Tory MP Backing Net Zero Took £5,000 Donation From Chair of Top Race Car Manufacturer

Tory MP Backing Net Zero Took £5,000 Donation From Chair of Top Race Car Manufacturer
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Sara Britcliffe MP. Credit: David Woolfall (CC BY 3.0)

A Conservative MP who helps run two parliamentary climate groups has taken a £5,000 donation from the chair of a leading racing car manufacturer.

Sara Britcliffe has represented the constituency of Hyndburn and Haslingden in East Lancashire since 2019, one of the “Red Wall” seats won by Tory MPs in former Labour heartlands. 

She has since become vice chair of two climate-focused all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) on net zero and youth action against climate change.

But the most recent register of MPs’ financial interests shows Britcliffe received a substantial donation from Lawrence Tomlinson, head of Yorkshire-based LNT Group, a company that claims to be “taking the lead” in British race car manufacturing through its “Ginetta” business, according to its website.

Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn and Haslingden until 2019, told DeSmog: “Ms Britcliffe has accepted a large cash donation from a company promoting the use of fossil fuels whilst at the same time trying to sell her net-zero environmental credentials.

“I am sure conscientious green voters in Haslingden and Hyndburn will be very disappointed by her empty words on the environment and her decision to take this money.”

Britcliffe is the first Conservative to represent the constituency since 1992 and, at 24, the youngest Conservative elected in the 2019 general election.

‘Net Zero’ Ambitions

In August, Britcliffe backed the UN Secretary General’s warning that a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represented a “code red for humanity” and said it “reinforces the importance of the UK playing a key role in a global effort to tackle climate change”.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, she said the report “highlights why the measures this government has brought forward, such as the [2030] net zero target and the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales, are so important”.

Parliamentary records show the MP has mentioned “net zero” just once in debates over the past 22 months, and is yet to refer to “climate change”. 

Weeks after saying the IPCC report was a “wake-up call”, a donation from former race car driver Tomlinson was registered in Britcliffe’s name.

According to its website, LNT Group is a “fast growing group of companies” owned by “serial entrepreneur” Tomlinson. As well as engineering and building racing cars, LNT encompasses products such as industrial de-icers and products for rail transport and aviation. 

Tomlinson was ranked 151st on the Sunday Times’ Rich List in 2011, with an estimated net worth of £300 million. In 2020, Tomlinson had fallen to 923rd, with an estimated worth of £130 million. 

From 2013 to 2014, Tomlinson was the UK Government’s “Entrepreneur in Residence”, during which he advised the government on how to support small- and medium-sized businesses.

The automotive industry is under mounting pressure to decarbonise amid global targets to restrict global heating to 1.5C by 2050. Formula 1, which in 2018 calculated its total carbon dioxide emissions at 256,551 tonnes, has now launched a plan to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Tomlinson’s race car-building company Ginetta, which he purchased in 2005, built a successful electric race car prototype as early as 2008, but plans for a wider release of the vehicle were shelved due to a lack of funds. 

LNT Group is also a significant player in the construction industry, with its LNT Care Developments and LNT Construction having built more than 100 new elderly care homes in the UK in the past decade, which its website claims are “eco-friendly and sustainable”. LNT Group also develops and sells software for care home management.

In August, DeSmog revealed that another “Red Wall” Conservative MP, Brendan Clark-Smith, took a £3,000 donation in 2019 from a major Brexit-backing car import business operating in China, despite arguing that ​​the UK’s net zero target was a “hard sell” because of climate inaction by Beijing. 

Britcliffe and Tomlinson did not respond to a request for comment.

Tory MP Backing Net Zero Took £5,000 Donation From Chair of Top Race Car Manufacturer
Michaela Herrmann is a researcher and reporter for DeSmog. She has an MSc in Global Politics from the London School of Economics.

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