DeSmog

Labour’s Shadow Decarbonisation Minister Received Sponsorship from Gas Industry Lobbyists

Sarah Jones ran a fundraising event with the help of a pro-hydrogen group backed by a major Tory donor.
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Sarah Jones, Labour’s shadow minister for industry and decarbonisation. Credit: Sky News / Facebook

Sarah Jones, Labour shadow minister for industry and decarbonisation, accepted sponsorship for a fundraising event from a public affairs company that represents BP and British Gas, DeSmog can reveal. 

Jones’s register of interests shows that she received food and drink worth £2,500 on 10 May from Beyond 2050, a pro-hydrogen PR firm that represents some of the UK’s biggest gas producers and distributors. Less than two weeks later, on 22 May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a general election to be held on 4 July.

Beyond 2050’s register on the Public Affairs Board shows that, from March to May, the firm represented British Gas’s parent company Centrica, the oil and gas major BP, and the Northern Gas Networks.

Beyond 2050 describes itself as the “leading strategy and political relations agency on hydrogen”, working with “some of the UK’s most innovative hydrogen businesses and entrepreneurs”.

Given that hydrogen can be blended into gas pipelines, there has been an extensive lobbying campaign from fossil fuel companies to advocate for the switch to hydrogen – despite concerns from scientists about the green potential of the technology.

Beyond 2050 coordinated a “Hydrogen Zone” at the Labour and Conservative party conferences, and DeSmog revealed in September 2023 that the hydrogen lobby was now pivoting to Labour as the party most likely to win the next election.

Jones, who is standing for election in Croydon West in London, has expressed her support for hydrogen in the past. Speaking in the House of Commons on 11 January, she said: “We should be investing as a country in nuclear, offshore wind, onshore wind, solar, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and all forms of clean power that can help to cut bills and make our country energy independent.”

Labour’s manifesto also states that the party will invest in hydrogen power, if it wins the 4 July election. It says that, “Labour’s National Wealth Fund will directly invest in ports, hydrogen and industrial clusters in every corner of the country.”

Beyond 2050 is co-owned by major Conservative donor Jo Bamford, a member of the JCB construction dynasty who has extensive business interests in hydrogen. Jo Bamford has personally donated £82,000 to the Conservatives since 2019, while the wider family and JCB have donated more than £10 million to the party over the past 20 years.

Jo Bamford is the owner of Ryze Hydrogen, a firm which “transports and distributes green hydrogen… for powering our transport systems, industries and homes.” He also set up a £1 billion hydrogen investment fund, known as HYCAP, in 2021. Both are represented by Beyond 2050. 

In 2022, Labour seconded staff worth the equivalent of £18,000 from Beyond 2050. The firm’s website says that it is able to “influence… short and long term policy decisions.” It claims to have an “an unrivalled network among politicians, advisers, officials and industry” that gives the firm a “unique insight into policy decisions and how to influence them.”

Beyond 2050 says that it offers the opportunity to “build a coalition of supporters” who will support clients and their projects. This seems to include advocating for hydrogen industry funding from the government. The firm cites the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF), launched in 2022, which deployed up to £240 million for “the development and deployment of new low carbon hydrogen production”.

“It is totally unacceptable for Labour to accept any donations from the hydrogen lobby and put their climate policies at risk of being distorted by false solutions,” Carys Boughton, Fossil Free Parliament campaigner, told DeSmog.

“It’s no secret that the hydrogen lobby is the gas lobby in disguise, pushing for hydrogen as a way to preserve its polluting business as usual. If Labour is serious about making Britain a ‘clean energy superpower’ then it needs to treat the hydrogen lobby with extreme caution, not cosy up to it.” 

Beyond 2050 and the General Election

On 20 June, Beyond 2050 hosted a webinar during which the firm assessed the party manifestos and shared its analysis of “the future of UK hydrogen policy.”

The group noted that all major parties mentioned hydrogen in their plans, with the exception of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK. Beyond 2050 founder and director Rob Dale said this cross-party support means “there should not be a huge amount of friction” in Parliament for pro-hydrogen policies. 

Dale identified himself as a Labour member who attended an event hosted by the party on 18 June. He said several Labour parliamentary candidates “have interacted with the hydrogen industry before”, including Melanie Onn, the former deputy chief executive of RenewableUK who is standing in Grimsby, the seat she lost in 2019. 

The webinar focused on frontrunner Labour’s plans for hydrogen, arguing that its manifesto suggests hydrogen is “baked into” the party’s clean energy plans. This includes its Green Hydrogen Manufacturing Fund, which plans to invest up to £500 million over the next parliament to support hydrogen infrastructure and supply chains.

The Labour Party and Beyond 2050 did not respond to DeSmog’s requests for comment. 

Author-pic-light
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.
Adam Barnett - new white crop
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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