UK climate minister received donations from fuel and aviation companies
The UK climate minister – who recently stated not all fossil fuels were the “spawn of the devil” – received campaign donations from one of the largest fuel distributors in the UK as well as an aviation consultant and recruiter, it has emerged.
Graham Stuart, the Conservative MP for Beverley and Holderness, was appointed climate minister by Rishi Sunak in September. He has responsibility for net zero strategy and low-carbon generation, and is the Commons lead for clean heat.
Stuart has confounded some during his short tenure as climate minister with claims that a fresh round of oil and gas licensing are “good for the environment” and more recently stating not all fossil fuels should be “viewed as the spawn of the devil”.
Now it has emerged that, in 2019, Stuart received a £10,000 donation towards his re-election campaign from JR Rix & Sons, a Hull-based business primarily involved in the distribution and sale of fuel, including heating oil, diesel and petrol.
Among JR Rix & Sons’ group of companies is Rix Petroleum, as well as Rix Heating, which specialises in the supply and maintenance of oil tanks and boilers; Rix Shipping, which operates a fleet of oil tankers; and Maritime Bunkering, one of the largest suppliers of marine fuels on the Humber estuary.
In addition to the fossil fuel-focused subsidiaries, Rix said it is also involved in the maintenance of offshore windfarms and carbon measurement, and is developing capabilities in low-energy lighting, solar and electric vehicle charging.
In addition, Stuart received a £2,000 donation from Bostonair, a Hull-based aviation consultant. Bostonair said 95% of its sales are in overseas markets so UK climate policy would not likely affect its business.
The government said Stuart had publicly declared the donations for election expenses in line with usual processes.
Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “For dirty fossil fuel cash to go directly into the pockets of ministers, who then greenlight new oil & gas licences and a climate-wrecking coalmine, is nothing short of a scandal – and it will be the public and our planet paying the price. If Stuart doesn’t recognise this glaring conflict of interest, he shouldn’t be in the job – it’s time to kick fossil fuels out of politics for good.”
The revelation, which is a matter of public record, comes shortly after Stuart told the all-party parliamentary group for the environment that he firmly supported a new coalmine in Cumbria and backed the latest oil and gas licensing round.
In backing the latter, Stuart said a more nuanced take on fossil fuels is required “rather than viewing all fossil fuels as the spawn of the devil”.
In the same meeting, he said he had “time for climate change sceptics” and does not believe that they should be “pushed out of the conversation”.
Earlier in the talk, he called on the UK to “redouble efforts to reduce greenhouse gases”, adding: “Climate change is a global issue and we will only have success if we work together.”
A spokesperson for JR Rix & Sons said: “JR Rix & Sons Ltd has supported Graham Stuart MP on a number of occasions since he was first elected as a popular and active east Yorkshire MP representing a constituency in which many of our employees live.
“The business also supports Graham Stuart’s role as climate minister. As a diverse group of companies, JR Rix & Sons Ltd is heavily involved in the renewable energy industry and actively promotes low carbon HVO as a cleaner alternative to traditional hydrocarbon fuels.”
Rix said it was also a major manufacturer of holiday homes and lodges, which “provide opportunities for people to enjoy luxurious holidays in the UK and avoid the carbon emissions created by flying”.
“As a 150-year-old business that has prospered through innovation, JR Rix & Sons Ltd will continue to invest in renewable fuels and technologies to support the UK in achieving its goal of net zero.”
Mark Parkes, the Bostonair group chief executive, who also made a personal donation of £2,000 to Stuart, registered in January 2020, said: “We decided to support Graham’s election campaign due to the excellent work he has done within his constituency, where our business is based.
“He has been involved in numerous initiatives locally and when he was on the education select committee, he did a lot to improve engagement between our local schools and business – something that remains very important to us today with 27% of our head office team having been educated at schools in Beverley.
“During his time in international trade, he was active in supporting our ultimately unsuccessful efforts to retain what is known as an AUG Licence (a labour leasing licence for Germany), which was revoked at the end of the transition period following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.”
A government spokesperson said: “The minister publicly declared the donations for election expenses in line with usual processes.
“It is not unusual for ministers to receive donations in their capacity as members of parliament and there are well established processes in place to manage conflicts of interest.”
Todd Smith, a former airline pilot, co-founder of campaign group Safe Landing and member of Extinction Rebellion, said: “This isn’t surprising in the slightest, as it’s clear that the government’s climate plans, such as their ‘Jet Zero’ strategy for aviation, has been dictated by the industry and is flying workers into danger.
“It’s clear both the public and workers in these industries are being deceived by people who we should inherently trust. Rather than continue this corporate capture, we need citizens’ and workers’ assemblies that cut out political corruption within a landscape lacking in common sense.”