Lord Deben has replied to Tim Yeo's polite inquiry about the nature of Veolia, a company chaired by Deben and which appears to represent a conflict of interest.
The position with the water company has not changed materially since I wrote to the committee before my confirmation. Veolia Water UK is overwhelmingly a supplier of services to the water industry. One of its subsidiaries continues to run an infrastructure services business which carries out utility connections of all kinds, including connections to renewable and non-renewable energy sources. It will complete grid connections, whatever the nature of the energy source, and is energy source neutral.
As I have previously highlighted, the whole business represents a very small proportion of Veolia Water UK's turnover. Indeed, its connections to renewables represented less than 1% of Veolia Water UK's turnover in the most recent financial period.
Hmm. As the Mail on Sunday pointed out the other day, Deben had previously suggested that he would be whiter than white on this issue:
If [Veolia] had ‘even a remote connection’ with the environment or climate change, he promised, he would step down.
He seems to have resiled from his position of purity in double quick time.
The other thing to point out is that Deben will be at the heart of decisions that could very quickly turn that 1% figure into something considerably larger. Indeed Veolia have admitted that new wind connections are likely to be a new source of income for the infrastructure business. Deben himself has noted the closer and closer links of Veolia Water to the other parts of the Veolia empire, which include Dalkia, a renewables company.
Deben is either Veolia's man or he is the public's man. He can't be both.