Owen Paterson

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Owen Paterson

Owen Paterson is the UK Conservative Party MP for North Shropshire and a former cabinet minister. In the 2015 general election Paterson was re-elected with a majority of 15,828. [1]

Paterson is the founder of the right wing think tank UK 2020, which he set up after being sacked as environment secretary in the Cabinet reshuffle of July 2014.

Outside revolving door interests

After losing his job as secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs in July 2014, Paterson was appointed part-time, paid consultant to Randox Laboratories Ltd. Although he had dealt with the company during his time in office, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments sanctioned the role given that Paterson said that it would not include governmental engagement.[2]

Northern Ireland Secretary

He was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the incoming coalition cabinet appointed in 2010.[3]

Environment secretary

He was appointed secretary of state for the environment in September 2012.[4]

Paterson's appointment, according to the Guardian, 'marks a sharp lurch away from the green-minded policies which sheltered in the environment department and a significant weakening of the green voice at the Cabinet table'. In May 2012 for example, Paterson had 'reportedly told the Cabinet that it should end all energy subsidies, such as those for wind and solar power, and fast-track shale gas exploitation'. [5]

He left the Government in July 2014, replaced by Elizabeth Truss[6] Friends of the Earth later said 'he’s the worst Environment Secretary the UK has had for decades' [7]

Lobbying against the EU insecticides ban

In April 2013 The Observer revealed that in a letter released under freedom of information rules, Paterson had told the chemicals company Syngenta that he was 'extremely disappointed' by the European Commission's proposed ban on neonicotinoids. Paterson assured Syngenta that 'the UK has been very active' in opposing the ban and 'our efforts will continue and intensify in the coming days'.[8]

According to documents seen by the Observer Syngenta had even threatened to sue individual European Union officials involved in publishing an European Food Safety Authority report that found the pesticides posed an unacceptable risk to bees. [9]

Britain's and Paterson's lobbying was unsuccessful; the Commission passed the landmark ban on 29 April 2013 to widespread public approval.

Support of fracking

Frackrig larger.png This article is part of the Spinwatch Fracking Portal and project
Paterson has repeatedly expressed support of fracking. In September 2013, he championed fracking as means to lower the UK's energy prices, and accused opponents of 'scaremongering', saying environmental concerns had been 'massively, massively exaggerated'. [10] Speaking before a Lords committee in January 2014, he said ministers had 'failed to convince the public' to support fracking' and that he would like to see 'shale gas exploited all over rural parts of the UK', calling on the government needed to oppose protesters who 'wear exciting clothes, have exciting banners, and have very easy quick slogans'. [11]

In October 2014, Paterson said a 'complete rethink' of Britain's energy policy was needed, calling for a 'common sense approach'. He said climate change forecasts had been 'consistently and wildly exaggerated', called for the 2008 Climate Act to be suspended and repealed unless other European governments set similar legislation, called for a halt to wind turbine development and for their subsidies to be divested to fracking. [12]

Patterson said he would welcome fracking in his own. In July 2014, Dart Energy, a subsidiary of IGas, announced plans for exploratory drilling within Pateron's constituency at a site in Dudleston Heath, near Ellesmere. [13] In October 2014, Shropshire Council’s planning committee voted to oppose Dart's applications after having received 500 objections from local residents to the application. In January 2015, Dart lodged an appeal, which the planning inspectorate later upgraded to a full public inquiry. In July 2015 however, Dart announced it would not progress with the proposed exploration drilling project at the Dudleston and withdrew plans for fracking in Shropshire. [14] Throughout Dart Energy's application, he reportedly declined two invitations to talk to the community about the drilling. [15]

Paterson's constituency includes one oil and gas licence blocks, awarded to IGas, by the Oil and Gas Authority under the 14th licensing round in 2015. There plans for 2D seismic surveying in this block, but no active applications are currently underway. [16]

Voting record

Paterson has consistently voted against increasing regulations on fracking. [17]

  • 26 January 2015: voted against making fracking companies apply for an environmental permit before conducting exploratory drilling. He voted against an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to include an 18 month moratorium on fracking.
  • 11 February 2015: voted was absent for a vote on requiring more pre-conditions for where and when fracking can take place.
  • 16 December 2015: voted in favour of weakening regulations on fracking in protected areas and national parks.

Staff

Special adviser

Paterson's special adviser while he was environment secretary, Guy Robinson had previously worked at lobbyist Lynton Crosby's UK firm Crosby Textor Fullbrook. Robinson kept his Spad role when Liz Truss took over from Robinson from 2014-15 and again when new minister Andrea Leadsom was appointed in Theresa May's new cabinet after July 2016.

Socialising with lobbyists

In February 2014 Paterson was spotted socialising with Hanover Communications's founder Charles Lewington and former energy minister Charles Hendry at the Intercontinental Hotel bar in Park Lane, London. [19] Hanover's clients include, among others, controversial fracking firm Cuadrilla Resources.

Affiliations

Resources

See: Fracking lobbying firms

See: Fracking Spads

Notes

  1. Owen Paterson Express, accessed 18 May 2015
  2. Summary of Business Appointments Applications- Rt Hon Owen PatersonGov.UK, 11 August 2015, accessed 22 September 2015
  3. Her Majesty’s Government, Number10.gov.uk, accessed 12 May 2010.
  4. Juliette Jowit, Shiv Malik and Haroon Siddique, Cabinet reshuffle: who has moved so far?, guardian.co.uk, 4 September 2012.
  5. Damian Carrington, New environment secretary Owen Paterson will worry greens, 4 September 2012 13.43 BST theguardian.com
  6. Reshuffle at-a-glance: In, out and moved about, BBC News, 15 July 2014.
  7. Press & Media, Friends of the Earth, 15 July 2014, accessed 30 November 2016.
  8. guardian.co.uk, Environment secretary's letter to Syngenta on insecticide ban proposals, (obtained under FOI Act) published Monday 29 April 2013 10.41 BST
  9. Damian Carrington, Insecticide firms in secret bid to stop ban that could save bees, the Observer, 29 April 2013
  10. Tom Bawden, Owen Paterson echoes David Cameron’s claim that fracking boom can bring down energy bills, Independent, 4 September 2013, accessed 30 November 2013.
  11. Emily Gosden, Ministers have 'failed to convince the public' over fracking, Owen Paterson admits, The Telegraph, 24 January 2014.
  12. Owen Paterson in 'lights out' warning over emissions target, BBC News, 16 October 2014, accessed 30 November 2016.
  13. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-28527137 Campaigners object to Dudleston coal bed methane plans ], BBC News, 28 July 2014, accessed 30 November 2016.
  14. Dart Energy have withdrawn the application to drill for CBM in Dudleston, Frack Free Dudleston, accessed 30 November 2016.
  15. John Vidal, Beware permitting fracking, says farmer who allowed coal methane borehole, The Guardian, 17 July 2015, accessed 30 November 2016.
  16. Oil and gas: licensing rounds, GOV.uk, accessed 14 November 2016.
  17. TheyWorkForYou | Owen Paterson, TheyWorkForYou, accessed 30 November 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Register of interests of members' secretaries and research assistants, 23 March 2016, parliament.uk, accessed 22 April 2016
  19. Lobbyists are unconvincing over the minister for fracking, Socialist Worker, The Troublemaker, 4 Feb 2014, acc 24 June 2014
  20. Sam Coates & Francis Elliot, The Times, July 17, 2008 ['Tory MPs' use of staff budgets to pay for PR advice 'against rules]