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« Hulme slams 97% paper | Main | Ladies of misrule »
Thursday
Jul252013

Deben will not be consulted

In one of his recent appearances in the House of Lords, Lord Deben said that he had put in place arrangements to ensure that his involvement in Veolia Water did not represent a conflict of interest for his position as head of the Committee on Climate Change.

This was intriguing and I decided to write to DECC to find out exactly what these steps were. Here's the response:

Lord Deben has informed DECC of the steps he has taken to guard against any conflict of interest, perceived or actual, with regard to Veolia Water UK.

He has explained that activities in relation to connection of electricity supplies are undertaken by a subsidiary of Veolia Water UK, Veolia Water Infrastructure Limited, which has a separate Board of Directors on which Lord Deben does not sit. Lord Deben has informed the Secretary of State that, while no matter in relation to the operations of this subsidiary has come before the main Board of Veolia Water UK during his tenure, he has now given instructions that he is not to be consulted on any matter connected with these operations, nor receive any papers were it to come before Veolia Water UK’s main board in future.

As the Energy and Climate Change Committee is aware the Department’s view is that there is not a conflict of interest in these circumstances.

This is truly bizarre. It is not the decisions taken within Veolia that are conflicted by Deben working in the CCC. It's exactly the other way round. He needs to ensure that as chairman of the CCC he is not consulted on anything that affects Veolia. Since pretty much everything that happens within the CCC potentially affects Veolia, his position seems to me to be untenable.

What's the next step, I wonder?

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Reader Comments (30)

Resignation from the CCC would go a long way towards solving the problem. :)

Jul 25, 2013 at 6:52 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

What's the difference between a perceived conflict of interest and an actual one?

Jul 25, 2013 at 7:05 AM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Hold a celebration CCC party at the local fast food restaurant?

Big Macs all round!

Jul 25, 2013 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

quote
What's the next step, I wonder?
unquote

Interesting to see him on the next gravy train. By not allowing water supply to keep up with demand, the powers that be are creating another crisis just like the one they manufactured with electricity.

Wait for the projected shortfall in supply and the panicked cries for something to be done, watch the politicians ride to the rescue, watch the rationing by price, see the poor get dirtier and the rich little parasites get richer.

Have these people no shame?

JF

Jul 25, 2013 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Julian:

One word answer is "NO". I have come across lots of people benefitting from the CC scam and not one of them has any shame for the harm and distress they are causing to people, especially to the poor.

Jul 25, 2013 at 7:53 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

It's a sign that Dave is still hanging on to the idea that he needs the Green vote to win the next election. Once he finally realises that his green policies are actually losing him votes, he'll feed Deben and Yeo to the wolves.

Jul 25, 2013 at 8:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

When the kids were young I bought the Christmas presents they gave to me. I had to promise not to peep through the wrapping, of course.

Jul 25, 2013 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Richard Drake has the correct solution re Lord Dipin.
Can I suggest that he (or another BH reader) writes a complaint to:
Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM,
Commissioner for Standards,
House of Lords,
London,
SW1A 0PW

lordsstandards@parliament.uk

They may be pleasantly surprised :-)

Jul 25, 2013 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

His is the simple test:

If there was no conflict of interest then the shareholders would demand his removal. They are clearly paying for a board member who cannot do an efficient job.

This would not normally be tolerated... unless... he brought something worthwhile to table to compensate.

He does bring added value. So he stays.

Clear conflict of interest.

Jul 25, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Why on earth is he even being considered for the CCC chair? Surely parliament does not want another Tim Yeo fiasco. And by the way, where is Yeo these days?

Jul 25, 2013 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Peter Stroud
It is not a question of Deben "being considered" for the chair of CCC; he is the chair of CCC and even Yeo spotted the conflict of interest —– eventually! (Though this could have been a back-covering exercise on his part).

The Standards Commission is an obvious starting point but it will be necessary to explain very carefully the difference between Deben being kept at arms length from Veolia Infrastructure in his capacity as Veolia chairman (which is a matter relative to Veolia) and his being barred from taking part in CCC business which might impact on any part of Veolia (which is relative to parliament).
This may seem obvious but since it took me a quarter of an hour and four re-writes to get that sentence right (and I can only hope I did, eventually) it isn't quite as simple to explain as all that.
I think we could do with a sympathetic ear on this. Lilley, perhaps? Donoughue (except that as a Labour peer he could be accused of political prejudice).
This mustn't seem like a witch-hunt. My opinions on John Selwyn Gummer are well-known but this is purely a matter of a serious and potentially damaging (to the British people and good governance) conflict of interest which Deben either does not understand (as the DECC reply to Andrew would suggest) or which he does not see as relevant (noble cause corruption, anyone?) or which he does understand and knows is relevant but since it's all tied up with "climate change" he's pretty sure he can get away with.
I wouldn't take bets on any of them, frankly.

Jul 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If that is the best line of defence he can come up with then it's almost all over.
- It's similar resorting to "name calling", which shows you secretly know you are wrong yourself.
will he go or will Cameron dig himself deeper ?

Jul 25, 2013 at 10:59 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

I would pay good money to see a journalist ask Deben why he so desperately wants to Chair the CCC.

Andrew Neill ideally.

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Does he have any relatives close to Dave?

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterGumboil

This response has crossed a line.

It is not simply wrong or mistaken. It is deeply insulting to the recipient, and to the whole principle of applying conflict of interest standards in government. It completely ignores the issue. It is as if Gummer were to say that there might be a conflict of interests, but it's cloudy today so that's all right...

It is such an appalling argument that I suspect Gummer had little or no hand in its drafting, and some uneducated functionary just put together a holding response with little thought. Nevertheless, he has made it, and will need to defend it.

I suggest that letters to MPs should be copied to the Commissioner for Standards, asking if this is what passes for a reasonable excuse in the world of standards these days.....

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Deben has been self serving for so long it is the only way he knows.

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

"What's the difference between a perceived conflict of interest and an actual one?"

Perceived conflicts of interest are the ones we have found out about ...

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Dodgy Geezer
I would agree with you except that I am having a nasty attack of charity and trying to give Deben the benefit of whatever doubt there may be.
If he is looking at this purely from the point of view of his business activities and sees the CCC as something he is doing for the good of the country, out of the kindness of his heart (even though he probably gets paid), and because he genuinely believes in all the climate change stuff and the need to take action, etc., etc. then it is very likely that he is blind to the problem that arises when you turn this whole thing on its head and ask him to look at it from the CCC chair angle.
And even then it is quite possible that — given his enthusiasm and blind belief in all the climate change stuff and the need to take action, etc., etc. — he still won't understand the problem.
And what is just as bad, his co-religionists in the AGW Movement won't understand the problem either!

Jul 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A man that can feed his 5-year old daughter a possibly infected beefburger to save his own political skin has no moral compass anyway.

Jul 25, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The CCC cannot be influenced by Deben's interests because they are de facto delegates of the carbon traders.

Jul 25, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

@Mike Jackson

...If he is looking at this purely from the point of view of his business activities and sees the CCC as something he is doing for the good of the country, out of the kindness of his heart (even though he probably gets paid), and because he genuinely believes in all the climate change stuff and the need to take action, etc., etc. then it is very likely that he is blind to the problem that arises when you turn this whole thing on its head and ask him to look at it from the CCC chair angle....

I take your point - but do not see this as exonerating him in any way. It is simply describing his selective blindness.

I would run into Godwin's Law if I became too precise here, but it must be obvious that most of the worst tyrannies the world has experience came, not from avaricious robber-barons ( http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33029.html ) but from intelligent and applied activists with a blind spot. It is hard, for instance, to think of ANY genocide which was not perpetrated by people who thought they were doing good. Why else would you want to kill ALL members of a community unless you genuinely believed you were cutting out a cancer?

Jul 25, 2013 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

The question that needs to be asked is; Why is Lord Deben clinging on so deparately to his role in DECC?

Surely the most honest, straight-forward approach would be to step aside and let someone else take up this position.

Why does he think his presence on DECC is so essential - and just exactly who is it essential to?

Does Lord Deben really believe that he is the only individual capable of carrying out the responsibilities of his role?

I'm sure the rest of the committee could survive quite happily without his presence on the board. I see no great demonstrations in the street as the public flock to support him. Who exactly is Lord Deben serving by clinging on to his position?

Why should so much time be taken up trying to protect the position of one individual who clearly has a conflict of interest?

Simply replace him with someone more suitable and move on

Jul 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr. Bliss

"Does Lord Deben really believe that he is the only individual capable of carrying out the responsibilities of his role?"

Almost certainly. To quote Saki, "he could learn humility from a Duchess".

Jul 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

This appears very thin.

The issue is whether any company associated with Veolia Water UK benefits or would benefit in any way whatsoever by the policies being proposed/recommended by the CCC, or even those being discussed.

It is not sufficient to hide behind some corporate veil and to argue that he has nothing to do with matters because it is a subsiduary company that deals/benifits from the issues being dealt with by the CCC. The fact is that Veolia Water UK benefits if any of its subsiduary companies (wholly or partly owned and/or controlled), or joint venture partners benefits. A benefit for a subsiduary is a benefit for the parent company. If a subsiduary company benefits then this helps the parent company to prosper. The directors obviously have an interest in seeing the company of which they are directors benefit. indeed, their remuneration and bonus package will be influenced by how the company of which they are a director performs. This means that if the subsiduary company benefits then that benefit feeds back to the parent company and in turn feeds back to the director either in remuneration, or bonus, or standing (ie., it assists getting other profitable directorships).

I would suggest that whenever an MP has any interest in a matter being debated (whether he represents a lobying group or whether he has some other financial interest/skin in the game), he should automatically be deemed to vote in whatever manner would be leat favourable for his 'interest'. Thus if say he worked for a windfarm, then when ever wind/renewables/subsidies came up for a vote, he would be deemed to vote against the proposals rolling out more windfarms and/or more subsidies for wind etc. If the proposal was that the government should favour coal generation over wind, he should be deemed to vote for the proposal.

If there is any doubt as to what vote would represent the least favourable position to his 'interest' it could be referred to an independent committee.

Jul 25, 2013 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Mr Bliss
I have no wish to be harsh but we do ourselves no favours when we persistently misunderstand the workings of government in the UK.
Deben has no position in the DECC. He is neither a Minister of the Crown nor he is a civil servant. He is not employed by or answerable to any government department.
He is the chairman of something called the Committee on Climate Change which — according to its own website — provides independent, evidence-based advice to the UK Government and Parliament. (To what extent that advice is truly independent and evidence-based is another matter of course.) The Committee was set up under s 32 and Schedule 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.
The Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change (with which the CCC is sometimes confused) is a House of Commons Select Committee.

The basic tenet of the current system is that a committee of MPs should be established to scrutinise the policy and performance of each Whitehall department.
(Institute of Government: The evolving role of Select Committees)
I hope this helps to clear up the confusion.

Jul 25, 2013 at 4:46 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

That time they were getting rid of Mrs Thatcher the whole cabinet went into see her one by one.John Selwyn Gummer he still was back then, he cried his eyes in front of her and still stabbed her in the back.

Ps and he was opposed to women priests in the Church of England.

Bumpcious little beaurocrat

Jul 25, 2013 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

There is no way Deben can isolate himself from bits of Veolia's business which could be influenced by Climate Change policies. The specific reference to the subsidiary carrying out renewables connections is a red herring.
A few examples spring to mind:
# Veolia operates many sewage treatment works. Biogas generation is common practise and attracts subsidies/ROCs/hand-outs when used for "renewable" power.
# They operate landfill sites which often have methane recovery systems. Ditto above.
# Energy from waste is another business line.
# Very topical: many of their big water treatment and sewage works have back-up generators which stand to benefit from the government's latest wheeze to try and keep the lights on.
As the Bish says in the header, it is hard to think of any part of Veolia which could NOT be affected by CCC activities

Jul 25, 2013 at 10:14 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Jul 25, 2013 at 4:46 PM | Mike Jackson
/////////////////////////
Mike

I am not sure of the point that you are trying to make.

The problem is that "..the Committee on Climate Change which — according to its own website — provides independent, evidence-based advice to the UK Government and Parliament...." and this advice influences policy making. It is feedback and recommendations made by the Committee which are the driving force behind much of the government's energy policy (if you can call it an energy policy given that in reality it is a green agenda policy).

You then nail matters with your aside made in parenthesis, namely "To what extent that advice is truly independent and evidence-based is another matter of course." Herein is the crux, is Deben's input in the workings of the Committee biased by his connections with a business that benefit from a green agenda and/or which would suffer should the government roll back its green agenda, cut subsidies for renewables and instead promote conventional form energy production such as coal and gas? As chair he plays a leading role (the first amongst equals) such that the advice profferred by the CCC may not be wholly independent of the biases which may be brought about by his business connections.

It seems the point you raise reconfirms mosts people's concerns, namely the potential for bias exists and as such he has a conflict of interest and accordingly he should not be in a position whereby he can influence (by way of chairing advice) government energy policy.

Jul 26, 2013 at 3:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Mike

Further to my post at 03:06AM, you have seen the recent article on "The Lords do battle" detailing the exchanges between Lord ridley and Lord Deben. I have not commented on those exchanges since the comment section of the article will not presently open/load.

It s clear that Lord Deben is biased and not impartial. In his first letter (4th July) he states:

■There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the range has significantly changed, or that the probability distribution within this range has significantly changed.

That statement which is completely unequivocal (given the use of the word 'no') cannot possibly be correct, at least not unless one gives a very woolly interpretation to the word 'significantly', given the recent pause in the rise of global temperature anomalies and given that as a consequence of this, there have been several papers, published more recently, suggesting a lowering of Climate sensitivity, or at any rate that the probability distribution has now changed such that probabilities point more towards the low end of the range cited by the IPCC and/or suggest it unlikely that it lies wthin the high end of the range cited by the IPCC.

Irrespective of his other points which are moot and/or spin, the above cited statement clearly shows a lack of impartiality. If he was impartial he would acknowledge the evidence and the recent studies but then argue (for whatever cause/reason he considers justified and/or material) that they are not robust and/or do not displace the older studies and/or the conclussions reached by the IPCC in the 4th assessment. on Climate Sensitivity. Only someone who is very biased would wish to assert that there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. that smacks of dogma, not science.

Jul 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

richard verney
My 4.46 post yesterday was (I assume you noticed) addressed to Mr Bliss. I suggest you go and have a look at both posts at which point all should become clear.
Mr Bliss has enlisted in the ranks of those who think that the Committee on Climate Change has some connection with the DECC (which it doesn't) and I was simply trying to point out (not for the first time) that if we do not understand who does what (and who does not) in Whitehall/Westminster then there is a very good chance that our arguments will be dismissed as valueless by those who seek any reason to dismiss them!
My views on Deben are well-known and apart from my posting about the difficulty (but necessity) of making clear the difference between how his role at the CCC conflicts with his role at Veolia and how his role at Veolia conflicts with his role at the CCC, I think I've said all I need to say about the man.

Jul 26, 2013 at 12:19 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

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