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« Targeted? | Main | On the limits to climatology »

The Veolia affair - who knew?

David Rose tweeted last night that Lord Deben has resigned from his position at Veolia Water UK:

It seems from company records that of CCC has resigned as chairman of Veolia. Strange he hasn't announced it, to my knowledge.

Deben's position at the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) was clearly incompatible with working for a company making money from grid connections. What remains unclear is how we got to the situation where his position was deemed acceptable in the first place.

What do we know? You will recall that Lord Deben told the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee that Veolia was "only a water company". However, the previous year he had signed off Veolia's accounts, which discussed the grid connection business. A few weeks after his House of Commons appearance he signed off a new set of accounts that again discussed grid connections.

It seems that Ed Davey and Sue Gray, the head of ethics at the Cabinet Office, both knew of Deben's involvement with Veolia and cleared it. Questions therefore need to be answered over what they knew about the nature of Veolia's business and how much crossover there was with the remit of the CCC. Water metering - the core of Veolia UK's business - is something that has been pushed quite hard by the CCC, so even a cursory look should have revealed a problem. But, more importantly, what did Davey and Gray know of Veolia's grid connection business? Did they know and wave such concerns aside? Or did Deben simply tell them that Veolia was "only a water company", just as he did the House of Commons committee?

Put another way, either Deben misled DECC in his application, or Davey and Gray gave their blessing to a candidate with a conflict of interest.

We need to know.


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Reader Comments (41)

Sign George Monbiot's petition:

Dec 12, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Veolia's involvement in illegal Isreali settlements, should have been enough!

Dec 12, 2013 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

"Put another way, either Deben misled DECC in his application, or Davey and Gray gave their blessing to a candidate with a conflict of interest."

or both are correct

Dec 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

George Monbiot's petition:

While we believe that anyone who is honest about their interests should be allowed to speak, we call on the BBC not to give airtime on controversial issues to organisations which refuse to say who funds them.

Sounds impractical to me. Is this a roundabout method of trying to silence e.g. GWPF?

Dec 12, 2013 at 12:41 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

That would silence any foundation with anonymous sponsors, which is just about every foundation.

Dec 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Richard Tol, this is a profoundly undemocratic and intimidatory proposal.

Firstly, it assumes that anyone who says anything in public is for sale - i.e. that whoever makes donations is calling the tune. While there is something in that, the assumption that A=B is offensive and wrong. For example, I make donations to a broadly free market and libertarian organisation, but don't agree (and sometimes strongly disagree) with their views on particular issues. Why should my name be used in this way?

Secondly, it negates people's privacy. It is ironic that, in an age where agencies and individuals who know about things like child abuse are not allowed to talk to each other because of "privacy laws", the right to make lists of people who support privately funded organisations is being championed. It is particularly annoying because organisations which manage to extract funds from the EU or their local governments are somehow seen as "cleaner" in this context. There is absolutely no reason to believe that this is the case. But, the use of taxpayer monies needs to be accountable.

Which brings me to:

(3) The underlying assumption is that money contributed by private individuals is automatically suspect, while money from the EU or the local council is pristine. This is a very dangerous assumption, as even a moment's consideration would reveal.

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:07 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Richard Tol
Sorry, while I would be happy for ALL conflicts of interests to be declared we all know that the likes of Greenpeace, WWF or the numerous government-funded fake charities which get an easy ride in the media would not be seen to have conflicts of interest.

Monbiot just wants anyone who will dispute CAGW or his other pet causes off the air and this is a superficially reasonable-sounding way to do that. And don't think that if he succeeds with the BBC it will stop there.

Most of the bodies which might want to dispute CAGW etc. are probably going to have to take money which would be perceived to taint their views because they wouldn't get any government money and, given the hatred donors like the Koch's have had to suffer, most other people are going to be put off too.

Some anti-CAGW groups are going to be faced with poverty/non-existence or not being able to get their message out anyway.

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

@johanna, artwest
This should be applied impartially.

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Still listed at

Chairman, Sancroft International Ltd
Chairman, Veolia UK (formerly Vivendi UK) (water company)
Non-executive Director, Veolia Voda

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I see nothing wrong with declaring funding sources, surely it is just about transparency. Nothing to fear there is there?

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

I tend to agree with Tol and Monbiot. Let the chips fall where they may.

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


David Rose checked with Companies House, so it's probably just that the HoC website has not yet been updated.

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Just being sceptical of any claims until I've seen convincing evidence!

Dec 12, 2013 at 1:50 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Anyone see that front-page piece in The Times yesterday - that Deben supports the immediate start of fracking..?

Has he suddenly bought shares in Cuadrilla, perhaps..?

Anyway - a welcome conversion...

Dec 12, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

Given the antics of Unite and people who invaded Belcombe there is no way in hell id ever want my name and home address released for the crime of supporting groups like the GPWF!

Unlike climate deniers I wouldn't put it past the drama greens to use violence to intimidate people out of supporting non-catastrophilics causes!


Dec 12, 2013 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

His stepping down was notified to Companies House on 12/11/13

Dec 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Mailman, not sure it would be a case of listing every single personal donor but those over a certain amount of money. Unless you are give big money, I think you'll be safe

Dec 12, 2013 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

If the directorship wasn't a conflict of interest then why the need to step down? The answer will likely be along the lines of denying it was a conflict but still wanting to avoid the appearance of a conflict. Yet this was always going to be an issue and should have been sorted before Gummer was given the job.(Ideally by not giving Gummer the job...)


Funnily enough Veolia have an interest in fracking - they do work in the US cleaning waste water. A relatively small player in a market dominated by a single firm they are still said to be the joint second biggest in that market:

Currently, the oilfield water treatment market is dominated by one player. Cameron (CAM_) has more than a 50% market share of the market followed by Siemens (SI_) and Veolia with each owning 8% of the market.

Dec 12, 2013 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Round my way, Veolia Environmental Services specialise in rubbish management. Nuff said.

Dec 12, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

From Companies House:


Dec 12, 2013 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Re John,

> I see nothing wrong with declaring funding sources, surely it is just about transparency. Nothing to fear there is there?


We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.

I wouldn't want a group like Greenpeace knowing what organisations I give money to.

Dec 12, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

TerryS: When did Greenpeace last cause GBH or death to one of their opponents? Other people in this world are putting their lives on the line every day for what they believe. Why don't we either just grow a pair or at least salute those that aren't bound by fear and keep our own caution to ourselves?

Dec 12, 2013 at 4:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

This should be applied impartially

No, Richard - it should not be applied at all. First, because it would not be applied impartially, and second, because source of funding is immaterial to validity of argument. Monbiot is funded by Auto Trader - has that seemed to influence his views?

Dec 12, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

My eyes! My eyes!

Bish, please could you change the picture? The site is much better without artwork for artwork's sake, IMHO. A good headline paints its own picture.

Dec 12, 2013 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Orlowski

Richard Tol, flicking me off by saying that "this should be applied impartially" is bullshit and avoiding the point. If some pro-greenie foundation gets funding from the EU or the local council, people assume that it is for the common good.

But if private citizens or companies get together to do something, it is assumed to be against the common good.

This is the brilliant thinking that that is rapidly bringing Europe to its knees. In 20 years you will be broke.

Thank goodness my parents came to Australia.

Dec 12, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Is Deben still a director of Sancroft?? It appears that he is.

Our areas of expertise include but are not limited to:
•Global environmental policy and regulation
•Green buildings and planning
•Energy efficiency
•Waste, water and carbon efficiency
•Sustainable sourcing
•Business environment

Dec 12, 2013 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Let's be clear, Veolia UK is no longer a "water company". They sold off the water supply and wastewater treatment business to an equity group called "Rift".
They are now a provider of "management services" to the water industry. So they can design and build works, operate them, provide all sorts of consultancy, etc..
That would include energy management, generation of biogas, use of emergency generators for STOR, etc - as well as the identified grid connection services.
All of these activities - and probably others - stand to benefit from the CCC's promotion of the green agenda.

Dec 12, 2013 at 5:58 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

I'd be a lot happier if this buffoon had resigned from the CCC.

Dec 12, 2013 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Richard Tol
@johanna, artwest
"This should be applied impartially."

What johanna said on Dec 12, 2013 at 5:26 PM - i.e. you know it won't be.

Plus there is a major difference between people who are legislators or working behind the scenes on legislation - (plenty of WWF/Greenpeace etc foot soldiers there) and people who are giving their views or information on TV. Those views and that information will be out in the open and open to criticism. You know anti-CAGW views won't go unchallenged unlike the vast majority of pro-CAGW assertions. There typically will be an introductory alarmist film by a BBC reporter then a single sceptic facing one or more alarmists plus a hostile interviewer.
Even this happens rarely amongst a sea of programmes (Channel 4 and others are just as bad to be fair) which take CAGW as a given.
So the poor lonely sceptic comes on and a list of major contributors to their organization is read out and their opponent smugly announces that their wages only come from their university salary as the "debate" descends into a squabble about the probity of backers Sound like a level playing field to you?

Dec 12, 2013 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Let's agree to disagree.

I think that people like the Bishop and the GWPF would gain in credibility if the source of their meager funding would be disclosed (because there is a widespread misconception that they're rich and fossil-funded) while the green lobbyists and academics-for-hire would be exposed for what they are.

But that is based on a hunch rather than hard data. Not worth fighting over.

Dec 12, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

The problem of listing sponsors will be that the Green Taliban will continually inundate these people with letters, emails and demonstrations.

Intimidation is one of their key weapons.

Dec 12, 2013 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

I agree Richard Tol. Why so much fear of doing it? It would never be about small individual donors but large high donations from individuals. Seems like a lack of trust and fear.

Dec 12, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Richard Drake: when will you give up your strange obsession about the use of 'real' names in a blog? Your inference that using one's real name requires the growth of testicles is both insulting, sexist and silly. I always understood that the quality of the contribution is of prime importance. .

Dec 12, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

RE: George Monbiot's petition:
"While we believe that anyone who is honest about their interests should be allowed to speak, we call on the BBC not to give airtime on controversial issues to organisations which refuse to say who funds them."

Monbiot is just trying to stop the debate about the evidence and twist it to one about funding. Who cares about the funding? Not the WWF or Greenpeace. I'm sure I don't care. It's the evidence and quality of rational debate that counts. The problem for the Greens is they actually have NO big hitters to speak for them. No trusted voice to defend their Carbon Budgets and windfarms.

According to THEIR research the is a CLIMATE SILENCE. Find report here:

Dec 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterFay Tuncay

Alexander K: I didn't mention the subject. My comment would apply to either case. Has the obsession perchance become your own?

Richard Tol (6:54 PM): Well said. It's hunch only. Mine happens to align with yours.

Dec 12, 2013 at 10:34 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks for that link Fay, that's a rather interesting paper.

Dec 13, 2013 at 12:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Richard Tol, OK, let's agree to disagree. As a fellow Dutchie by birth, it is good to see that vigorous debate does not have to descend into personal acrimony, consistent with our shared culture.

I must reiterate, though, that the notion that private political activity should be scrutinised and publicised by State agencies is profoundly totalitarian, IMO.

Dec 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I know for a fact that Veolia recently scaled back its CO² capture and storage R&D programme and several of the researchers were made redundant. A number had become highly sceptical of the 'CO² is toxic' meme anyway. I personally steered some of them to Craig Isdo's excellent site Most are under 30 and I expect them to prove worthy and highly informed 'sceptics' once they have done grieving.

Dec 13, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve (Paris)

The business of energy provision is a serious one. As we saw with the Tyndall Centre, climate change is occupied by ideologues entertaining such thoughts as annihilation of energy sources. And you have a state department where these two elements are joined together, the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The conflict starts at the top.

Dec 14, 2013 at 12:57 AM | Registered Commentershub

I would trust moonbat as far as I could throw a grand piano into the teeth of a hurricane.

Dec 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

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