MPs Gifted £4,200 Tennis Tickets by Oil Giant BP

The fossil fuel company hosted politicians at Wimbledon for the second year in a row.
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BP donated tennis tickets worth a total of more than £4,200 to a government minister and two MPs, parliamentary records reveal. 

The oil and gas supermajor, which recorded bumper profits of £22 billion last year, gifted Wimbledon tickets to Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, and Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Paul Scully, worth £1,500 and £1,560 respectively. 

‘Hospitality’ tickets for the July tournament offer prime seats on Centre or No.1 Court, Michelin Star cuisine and complimentary fine wines.

The fossil fuel giant also hosted Conservative MP Gagan Mohindra at The Boodles, an elite exhibition tennis tournament, donating two tickets worth £1,230. 

BP also gifted Wimbledon tickets to Liberal Democrat peers Baroness Bonham-Carter, and Lord Razzall, as well as Conservative peer Lord Harrington, though the value of the tickets are unknown.

“This dodgy tennis deal is a foul serve for all those impacted by the climate crisis,” Alexander Kirk, campaigner at Global Witness, told DeSmog. 

Some of the MPs on the receiving end of BP’s largesse have opposed policies to tax the oil and gas industry more heavily during the cost of living crisis. 

Two of those gifted tickets – Conservatives Gagan Mohindra and Paul Scully – were among the 310  MPs who in May 2022 voted down a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech that would have imposed a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas profits. The government announced a change of policy weeks later – introducing a windfall tax, though with tax breaks for firms that pledged to invest in more oil and gas exploration.

SNP MP Stephen Flynn, who represents Aberdeen South, an area at the heart of the UK’s oil and gas industry, also last year objected to the impacts of a windfall tax on energy companies.

Lord Harrington served as an energy minister from June 2017 to March 2019. While in office he said that oil and gas leaders had the “full support” of the UK government in maximising the economic opportunities of the North Sea.

This is the second year in a row that BP has hosted lawmakers at Wimbledon, having donated tickets to Conservative MPs Stephen Crabb and Mike Freer in 2022. 

Pressure is mounting on the government to cut ties with fossil fuel companies, amid a climate crisis driven predominantly by emissions resulting from producing and burning oil, gas and coal. DeSmog revealed in March that the Conservatives last year accepted £3.5 million from polluters, fossil fuel interests and climate deniers.

The Mirror reported on Thursday that Conservative MP Theresa Villiers held previously undeclared shares in oil and gas giant Shell worth more than £70,000 while serving as environment secretary. Villiers, who was in the role from July 2019 until February 2020, has held the shares since February 2018, but only formally declared them this week.

Robert Noyes of Fossil Free Parliament said that BP “wine and dine elected officials to present a respectable face” while “millions are saving to stay warm this winter, and vast swathes of the planet enter previously unseen periods of global boiling”. He urged all parliamentarians to “refuse all gifts and funding [from] the fossil fuel industry without delay.”

Windfall

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed in July that hundreds of new licences will be awarded for North Sea oil and gas exploration later this year. BP currently holds dozens of North Sea licences and is the UK’s third largest oil and gas producer. 

The International Energy Agency has stated that new oil and gas exploration is incompatible with the effort to limit global warming to 1.5C – the legally binding limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The windfall tax imposed by the UK government on energy company profits appears to have done little to curb the sector’s earnings. BP’s profits doubled last year, as campaigners accused the company of benefiting from soaring energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

BP says that it paid £1.7 billion for its North Sea business in 2022, £550 million of which was due to the windfall tax. 

Fossil fuel giants have also been watering down their renewable energy investments. BP was one of the first oil and gas majors to announce a 2050 net zero target, but was criticised this year for cutting back on the scale of its ambition, down from a 35-40 percent cut in emissions by 2030 to 20-30 percent.

According to research by Global Witness, between January and March, Sunak and his climate and energy ministers met with fossil fuel companies 54 times, an average of more than once every two days.

“Energy companies are fundamental to the prosperity of Aberdeen and will continue to play a key role as we embark on a just energy transition that safeguards jobs and employment in the city I am proud to represent,” the SNP’s Stephen Flynn told DeSmog. 

“That just energy transition remains the focus of much of my local work and I’m pleased that this includes the Hydrogen Hub being built in Aberdeen South by BP and the local council – a facility that will produce clean green hydrogen from solar energy; developing the local supply chain and local skills.”

Scully, Mohindra, Lord Razzall, Baroness Bonham-Carter, and Lord Harrington were approached for comment.

Phoebe Cooke headshot - credit Laura King Photography
Phoebe joined DeSmog in 2020. She is currently co-deputy editor and was previously the organisation's Senior Reporter.
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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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