacceptable but a growing movement that casts doubt on the solutions and exaggerates their costs has emerged in its place. “There’s every possibility donors who want to fight back against the push for more serious climate action will start throwing more cash at that effort,” Collett-White said.

Alexander Stafford said: “I worked in communications for Shell and the money listed on my declaration of interests was my final salary. Since becoming an MP I have received no money from the company.”

The Conservative party has yet to respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.


See earlier:

Huge sums of money have been paid to political parties by donors associated with aviation industry, most to Brexit Party and Conservatives

“DeSmog” has found that British political parties and individual politicians have received more than £9 million worth of donations from the aviation industry, since 2001, with the vast majority going to the Brexit Party (now) and the Conservatives. The individual politician to get the most was Conservative Liam Fox. DeSmog got the information from the Electoral Commission’s political finance database, using aviation-related terms such as “airport” and “airline” as well as specific aviation company names and directors.  Official records show how airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers have made hundreds of contributions, either in cash or to cover the cost of politicians’ travel, since the Electoral Commission’s online political finance database listings begin in 2001. Significant amounts came from well-known companies eg.  Airbus and Virgin Atlantic, more than half of the donations come from Christopher Harborne, CEO of AML Global, an aviation fuel supplier. He gave the Brexit Party £5.2 million since July this year, and earlier gave the Conservative Party £279,000. It is “perhaps not entirely coincidental” that politicians have collectively received so many donations given their support for aviation growth across the UK, including at Heathrow.