Energy minister accepts £18,000 from board member of climate sceptic group

Matthew Hancock, the conservative energy and climate change minister, has accepted £18,000 from a board member and funder of the UK’s most notorious and secretive climate sceptic lobby group.

Hancock, who is running for re-election as the Conservative MP for West Suffolk, has been accepting annual cash donations of £4,000 from Neil Record since 2011, as well as £2,000 in travel costs in 2010, according to Electoral Commission records. The most recent donation was given in November 2014, a few months after Hancock was appointed as energy and climate change minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

Last year Record was revealed to be one of the funders of the Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He confirmed his funding of the group to the Guardian.

As the GWPF is registered as an “educational charity,” it is not required to reveal its financial backers, and has consistently declined to do so. Lawson has denied that the GWPF is funded by fossil fuel interests.

Record also sits on the board of the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaigning arm of the GWPF.

In an email, Record said he had never discussed energy policy or climate change with Hancock.

“Over the past several years I have provided some research support for Matthew Hancock, in my view an impressive 2010-entry MP,” he said.  “I resolved to do this when Matthew was a backbencher, and since then Matthew has had several ministerial responsibilities, and only recently has energy become part of his portfolio.”

“Our discussions tend to centre round our mutual interest in economics (we both started our careers as economists at the Bank of England).”

He went on to confirm his scepticism over the extent to which climate science is “settled.”

“I believe that the important scientific enquiry required for us to understand man’s effect on the climate is being hampered by a monolithic ‘establishment’ view that the science is settled,” Record said.

“While I think it is likely that increasing (man-made) carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are (modestly) increasing global temperatures, I also believe that the confidence ascribed to, for example, estimates of the sensitivity of the climate to water vapour and the associated feedback loops, is not justified by the evidence available so far.”

He also criticised some green energy technologies.

“It is also clear that some of the current popular political choices for carbon reduction (wind; solar in high latitudes) are woefully inefficient and unsustainable,” Record said. “Advances in technology will undoubtedly continue to allow us to improve our carbon/GDP efficiency, but only if the current climate obsessions and fashions are subjected to proper scrutiny.”

Hancock could not be reached by telephone and did not immediately respond to a list of questions emailed to his constituency office and to the Conservative party headquarters.

Hancock started his political career as chief of staff to George Osborne, before running successfully as MP for West Suffolk in 2010, where he helped to campaign against onshore wind developments in his region. In 2012 he was promoted to Minister for Skills in the Department for Business and Department for Education.

Hancock has made his support for fracking clear; in 2012, he authored a Conservative Free Enterprise Group report calling for the government to slash wind subsidies and push ahead with shale. A 2014 hand-written note to Andrew Austin, CEO of onshore gas firm Igas, released under the Freedom of Information Act, says “Onshore oil and gas is a key agenda for me.”

Although Record is a major Tory donor, giving the party a total of £339,050 since 2008, according to Electoral Commission data, Hancock is the only individual MP that he donates to. All donations have been declared through the Electoral Commission.

Record has apparently boasted before of how political donations can lead to increased access to the highest echelons of the Tory leadership. The Daily Mail has reported that in 2009, Record commented on the access to Cameron that membership of the £50,000 a year Leaders Group affords its members: “It’s very discreet and nicely done,” Record reportedly said. “You get 10 people around the table. There will be five minutes from David about what they want to do. And then it’s any questions.”

EDITED: This post was edited to include Mr. Record’s comments.