David Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) is a British businessman, politician and philanthropist. He was Science Minister in Tony Blair's government from July 1998 until 10 November 2006. It is highly unusual for a minister to stay in the same job so long. He was also a member of the cabinet biotechnology committee, Sci-Bio, responsible for national policy on GM crops and foods, and as such was a key adviser to Blair on GM technology.
He was a key donor to Blair's Labour Party, giving Labour its biggest ever single donation in September 1997. On October 3 1997 he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later Minister for Science.
- 1 Says Nuclear is Renewable Energy
- 2 Labour Party donor
- 3 Biotech investor
- 4 Commercialising science
- 5 SDP activist
- 6 Science Media Centre
- 7 EU referendum
- 8 Affiliations, publications, resources, contact, references
Says Nuclear is Renewable Energy
Seen as a key nuclear proponent within Government.
In October 2005, Sainsbury caused further consternation when he declared that nuclear was a "renewable energy source. In a debate on energy security in the House of Lords, Sainsbury was asked whether he would reclassify nuclear as renewable energy. He said: 'Lady O'Cathain offered me the opportunity of . . . agreeing that nuclear is a renewable source of energy - it clearly is so'."
As The Times pointed out: "A decision to reclassify nuclear as a renewable source of energy would have dramatic consequences. Nuclear generators would be exempted, like wind turbines, from the Climate Change Levy, a tax borne by the nuclear industry despite its carbon-free advantage. It would also force a rethink of the renewables obligation, which requires utilities to buy 10 per cent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010." 
Labour Party donor
By 2003 Lord Sainsbury had given over £11 million to the Labour Party. Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC, 'In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.' Seddon said it was causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now 'in the pockets of the powerful and the rich'.
When he was made Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury resigned as Chairman of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain and put into a blind trust major investments in two plant genetics-related investment companies (Diatech Ltd and Innotech Investments Ltd). Innotech has a substantial stake in a firm called Paradigm Genetics involved in a joint GM-related venture with Monsanto. Between 1996 and 1999 Diatech was granted three patents for GM products that are said to have the potential to make millions of pounds in royalties.
Through his Gatsby Charitable Foundation Lord Sainsbury has also put millions into the study of plant genetics. Gatsby gives approximately £2 million a year to the Sainsbury Laboratory of the John Innes Centre, which does research into GM crops. Lord Sainsbury helped found the Laboratory in 1987 and his Gatsby Foundation remains its principal source of funding, although it also receives over £800,000 a year from the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) , for which Sainsbury is responsible in his ministerial role. Its grant has increased several fold during Sainsbury's time as minister.
Like his biotech investments, his Gatsby contributions have been administered through a blind trust run by his solicitor Judith Portrait since Sainsbury became UK Science Minister. Portrait is also a Gatsby trustee. Although he does not attend Gatsby meetings or make decisions, Sainsbury retains the power to appoint and dismiss its trustees.
For some, the choice of an unelected biotech investor and food industrialist to be Science Minister, based within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), was more than emblematic of the UK's corporate-science culture. While Lord Sainsbury is officially supposed to leave the room whenever GMOs are discussed at government meetings, even if this occurs, critically related areas like the strategic direction and the funding of the bio-sciences and of biotech related institutes fall directly within Sainsbury's area of responsibility and influence. As The Times (Apr 17, 2002) has noted, 'Suspicious minds looked at the 300 per cent increase in the government grant to the Sainsbury Laboratory and pondered whether this might be linked to the fact that Lord Sainsbury of Turville is the Science Minister.'
Sainsbury's biotech business interconnections with areas of his official responsibility are numerous. For instance, when Lord Sainsbury travelled to America as Science Minister in 1999, to research a report into biotechnology, he was accompanied by members of the BioIndustry Association, a lobby group for companies involved in GM food (the DTI helped pay their costs). His company, Diatech is an Associate Member of the BioIndustry Association.
Eight days before he became Science Minister he loaned Diatech money to buy a £2 million office in Westminster. Diatech has registered a patent for a genetic sequence taken from the tobacco mosaic virus for use in genetically modified plants. This was developed at the Sainsbury Laboratory by Mike Wilson who is a consultant to Diatech.
In a Financial Times article, Lord Sainsbury cites the following statistics: British universities spun off 199 companies in 2000, up from an annual average of 67 in the previous five years and a mere 'handful' before that. The UK's ratio of companies to research spending is now more than six times higher than the US. 'It's a dazzling record,' Lord Sainsbury is quoted as saying and he laments the nation's failure to celebrate such a 'stunning change in the entrepreneurial attitudes of our universities'.
Not everybody shares Sainsbury's enthusiasm. Professor Steven Rose of the Open University Biology Dept is among those who have commented critically on this emerging corporate science culture, "Well I think there is a very real problem from the point of view of university research in the way that private companies have entered the university, both with direct companies in the universities and with contracts to university researchers. So that in fact the whole climate of what might be open and independent scientific research has disappeared, the old idea that universities were a place of independence has gone. Instead of which one's got secrecy, one's got patents, one's got contracts and one's got shareholders."
The key to delivering Lord Sainsbury's redefinition of 'good science', as science which is potentially commercially productive, is the higher education funding councils such as the BBSRC. The BBSRC has won an extra £50 million in funding since Sainsbury became Science Minister. Until 2003 its Chairman was Peter Doyle a director of biotech giant Syngenta.
Prior to funding the Labour Party, Lord Sainsbury was a supporter of the Social Democrat Party (SDP), remaining a trustee until 1990. In the late 1980s he served with Dick Taverne and Roger Liddle on the SDP's Steering Committee. He also bankrolled the party. Around the same time he bankrolled the Institute of Fiscal Studies, after being approached by Taverne.
In the late 1980s Taverne and Liddle founded the consultancy firm Prima Europe, which in 1990 published Taverne's paper, 'The case for Biotechnology'. Liddle and Taverne were joined on Prima's board in 1996 by Derek Draper.
In the mid-90s Draper, Liddle and Sainsbury had all left the SDP for Labour. Lord Sainsbury funds Progress magazine, which is mailed free to thousands of Labour Party members. Progress was founded by Derek Draper who later became caught up with Liddle in the notorious 'lobbygate' scandal. Lord Taverne, who had left the lobby group a few months earlier, has remained a keen supporter of GM crops and now Chairs the pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science.
Through his Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Lord Sainsbury funded 'Biotechnology in Our Food Chain', the John Innes Centre's UK schools' project on GM. The project claims to take note of the 'various viewpoints' but is marked by a consistent pro-GM bias. 
Science Media Centre
Lord Sainsbury is also a keen supporter of the Science Media Centre. One of the advisors to the Science Media Centre is Diatech consultant, Mike Wilson. Wilson was also one of a number of scientists with links to Lord Sainsbury's funding network who served on the UK government's GM Science Review Panel. Amongst these was Professor John Gray from the Department of Plant Science, at the University of Cambridge. He is a council member and trustee of the Sainsbury Laboratory, as well as being on the Science Advisory Panel of the Gatsby Charitable Trust, along with Dr. Roger Freedman of Diatech. Professor Gray is also the chairman of the Trustees of the Gatsby organisation, Science and Plants for Schools, along with Judith Portrait, who manages Lord Sainsbury's blind trusts.
The Science Review Panel also included 3 scientists with links to the John Innes Centre, which houses the Sainsbury Laboratory - Professor Chris Leaver, a member of the John Innes Centre Governing Council and a Trustee of the John Innes Foundation, and Phil Dale and Mike Gale who both work at the JIC. Gale is also a director of John Innes Enterprises and a consultant to Plant Bioscience Ltd, which is jointly owned by the JIC and Lord Sainsbury's Gatsby Foundation.
Sainsbury was listed as providing seed funding for the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign, the lead group attempting to persuade voters to continue Britain's membership of the European Union. The campaign is headed by tory peer and former Marks & Spencer chairman Stuart Rose and boasts the backing of former prime ministers John Major, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, as well as other big business and political players. 
- Britain Stronger in Europe - £2,564,454 to the leading 'Remain' campaign in the UK's EU referendum in 3 donations (23 February 2016, 31 February 2016 and 15 February 2016) 
- Scientists for EU - £50,000, 8 April 2016 
Recorded by the Electoral Commission:
|Date||Name of donor||Amount||Donated to|
|01/04/2004||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|30/06/2004||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/10/2004||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/01/2005||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|15/01/2005||Lord David Sainsbury||£2,000.00||Labour Party|
|18/01/2005||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£5,000.00||Labour Party|
|10/03/2005||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£2,000,000.00||Labour Party|
|18/04/2005||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£5,000.00||Labour Party|
|21/06/2005||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£4,000.00||Labour Party|
|04/07/2005||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|01/09/2005||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£10,000.00||The Rt Hon David Lammy MP|
|04/10/2005||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/01/2006||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|03/04/2006||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|01/07/2006||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/10/2006||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/01/2007||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|31/01/2007||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£10,000.00||The Rt Hon David Lammy MP|
|02/04/2007||Lord David Sainsbury of Turville||£5,000.00||The Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP|
|03/04/2007||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/07/2007||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|10/09/2007||Lord David Sainsbury||£2,000,000.00||Labour Party|
|03/10/2007||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|03/01/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|02/04/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|02/07/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|31/07/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£2.511,808.00||Labour Party|
|02/10/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|15/12/2008||Lord David Sainsbury||£500,000.00||Labour Party|
|02/01/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|01/04/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|02/07/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|03/07/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Labour Party|
|02/10/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|22/12/2009||Lord David Sainsbury||£1,000,000.00||Labour Party|
|04/01/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£62,500.00||Progress Ltd|
|17/02/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£10,000.00||Labour Party|
|01/04/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|29/04/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£350,000.00||Labour Party|
|17/05/2010||David Sainsbury||£11,188.21||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|03/06/2010||David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|18/06/2010||David Sainsbury||£12,835.12||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|02/07/2010||David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|02/07/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|18/07/2010||David Sainsbury||£21,582.04||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|02/08/2010||David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|18/08/2010||David Sainsbury||£27,815.18||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|03/09/2010||David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|17/09/2010||David Sainsbury||£28,909.00||The Rt Hon David Miliband MP|
|04/10/2010||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/01/2011/td>||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|17/02/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£125,000.00||Movement for Change|
|01/04/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|02/06/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£100,000.00||Movement for Change|
|04/07/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|04/10/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|17/11/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/12/2011||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|09/01/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|22/03/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£10,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/03/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|19/04/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£40,000.00||Movement for Change|
|18/06/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||Movement for Change|
|02/07/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|14/08/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||Movement for Change|
|19/09/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||Movement for Change|
|01/10/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|08/10/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£2,190.00||Movement for Change|
|05/11/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||Movement for Change|
|19/11/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£57,749.60||Movement for Change|
|31/12/2012||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|08/03/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£35,000.00||Movement for Change|
|02/04/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|19/04//2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|01/07/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£110,000.00||Policy Network and Communications Ltd|
|03/07/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|05/07/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£60,000.00||Movement for Change|
|08/08/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£5,000.00||Policy Network and Communications Ltd|
|14/08/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|16/09/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|01/10/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|18/10/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£35,000.00||Movement for Change|
|21/11/2013||Lord David Sainsbury||£45,000.00||Movement for Change|
|02/01/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£44,096.00||Policy Network and Communications Ltd|
|02/01/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|10/02/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|07/03/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|04/04/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|10/04/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£24,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|22/04/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|29/04/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£33,900.00||The Campaign of British Influence in Europe Limited|
|21/05/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£132,253.50||Policy Network and Communications Ltd|
|25/06/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/06/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|03/07/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£80,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|17/09/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||Movement for Change|
|06/10/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|10/10/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|13/11/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£45,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|05/12/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|17/12/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£55,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|30/12/2014||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|15/01/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£5,000.00||Labour Party|
|22/01/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|23/01/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£4,014.00||Movement for Change|
|25/02/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£55,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Limited|
|16/03/2015||Mr David Sainsbury||£15,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/03/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|31/03/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||The Campaign for British Influence in Europe Ltd|
|20/04/2015||Mr David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Movement for Change|
|22/04/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£5,000.00||Labour Party|
|04/06/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£40,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/06/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|17/07/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|25/08/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£36,000.00||DDB UK Limited|
|22/09/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|30/09/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|20/10/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|01/12/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£10,000.00||Movement for Change|
|08/12/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£30,000.00||Movement for Change|
|17/12/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£20,000.00||Mr Tristram Hunt MP|
|18/12/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£84,000.00||DDB UJ Limited|
|30/12/2015||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|12/01/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£60,000.00||Movement for Change|
|15/02/2016||Mr David Sainsbury||£200,000.00||Britain Stronger in Europe|
|23/02/2016||Mr David Sainsbury||£1,614,454.00||Britain Stronger in Europe|
|02/03/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£17,500.00||European Movement of the UK Ltd|
|30/03/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£65,000.00||Progress Ltd|
|31/03/2016||Mr David Sainsbury||£750,000.00||Britain Stronger in Europe|
|08/04/2016||Lord David John Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Scientists for EU Limited|
|14/04/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£95,000.00||Michelle Ovens Ltd|
|21/04/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£25,000.00||We Are Europe|
|29/04/2016||Mr David Sainsbury||£66,720.00||Britain Stronger in Europe|
|09/05/2016||Lord David John Sainsbury||£200,000.00||Scientists for EU Limited|
|11/05/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£100,000.00||European Movement of the UK Ltd|
|11/05/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||We Are Europe|
|24/05/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Better For Our Future Ltd|
|02/06/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£59,000.00||Best For Our Future Ltd|
|06/06/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£34,560.00||Britain Stronger in Europe|
|06/06/2016||Lord David Sainsbury||£50,000.00||Better For Our Future Ltd|
Affiliations, publications, resources, contact, references
- David Sainsbury Government and industry: a new partnership, Fabian research series, 347, London: Fabian Society, January 1981.
- R. Winnett & D. Leppard (2005) "Blair Axes Watchdog set up to Stop Honours for Donors", The Sunday Times, 5 June/
- DTI Ministerial team - Lord Sainsbury of Turville National Archives Web archive This snapshot, taken on 13/02/2006, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives.
- Patrick Wintour, Labour's big donor quits as science minister The Guardian, Saturday 11 November 2006
- The Guardian (2005) "Energy Review: Who's for, who's Against and Why", 30 November, p6.
- The Times
- Brennan, Z. & Hastings, C. (1998) 'Lord 'Midas' puts millions Labour's way'. The Sunday Times 30th August 1998.
- Financial Times
- Professor Steven Rose, BBC World Service
- 'Biotechnology in Our Food Chain'
- GM Watch
- Anoosh Chakalian, 'EU Referendum campaign groups - who's in and who's out', 14 October 2015, New Statesman, accessed 13 April 2016
- Electoral Commission, The In Campaign Donor Search, accessed 12 May 2016
- Electoral Commission, The In Campaign Donor Search, accessed 13 May 2016
- Electoral Commission, Lord David Sainsbury Donation Search, accessed 23 June 2016