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Wed 3 March 2021

The coffers of a senior Conservative MP have been boosted by a company owned by a man who has questioned climate change, Sam Bright reveals

A member of Boris Johnson’s Government has accepted a £10,000 donation from a leading UK climate change sceptic, Byline Times can reveal.

New records show that Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt received the donation last month from a firm called First Corporate Consultants, owned by Terence Mordaunt – a renowned critic of established climate change science.

Indeed, Terence Mordaunt is the chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which is described by investigative outfit DeSmog as “the UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group”. Mr Mordaunt assumed the role in 2019, having served as the director of the pressure group’s advocacy arm, the Global Warming Policy Forum, since April 2017.

The GWPF was founded by former Conservative Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser in 2009. The group states on its website that it seeks to debate the “contested” science of global warming and is “deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated”.

“No one has proved yet that CO2 is the culprit (of climate change),” Mr Mordaunt told openDemocracy in 2019. He insisted that the pressure group was not involved in climate change “denial”.

Mr Mordaunt previously gave £10,000 to Penny Mordaunt in May 2019, and has been a prolific Conservative Party donor in recent years – donating at least £309,000 to the central party and various candidates since 2003, including £25,000 to Boris Johnson’s Conservative leadership bid in 2019.

In October 2019, after Johnson had won that contest, BuzzFeed reported that the Government had awarded £100,000 to the Bristol Port Company – the firm owned by Mr Mordaunt, that directly donated to Johnson’s campaign – in order to help the local port to get ready for Brexit. The Department for Transport said that “robust” competition criteria had been applied to the Government contract.

There are conflicting claims from various publications about whether Terence Mordaunt and Penny Mordaunt are related.

Elected as the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North in 2010, Penny Mordaunt rose to prominence during Theresa May’s premiership, serving as Secretary of State for International Development and, briefly, as Secretary of State for Defence.

Losing favour under Boris Johnson, Mordaunt was demoted to the backbenches until February 2020, when she was appointed as Paymaster General – a relatively marginal Government position that is not attached to one portfolio in particular. Rather, the Paymaster General is a roaming role, performing any duties which the Government designates.

The MP has been outspoken about the veracity of climate change and the dangers posed by it.

“Climate change is an existential threat,” she said in a parliamentary address in April 2019. Calling on the UK to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, Penny Mordaunt said that, “unless we tackle climate change” much of the Government’s other work “will be for nothing”.

It is unclear how these beliefs square with her willingness to accept donations from First Corporate Consultants.

Johnson’s administration, for its part, has sustained a rhetorical zeal about climate change and its effects. The UK hosts the UN COP26 climate change summit this year, while the Prime Minister views environmental advocacy as a way of forging an alliance with new US President Joe Biden.

However, as has typically been the case during Johnson’s premiership, rhetoric hasn’t exactly corresponded with reality. The Government recently waved through plans for the UK’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years, based in Cumbria, that threatens to “undermine our credibility both at home and abroad”, according to the Labour Party.

The topic of climate change has not yet split the Conservative movement, though it has planted the seeds of a serious rift in years to come.

Neither Penny Mordaunt nor Terence Mordaunt responded to Byline Times’ request for comment.

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