Two-Thirds of Conservative Endowment Fund Directors Are Linked to Fossil Fuels and Polluting Industries

The UK’s ruling party and Big Oil locked in a ‘death spiral’, say campaigners.
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The Conservative Party branding at its 2011 conference. Credit: NCVO London, CC BY 2.0

Two-thirds of the directors who run the Conservative Party’s multi-million-pound endowment fund have interests in fossil fuel firms or polluting industries, DeSmog can reveal.

The Conservative Party Foundation Limited was founded in 2009 with the purpose of raising and managing “legacy funds to support the long term finance of the Conservative Party”.

At the end of its latest accounting period, December 2022, the Conservative Party Foundation boasted reserves of £6.7 million. 

The foundation’s nine directors include some of the biggest donors to the Conservatives in recent years. Collectively they have donated more than £8.5 million to the party since 2018.

Financial interests of its directors include Shell, BP, consultancies that work for fossil fuel giants and petrostates, and the construction multinational JCB. 

Two directors of the foundation currently or have previously held shares in the parent company of GB News, which has prominently platformed climate science denial since its launch in June 2021. 

DeSmog previously revealed that the Conservative Party accepted £3.5 million in donations from fossil fuel interests, major polluters and climate science deniers in 2022. 

In early August, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that hundreds of new licences would be granted for North Sea oil and gas exploration, while Energy and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps said that the government plans to “max out” the UK’s North Sea reserves.

The International Energy Agency has said that new oil and gas fields are incompatible with restricting global heating to 1.5C, and that net zero requires significant, urgent declines in the use of coal, oil and gas.

“The oil industry and the Conservative Party are locked in a death spiral,” Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at Global Witness, told DeSmog. She noted that Rishi Sunak’s party “continues to accept large injections of fossil fuel money,” while the “oil industry relies on government officials to approve the extraction of ever more oil and gas.”

From Shell to Saudi

The Conservative Party Foundation board includes Lord Farmer, a former party treasurer and a metals trader who has donated more than £750,000 to the Conservatives and its candidates since 2018. 

Lord Farmer has extensive financial interests, including in a number of fossil fuel companies. The peer’s register of interests shows that he holds shares in oil and gas supermajors Shell and BP, as well as in Estover Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Tokamak, and the mining giant BHP. His shares in each of these companies exceed £50,000. 

Lord Farmer is joined on the foundation’s board by fellow former Conservative treasurer Lord Spencer, an investor and businessman whose net worth stood at an estimated £1.2 billion in 2021. Lord Spencer has donated more than £2.2 million to the Conservatives since 2018. 

Lord Spencer holds shares worth more than £50,000 in fossil fuel companies Cluff Energy Africa, Deltic Energy, the National Grid, Pantheon Resources, and Petrofac.

Lord Farmer retains a shareholding in GB News’s parent company, All Perspectives Limited, while Lord Spencer was a shareholder until September 2022. 

One-in-three GB News hosts spread climate change denial on air in 2022, according to DeSmog’s analysis, while more than half attacked climate action. 

Former CEO of the Conservatives Party, Lord Feldman, also serves as a director of the foundation. Lord Feldman is currently on a leave of absence from the House of Lords, but his LinkedIn profile lists a current role as vice chair of the global management consultancy Teneo. 

Teneo says on its website that its team has “oil and gas” expertise and, according to the Public Affairs Register, its UK clients in the last quarter (from March to May) included British Gas’s parent company, Centrica, BHP, and the chemical giant Dow. 

Baroness Finn, another Conservative Foundation director, served as Boris Johnson’s Downing Street chief of staff from July to September 2022, having been appointed as his deputy chief of staff in February 2021. 

She is also the co-owner of FMAP Limited, a firm that provides advice to “overseas governments on efficiency, implementation and public sector reform”. 

Baroness Finn’s register of interests states that, in her capacity at FMAP, she “may be personally involved in delivering professional advice to the government of Bahrain”, a petrostate where the extraction of hydrocarbons accounted for approximately 18 percent of the country’s GDP in 2022 and oil and gas accounted for around 75 percent of government revenues.

Her business partner at FMAP is Francis Maude, a fellow Conservative peer and a former minister under David Cameron. Though FMAP’s clients are not publicly listed, Lord Maude’s register of interests states that the company has also consulted for the government of Saudi Arabia, and the government of the Sultanate of Oman, both of which have been described as petrostates. 

JCB director Mark Bamford is also on the board of the Conservative Party Foundation. JCB is a multinational firm that manufactures equipment for the construction industry, which is a significant polluter. JCB and the Bamford family have given £5 million to the Conservatives since 2018. 

According to the government’s Environmental Audit Committee, despite the UK’s built environment being responsible for 25 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, there is “a lack of government impetus or policy levers to assess and reduce these emissions”. The construction industry is responsible for 18 percent of large particle pollution in the UK, a figure that rises to 30 percent in London.

Exposure to large particle pollution is associated with a range of health problems, including a greater risk of heart and lung disease.

Julia Nonie Bouverat, whose husband Philip Bouverat serves as a JCB director, is the CEO of the Conservative Party Foundation. 

Philip Bouverat was named by the Sunday Times in February 2022 as one of the members of a secretive Downing Street “advisory board” of major Tory donors who were allowed privileged access to the prime minister, government ministers, and senior advisers. The Sunday Times reported that Bouverat attended on behalf of Lord Bamford, who is chair of JCB and Mark Bamford’s brother. 

The “advisory board” was reportedly chaired by Lord Udny-Lister, who served as Boris Johnson’s Downing Street chief of staff from July 2019 to January 2021. Lord Udny-Lister also serves as a director of the Conservative Party Foundation, as well as the joint chair of the UAE-UK Business Council. 

The remaining two directors of the Conservative Party Foundation are Lord Mott, who appears to have limited financial interests, and David Ord, the co-owner and managing director of the Bristol Port Company. 

Ord, who has donated more than £620,000 to the Conservative Party and its candidates since 2018, was previously the co-owner of Bristol Oil and Gas Limited, which was created in the hope of exploring for fossil fuels on Bristol Port Company land.

Ord’s business partner is Terence Mordaunt, who is a director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation – the UK’s principal climate science denial group. It’s not known if Ord shares Mordaunt’s views on climate change. 

Lord Udny-Lister, Ord, and Mordaunt were not considered to have fossil fuel or polluting interests. All those named in this article were approached for comment. 

“The Conservative Party has proven time and again it is not fit for purpose when it comes to building our industries of the future. Instead, they spend their efforts in protecting the fuels of the past,” said Wera Hobhouse MP, energy and climate spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats.

“Ministers need a complete reversal of attitudes. Their focus must be driving down people’s bills by investing in the cheapest and most popular forms of energy, renewable energy, not focussing on the needs of fossil fuel companies raking in billions during a cost of living crisis.”

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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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