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Tory MP calling for delay to UK climate action has banked £150k from oil firm

Former energy minister John Hayes, who has likened climate protesters to ‘Radical Islam’, has received a £50,000 salary from BB Energy since 2018

Adam Bychawski
28 October 2021, 10.00am
John Hayes works for BB Energy as a strategic adviser
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Chris Bull / Alamy Stock Photo

A former Conservative minister who has criticised climate change policies and joined calls to restart fracking has been paid £150,000 by an oil firm, openDemocracy can reveal.

Since 2018, John Hayes, who served as an energy minister in David Cameron’s government, has worked for BB Energy as a strategic adviser.

His register of interests says he currently earns £50,000 in the role, for about 11 days’ work a year. This comes on top of his standard MP salary of £81,932.

Founded in Lebanon, BB Energy is one of the world’s “leading independent energy trading companies”, trading more than 33 million metric tonnes of oil every year.

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When he was appointed, Hayes said he would “advise the company on strategic plans in the context of changes in the worldwide energy market”.

The Lincolnshire MP recently criticised the government’s plan to bring forward a ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars, saying that a delay would allow “fossil fuels to become even cleaner”.

Last month, he also joined calls from Tory MPs to allow shale fracking to resume in the UK. The practice has been banned since 2019, after a scientific report found it was not possible to accurately predict the probability of earthquakes linked to drilling.

When MPs have lucrative side-jobs for private firms it raises questions over whose interests they are serving

The government’s own Climate Change Committee warned in March that there is “little, if any, room for increased fossil gas consumption” if the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement are to be met.

BB Energy is not known to be involved in fracking but says that it sells oil around the world – and is one of the largest traders in the Mediterranean.

Hayes declared his role at the oil traders, and there is no evidence that rules have been broken. But campaigners say that questions will always be raised when MPs take second jobs.

“MPs are elected to provide a voice for their constituents in Westminster, but when they also have lucrative side-jobs for private companies it raises questions over whose interests they are really serving,” said Alex Runswick, senior advocacy manager at Transparency International UK.

“MPs should take all necessary steps to avoid the perception – or reality – they are using their public position for private gain.”

Hayes, who was once described as the “champion of the motorist” during his time as a transport minister, also recently contributed to a report critical of the government's net-zero policies.

The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and UK Hauliers decries the “environmental evangelism” and “virtue signalling” of the government’s plan to phase out new petrol and diesel engines by 2030.

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The publication was sponsored by Global Warming Policy Forum, a think tank founded by climate change denier Nigel Lawson. Its stated aims are to challenge what it describes as the “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change.

The Office for Budget Responsibility warned in July that while the costs of reaching net zero are significant, they could be much higher if the government delays acting until 2030. Public debt could rise to 289% of GDP by the end of the century if climate change is left unchecked, it said.

The MP has also drawn comparisons between climate activism and “radical Islam”, writing: “Radical Islam, Black Lives Matter and the Extinction Rebellion are cultural not economic movements which want to disown our collective past and so transform our very way of life and so dictate the future.”

During his time as energy minister, Hayes caused controversy by refusing to support any further expansion to onshore wind power, describing wind turbines as a “terrible intrusion”.

BB Energy boasted of making record profits in 2020 in its annual report, writing that it had “successfully captured” market volatility caused by the pandemic.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. Hayes declined to comment.

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