From the moment that the Sunday Times caught Tim Yeo offering to advise energy companies for cash, it was clear that his chairmanship of the energy and climate change select committee was untenable. Yet he’s coming to this conclusion slowly. It has taken him until now to decide he’ll “step aside,” apparently under pressure from Labour members of the committee.
Committee chairmen are elected nowadays, so what other members of the committee matters in a way it didn’t used to. And Yeo, who took £140,000 from various commercial interests last year, will now have become an embarrassment to the green movement more generally. Those who regard renewable energy as a massive racket will see in him the embodiment of their suspicion: an MP on the take. Perhaps not illegally, and it’s quite possible that (as he insists) he didn’t break any rules. But this looks appalling: why should an MP be taking money from lobbyists?
The the Sunday Times undercover recording (above) shows Yeo explaining how he publicly excused himself from questioning a GB Railfreight chief because of his acknowledged conflict of interest (he’s a director of its parent company, Eurotunnel). But he says what he did for GB Railfreight “in private was another matter altogether” and boasts that he was able to tell “was able to tell him in advance what he should say”.
Yeo now says what he said about having coached a client was “totally untrue” – so he’ll now presumably sue himself for libel. He has already referred himself to the authorities, and said tonight that he has stepped aside “solely to ensure the smooth running of the committee during the next few weeks.” He added:-
“I firmly believe that I have not breached the MPs’ code of conduct in any respect and therefore await the outcome of the commissioner’s investigation with confidence. I do not wish the commissioner’s investigation to be a distraction from the committee’s important work. I believe that during the past three years the committee has been extremely effective and I want this to continue.”
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris
‘I’m sure Yeo’s genuinely worried about the subsidies for green jobs, especially as he holds so many of them himself.”
It’s not yet clear who’ll replace him but Peter Lilley, who is more of a climate realist, is the likely candidate. And a recent Spectator cover boy.