Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2868

Environment secretary had shares in climate killer Shell

Plus: new evidence of J Robert Oppenheimer’s lies about the atomic bomb
Issue 2868
Theresa Villiers illustrating a story about Theresa Villiers and Shell

Theresa Villiers had shares in Shell (Picture: Downing Street/Flickr)

A former environment secretary has revealed she has shares worth more than £70,000 in Shell that she did not disclose as required for more than five years.

Theresa Villiers was the secretary for environment, food and rural affairs from July 2019 until February 2020. But she only disclosed this week that she has had investments worth more than £70,000 each in Shell and the drinks company Diageo since February 2018

Villiers’ late declaration of her ­interests could place her in breach of the House of Commons code of conduct.

Boris Johnson put Tory donors into the House of Lords at twice the rate of any other prime minister in the last decade, with the party taking £17 ­million from peers he appointed.

Of the 50 Tory peers nominated during Johnson’s time in Number 10 were either already party donors or went on to donate money. Website openDemocracy analysed all of the 276 appointments to the House of Lords between 2013 until the start of 2023, and looked at the background and ­political donations of each appointee.

The data shows the percentage of Johnson’s appointments who were Tory donors was almost double that of David Cameron, who had the second highest rate.

They include billionaire ­businessmen Michael Spencer and Michael Hintze, as well as multimillionaire banker Peter Cruddas.

Johnson actually forced through the appointment of Cruddas to the House of Lords in 2021, despite the House of Lords Appointments Commission recommending against the appointment.

He also elevated former MP Zac Goldsmith to the Lords. Goldsmith, who has recently resigned from a ministerial post over alleged government “apathy” on environmental issues, has donated over half a million pounds to the party over the years.

Overall, some £52 million was donated by Lords appointees to the ­parties that nominated them.

The vast majority was donated to the Conservative Party. Most of Labour’s £2.37 million donations from Lords appointees came from one source—William Haughey.

Haughey, appointed a Lord in 2013 by then Labour leader Ed Miliband, is a Scottish businessman and refrigeration magnate with an estimated family net worth of over £250 million.

European governments have cut the number of firefighters despite the climate crisis increasing the risk of fires. Analysis by the European Trade Union Confederal (ETUC) says France lost the highest number of firefighters (-5,446).  The cuts will have affected Europe’s readiness to deal with fires caused by the hottest summer on record.

Analysis of publicly available data last year showed total fire fighter head count across 46 English fire authorities has fallen 20.4 percent since 2010.

Energy giant E.On has reported an eight billion euro (£6.9 billion) increase in the value of its sales in Britain over the last six months. That’s the result of soaring price increases.

The company said its European sales were down 1 percent in value. But those in Britain rose at breakneck speed, hitting £18.1 billion, up from £11 billion a year earlier.

Adjusted EBITD— a measure of profit which strips out the impacts of tax and other items— more than doubled in Britain to £723 million.

Across the group adjusted EBITDA was almost £5 billion.

Frackers are told to plug their well near Blackpool

Good news! Industry regulator, the North Sea Transition Authority, last week issued plug and abandonment notices for the fracking wells at Preston New Road, near Blackpool. The company has until the end of 2024 to carry out the work.

Frack Free Lancashire, which has campaigned against Cuadrilla’s operations there for more than ten years, said the news was “long overdue”.

Miranda Cox, from the organisation, said, “Obviously, we will fully believe it when the last piece of equipment and every last grain of silica sand has been removed.

“Cuadrilla have been the bane of our lives for over a decade. The stress and ramifications of their failed fracking attempts will never be forgotten nor forgiven.”

Susan Holliday, of Preston New Road Action group, said, “It is positive news. I am however perplexed as to why they have been allowed so long to do it, as their previous notice gave them four months, whereas this one allows them 16 months.

“They have now no reason to not get the site decommissioned by their June 2025 deadline. Our community will have endured the stress of fracking for 11 years by that point.”

New evidence of Oppenheimer’s lies about bomb  

Newly declassified documents reveal that General Leslie Groves—director of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret operation that built the atomic bomb during the Second World War—misled Congress and the public about the effects of radiation. He did so initially out of ignorance, then denial, and finally, wilful deception.

The documents also show that some scientists in the project, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos lab where the bomb was first tested, kept quiet about Groves’ lie rather than dispute him or confront the general directly.

The cache of documents was released last week within days of the 78th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in the wake of the release of film Oppenheimer.

One of the new documents the archive obtained is a memo by four scientists.

It is titled “Calculated Biological Effects of Atomic Explosion in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” and dated 1 September 1945.

The US dropped the mass-murder bombs on 6 and 9 August. Until this memo was written, it had been assumed the bomb’s victims would be killed by its blast and its heat.

But this memo concluded that at least some of the deaths had been caused by radioactive fallout, long after the explosions.

The day before the memo’s date, at a press conference, Groves said radiation had caused no deaths and that claims to the contrary—some published in Asian newspapers—were “propaganda.”

Oppenheimer had downplayed the effects of radiation, but he became aware of the inspectors’ studies and of Groves’ false comments. He said nothing publicly about Groves’ lies.

Tory club takes state cash and gives to the Tories 

A posh Tory club has lined the party’s pockets with hundreds of thousands of pounds after taking almost £850,000 in Covid bailout cash.

Diners at the Carlton Club, just around the corner from the Ritz in London, have raised a whopping £250,000 for Conservative MPs and their local associations.

Recipients of the money from the private members’ club and its political committee include Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson, who was given £15,000 in January.

The venue in fancy St James’s, is Britain’s oldest Conservative club and was the original home of the party. According to its accounts, it received over £843,000 in grants from the government in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Carlton Club and its connected groups such as its political committee have donated a £247,300 to the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak has taken a taxpayer-funded private flight for travel in the UK once every eight days since he has been at Number 10, new figures show.

The data revealed that Sunak has already used RAF jets and helicopters for domestic journeys more frequently than any recent PM—after just seven months in office.

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