STT is not sure whether it’s a function of having real journalists who aren’t afraid to tip a bucket on sleaze and corruption or whether British politics is just grubbier than elsewhere. But the stories from its renewable politics scene just keep on getting better.
We’ve reported on just how rotten the wind industry is – from top to bottom – and whether it’s bribery and fraud; vote rigging scandals; tax fraud; investor fraud or REC fraud – wind weasels set a benchmark that a snake can comfortably crawl over.
But, of course, the corporate cowboys, scammers and swindlers – who make the wind industry what it is – need political “enablers” to survive.
You know – the guys who – for a bucket of cash or the promise of a cushy consultancy post politics – can help “grease” the wheels that spin inside the great halls of power.
Well – it seems that the wheels just fell off for one such “enabler” – Tim Yeo – who was caught by journalists in a “sting” operation.
Yeo – chairman of the parliamentary energy and climate change committee – has apparently been peddling his ability to influence British renewable policy on a made-to-measure-basis for some time. But Yeo broke that golden rule in politics – whatever you do, don’t get caught.
In his most recent “sales pitch” – those seeking his “specialist services” happened to be journalists looking to win political influence and favour to help with a proposed renewables deal.
Yeo was more than willing to oblige them – all for the usual fee of £7,000 a day – of course.
Selling political favours for cash is a bit like playing with matches – one day you’re bound to go up in flames.
Here’s The Sunday Time’s take on the story.
Top Tory in new Lobbygate row
The Sunday Times
Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake
9 June 2013
THE Tory MP in charge of scrutinising new energy laws has been caught boasting about how he can use his leadership of a powerful Commons committee to push his private business interests.
Tim Yeo told undercover reporters — posing as representatives of a firm offering to hire him — that he was close to “really all the key players in the UK in government” and could introduce them to “almost everyone you needed to get hold of in this country”.
He said he could not speak out for them publicly in the Commons because “people will say he’s saying this because of his commercial interest”. But he assured them: “What I say to people in private is another matter altogether.”
Yeo, chairman of the energy and climate change committee, was approached by reporters claiming to represent a green energy company.
He was filmed revealing that he had coached a paying client on how to influence the committee.
The former environment minister described how he had advised John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight, before the executive gave evidence to the committee last month. Yeo is a paid director and shareholder of Eurotunnel — the firm’s parent company.
Yeo publicly excused himself from asking questions because of the conflict of interest. However, he did not tell his fellow MPs that he had coached the executive. “I was able to tell him in advance what he should say,” Yeo later confided to the reporters.
Yeo has earned about £530,000 from private firms since taking over the committee in 2010, and has shares and options worth about £585,000 in low-carbon companies that have employed him.
He has always insisted that his views as an MP have “never been influenced at any time or in any way by my financial interests”.
The reporters approached Yeo posing as representatives of a solar energy company offering to hire him as a paid advocate to push for new laws to boost its business for a fee of £7,000 a day.
He told them he could commit to at least one day a month, despite the fact that he already held four private jobs and was in negotiations to take a further two. Setting out what he could offer, the MP said: “If you want to meet the right people, I can facilitate all those introductions and I can use the knowledge I get from what is quite an active network of connections.”
Asked if that extended to government figures, Yeo replied: “Yes.”
The House of Commons code of conduct forbids members from acting as paid advocates, including by lobbying ministers.
Yeo also said he could help them by guiding them on submitting evidence to his own committee, which he described as “a good way of getting your stuff on the map”.
Yeo is the latest politician to be implicated in the “Westminster for sale” scandal that has engulfed parliament after The Sunday Times revealed last week that three peers had agreed to ask parliamentary questions, lobby ministers and arrange events in the Lords for paying clients.
The Lords authorities launched an investigation into Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, Lord Cunningham and Lord Laird. All three deny wrongdoing.
McKenzie and Cunningham were suspended by the Labour party pending the outcome of the investigation, while Laird resigned from the Ulster Unionist party.
The MP Patrick Mercer also resigned the Tory whip after being implicated in a separate investigation into parliamentary questions for cash.
Last night a fourth peer, Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan, referred himself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards after being contacted by this newspaper in relation to comments he made in a meeting with the undercover reporters.
The morning after the meeting with Yeo, the reporters emailed to withdraw their offer of work. Six hours later, Yeo wrote back to say that he was relieved to hear that the work was no longer available because: “It spares me some embarrassment.”
He wrote: “It was increasingly apparent to me during our talk that what you were seeking was someone to advance your interests by lobbying. This is a function which is not compatible with my position as an MP and chair of a select committee. I was going to email you later today to explain this but your email has removed the need for me to do so.”
Yeo last night denied “absolutely” that he had breached the MPs’ code of conduct, or offered to do so in the meeting with the undercover reporters.
He said the meeting had only been a “preliminary discussion” about what appeared to be a worthy cause, and denied having committed to working for the reporters’ fake company for one day a month.
The MP denied offering to provide parliamentary advice or advocacy, which he said were roles he had never performed for any company, because he said that would be a breach of the code.
He said that he had not tutored Smith on what he should say to his select committee.
Yeo said he had decided to withdraw from any further discussions with the reporters before receiving their email on the morning of May 22 because he had concluded that what they were suggesting he do for their company amounted to “an impermissible lobbying role”.
A spokesman for GB Railfreight said: “At the evidence session of the energy and climate change committee, GBRf made the same arguments that we consistently make in submissions, articles and on the record time and again.”
The Sunday Times
STT has already turned the spotlight on a couple of the Coalition member’s close links to big wind – links that have the potential to turn more than just a tad toxic as the wind industry slams into the guard rail for the final time.
STT has heard a very loud whisper that a couple of Liberal Members are about to face a little more scrutiny than they might normally welcome – about their long-running links to the wind industry’s sleaziest players. STT wonders why any politician with even half a brain would want to be seen running around with an outfit packed with lunatics and people who find the truth an alien concept – and with a corporate history that would make the boys from Enron blush?
Rumour has it that the serious press are on the trail and that what they are chasing might require some very quick back-pedalling by those involved.
STT would hate to see an Australian repeat of Tim Yeo’s self immolation – but, as they say, you reap what you sow.
Interesting times, indeed.
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