Tory MPs Accept £20,000 from Director of Climate Science Denial Group

Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt is among those to have received funds from a firm owned by a former chair of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
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Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt. Credit: Vicki Couchman / Bond, CC BY-ND 2.0

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt and Conservative MP Liam Fox have each received £10,000 from companies owned by a director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – one of the UK’s leading climate science denial groups.

New parliamentary records show that Mordaunt received £10,000 on March 28 from the management consultancy First Corporate Consultants. The firm is owned by Terence Mordaunt, a director at the GWPF who served as its chair from April 2017 to November 2019. 

The GWPF said in 2015 that “policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades”. It has also expressed the view that carbon dioxide has been mis-characterised as pollution, when in fact it is a “benefit to the planet”. 

In September 2022, Net Zero Watch – the GWPF’s campaigning arm – published a report which stated that “changing atmospheric carbon dioxide has minimal impact on Earth’s temperature and climate”, meaning that “efforts to decarbonise in the hope of affecting global temperatures will be in vain”. 

This is the fourth time that the GWPF director’s firm First Corporate Consultants has donated to Penny Mordaunt in recent years. She received gifts of £10,000 in May 2019, January 2021, and again in July 2022, the same day that her spokesperson said that Terence Mordaunt’s views were “not shared by Penny”.

“It is alarming that the Leader of the House of Commons has accepted yet another donation from a prominent Tufton Street climate science denier, via one of his companies,” Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project, told DeSmog. “She disavowed Terence Mordaunt’s views during the last Conservative leadership contest, but is clearly still very happy to take his money. It’s clear that Tufton Street’s lobby groups and right-wing think tanks are strengthening their malign grip on Rishi Sunak’s Government.”

Ahead of the 2019 general election, Mordaunt also received a £3,000 donation from hedge fund manager Michael Hintze, who has funded the GWPF. However, the Leader of the House of Commons has also backed the government’s 2050 net zero target, saying that “environmentalism and conservatism go hand in hand” while promising during her leadership campaign that she would create “millions of green jobs”.

Terence Mordaunt, by contrast, told openDemocracy in 2019 that “no one has proved yet that CO2 is the culprit” of climate change, a view that contradicts the evidence produced by the scientific community over several decades. First Corporate Consultants also donated £10,000 to Suella Braverman’s leadership bid.

Another of Terence Mordaunt’s companies, First Corporate Shipping (which trades as the Bristol Port Company), donated £10,000 to Conservative MP for North Somerset Liam Fox on 20 March this year.

Fox has a longstanding relationship with the US climate denial group the Heritage Foundation. Fox told an audience at International Petroleum Week in 2019 that the industry could rely on the UK government’s “commitment to work with the oil and gas industry to deliver an affordable, secure, cleaner future”, adding that “our commitment to tackle climate change is something you can rely upon”.

First Corporate Shipping runs the port of Bristol and is majority owned by First Corporate Consultants. A minority shareholder is Sir David Ord, who himself has donated £160,000 to the Conservatives since 2020. 

In total, First Corporate Consultants and First Corporate Shipping have donated £342,500 to the Conservative Party and its MPs since 2008. 

The GWPF was founded by the late Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson with the purpose of combating what it describes as “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change. Its board members include former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who remains a government trade adviser despite joining the group. 

Other figures associated with the GWPF have similarly donated substantial sums to influential Conservative MPs in recent years. Neil Record, who chairs Net Zero Watch, donated £10,000 to Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker in January this year and £5,000 in January 2022, when Baker was a GWPF trustee and co-led the anti-green Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of backbench MPs.

“For the Conservatives to accept money from anyone with climate-denying views tells you everything you need to know about its prioritisation of the climate crisis,” Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Climate Change, told DeSmog. “Climate change denial has no place in British society and climate change deniers have no place influencing the government.” 

The GWPF, Terence Mordaunt, Penny Mordaunt, First Corporate Shipping, and Liam Fox have been approached for comment. 

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Sam is DeSmog’s UK Deputy Editor. He was previously the Investigations Editor of Byline Times and an investigative journalist at the BBC. He is the author of two books: Fortress London, and Bullingdon Club Britain.

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