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Lord David Sainsbury gave £2 million to the Labour Party in 1996, £1 million in 1997 and £2 million in 1999. He gave a further £2 million in January 2001, and again in December 2001, making a total of £9 million in 5 years. He was given his peerage in 1997 and made Government Minister for Science in 1998, at which point he resigned as Chairman of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain. He put his £1.3 billion worth of shares (a 13% stake in Sainsburys) into a 'blind trust' run by Judith Portrait of Portrait Solicitors (who have been solicitors for Sainsburys since 1988).
The Sainsbury's supermarket chain paid the Labour Party more than £5,000 for sponsorship in 1997.
Sainsbury's was enveloped in a row in 1998 when planning decisions for out-of-town supermarkets (including a development in Richmond upon Thames) started to go their way after local councils had refused them. Tony Blair has made sympathetic comments about out-of-town supermarkets, although Party policy is 'tough' on them.
In 1998 an Inquest jury found that Maurice Disney, a forklift truck driver for Sainsbury's, had been unlawfully killed in an accident at work. A safety switch on his forklift had been disconnected and it went out of control and crushed him. An independent engineer told the Inquest that the accident would never have happened if the truck had been properly maintained. Sainsbury's admitted the safety breaches and were fined £425,000.
During his six years as Chairman of Sainbury's, he championed Genetically Modified (GM) food, although since his resignation the company has dropped GM food completely. He owns 2 genetics companies, Diatech and Innotech Investments (his shares in these companies were also put into a 'blind trust' when he became a minister). He has put millions of pounds into the study of Genetically Modified organisms (GMO) through his Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Judith Portrait is a trustee), set up in 1987 and which gives £2 million a year to the Sainsbury Laboratory/John Innes Institute in Norwich.
In November 2001 Lord Sainsbury was enveloped in a row after he gave strong support to plans to build a huge new animal-testing laboratory centre on greenbelt land near the village of Girton, near Cambridge. The project, proposed by Cambridge University, was unanimously rejected by the local authority, but Sainsbury later wrote a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University describing the centre as "nationally important" and claiming that 'centres of this kind are key to translating Government policies into reality", although it would go against Government policy on protecting greenbelt land and involve deliberately damaging the brains of hundreds of monkeys every year (the Labour Party has pledged to cut back on using monkeys in such experiments).
Since 1998 the Sainsbury Laboratory has also received 6 Government grants, worth £1.1 million, from the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC). The BBSRC is part of the Government Office of Science and Technology, which answers to Sainsbury as Science Minister and has won an extra £50 million in funding since he became Minister. Officially he is supposed to leave the room when GMOs are discussed at meetings. The Chairman of the BBSRC is another of Tony Blair's friends, Peter Doyle, former Executive Director of biotech company Zeneca (which also gives money to the John Innes Institute).
When Lord Sainsbury travelled to America in 1999, to research a report into Biotechnology, he was accompanied by members of the BioIndustry Association, a lobbying group for companies involved in GM food (the DTI helped pay their costs). Christine Soden is the Chair of their Finance Committee. Diatech is a member of the BioIndustry Association. 8 days before he became Science Minister he loaned Diatech money to buy a £2 million office in Westminster.
Diatech have registered a patent for a genetic sequence taken from the tobacco mosaic virus, considered essential for enhancing the development of protein in a GMO, which is used in most GM foods worldwide. The Chief Executive of Diatech, Christopher Stone, owns 5% of Sainsbury's shares (worth £354,676,000). Diatech helped pay for repairs to Lord Sainsbury's country house several months after he became a Minister.
Innotech Investments, solely funded by Lord Sainsbury (he was a Director until becoming a minister), has £20 million worth of investments. It owns Floranova, a Norfolk-based company that develops GMOs. Floranova in turn owns the Floranova Service Coporation in America, Floranova SA in Costa Rica and Elite Seeds, a flower seed and young plant marketing company based in Norfolk. Innotech is a major investor in Paradigm Genetics, an American company.
Lord Sainsbury was a supporter of the SDP, remaining a trustee until 1990. He is the beneficiary of off-shore trusts held in the British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax haven. He is Chair of the Board of the Government's University for Industry, alongside other businessmen like David Brown, the boss of Motorola. Sainsbury funds Progress magazine, which is mailed to Labour Party activists. Progress, founded by the infamous Lobbygate adviser Derek Draper, pushes the Blairite line and received the money from Lord Sainsbury (through the Progress Political Education Trust) after 'a single phone call from Tony Blair.'
He is Chairman of the Cluster Policy Steering Group, which includes popular New Labour businessmen like Herman Hauser and is supported by a team that includes Dr Chris Evans.