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Deben's closet "water" interests

Lord Deben is currently being questioned by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee about his appointment as chairman of the "independent" Climate Change Committee. Questioning eventually came round to his much-discussed conflicts of interest and Deben was keen to explain that he had resigned from any positions in which there was even a hint of conflict of interest, with shareholdings being liquidated at the same time.

He was pressed on his remaining interests and in particular his interest in a water company. Deben's reply was that this company was involved in installing meters for other companies and that there was therefore no conflict of interest:

Lord Deben: I looked at the water company...I'm chairman of a water company...all the water company does is to, for example, its major job is putting in meters for other water companies. It doesn't own any water companies any longer- it's sold those. If you look to see what it does, it really has no connection at all, and if I thought it did or even had a remote one I would make that change. I think this is too important a job to jeopardise in that way, but I can assure you I've been through that very carefully.

There was then some reference to the interests that Deben had decided to offload and the guidance that Deben had received from DECC on this:

Albert Owen MP: And they're very happy that those three companies that you have set down for is quite sufficient for you to...that you don't break any of the principles or the Cabinet Office dictat?

Lord Deben: They have accepted that what I have done is precisely what ought to be done.

Unfortunately Deben's representations to the committee don't seem to be true. Veolia, the company he chairs, has other businesses besides meter installation, some of which will directly benefit from the low-carbon economy that Deben espouses and is seeking to expand:

Grid Connections

We provide large electrical grid connections for renewable energy producers including waste, wind, and Anaerobic Digestion.

  • Electricity grid connections to major and renewable projects.
  • High voltage projects up to 132kV.
  • Complex technical solutions.
  • Primary substations.
  • Long off site routes.
  • Private electrical balance of plant.

Or what about this:

  • Multi-utility scheme design and planning
  • Design and installation of gas, water and electricity mains and services
  • Site investigations and evaluations
  • Substation design and construction
  • Network construction for gas, electric, water and telecoms
  • Project management
  • Construction programming and asset adoption expertise
  • Localised energy using renewable energy sources and Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Seems to me he has just misled the committee. But it also looks to me as if DECC have got some questions to answer too.

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Reader Comments (25)

Interesting find. I listened to him speak about how he didn't think his interest in the company would be a cause of conflict because it wasn't involved in water supply, merely water metering, and I bought the impression from him that was all it did.

However even the water metering involvement rang a bell with me. I'm just cynical ;).

Water meters in all homes by 2030 to ease shortages

Many parts of the country face crippling water shortages in the near future unless immediate action is taken to protect precious supplies, according to an Environment Agency (EA) report to be published this week. Measures include compulsory water meters in every home.

That's from all the way back in 2009. After this summer this seems like science fiction now :)

Sep 4, 2012 at 4:57 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Sounds like we have got to stage 3 of this project:-

Stages of project
1. Euphoria and Excitement
2. Disenchantment
3. ** Search for the Guilty**
4. Punishment of the Innocent
5. Reward for the Uninvolved

The skill of the successful politician is to ensure you have someone else lined up to take the blame if their policy fails. They clearly feel it is time to line them up.

But Its like a shark attack, they will circle and circle testing those they think are weak, until one of the potential scapegoats shows their weakness and succumbs. Then they will be all over them ... and seeing a feast, the others politicians and media will dive in to claim their pound of flesh.

The ones I feel sorry for are not those like Deben, who have clambered their way over their compatriots up to the top of the greasy pole and are so covered in it, that nothing sticks, but the guys like Jones and Briffa who haven't a clue what awaits them.

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Climate may be a chaotic system but the vast increase in rainfall this summer was a bonus in a way I didn't understand till now. We've all heard of a silver lining on clouds but anything that robs Deben of a legislation-guaranted profit for his meters has got to be pure gold. Thanks Lep.

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:05 PM | MikeHaseler

Remember it well from my Guvment employment days! However, I can probably reassure everyone that nobody will answer to the charges of self-interest & self-enrichemnt, either directly or indirectly, those are usually given the biggest gongs possible & promoted so far up the greasy smelly pole that they can no longer do anyone any harm! It's everyone else who will pay for their bad judgements, mistakes, arrogance, & deciet! Literally!

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

"They have accepted that what I have done is precisely what ought to be done"

Which isn't quite the same thing as saying he hasn't got any interests he shouldn't have - he's just saying he's successfully fooled the Cabinet Office.

There are two sorts of Catholics, IMO - those who take the confessional to heart, and those for whom it represents a free pass...

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

"I'm chairman of a water company... It doesn't own any water companies"

Hmm. And what about the Severn Barrage outfit?

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Closet 'water' interests? Bet he's a little flushed.

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Veolia is much more than a "water company" - in Birmingham (where I live) they are contracted by the council to manage the "hosehold recycling centres" ...aka "the tip"

I am sure that your other readers will know more of this companies "green" tentacles

Sep 4, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Did anyone think to ask if family members had interests? Obviously they haven't or he would have said, wouldn't he?

Not for one moment would I suggest that this was the case but sometimes you have to ask exactly the right question and I hope those right questions were asked.

Sep 4, 2012 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Bates

Veolia bought my local water supplier last year.
So if they aren't supplying the water, where does it come from ?

Veolia do everything, they run buses in Holland, for instance.

Sep 4, 2012 at 6:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

I pay my water bill to Veolia - how is that possible in the light of Deben's testimony?

Sep 4, 2012 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

"I pay my water bill to Veolia - how is that possible in the light of Deben's testimony?" --diogenes

But of course, don't you know, it's not actually water they're selling. No, no, it's something else very much like water, but not water, itself. Easy to make that mistake. It's actually a different chemical called hydrogen hydroxide pyrohydrate. Quite another thing altogether.

Sep 4, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

How on earth can a chairman of a company be expected to know details such as company business activity? That would be improper, because then if that same person were the chairman of a policy making body, there would be a potential unseemly conflict of interest.

If a person maintains complete ignorance of his company's interests, then policy changes resulting from his or her various chairmanships leading to personal gain can only have occurred for reasons of national importance.

Similarly, should a person be found to be over claiming on their expense reports in a manner described by lay people as fraudulent, this can only qualify that person for high office and control over a nation's policy.

To employ people too stupid to, for example, claim 9,000 pounds per year in gardening expenses, would be to throw open to question the entire policy making process.

Deben/Gummer/Cameron Caption Contest...!

Sep 4, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Just a quick glance at Veolia website;

Renewable energy production: by recovering landfill gas from treatment sludge digestion, capturing water's energy potential through the use of microturbines or pressure exchange and installing heat pumps, for example

Sep 4, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenkman

"its major job is putting in meters for other water companies."

Either a lie or an example of gross naivite for the company's chairman.

Veolia UK owns 3 water companies:

Chairman of the board? John Selwyn-Gummer:

"Infrastructure Services provides multi-utility services including large electrical grid connections for renewable energy producers of waste, wind, and anaerobic digestion."

Sep 4, 2012 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

Apparently one of Deben's talents is receipt writing.

"In a letter to the fees office, Mr Gummer admitted that he drew up the receipts himself. He wrote on April 7 2004: "I have also had to go back to create receipts from the people who work for us in Suffolk as we have not previously had any such system. We have not needed them for claiming from the fees office and we have no other reason for them."

Deben would make a world class climatologist.

Sep 4, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

There seems to be a strong tendency too, for the warmist camp to attract mythomaniacs who will tell you almost any story they think furthers their cause .. and in lieu of just inventing facts, massively exaggerate and blow out of proportion:

"deniers .. bombarding ... with death threats"

One (the shortest) of these words, is not massively misleading (by it self). Taken together, this statement is utter nonsense.

Sep 4, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonas N

Perhaps I'm missing something but from the Committee on Climate Change website:

Based on the application of the assessment toolkit in the ASC's third report, the ASC advises that the Government and water companies should take further steps to increase efficiency in water use, including through water metering and pricing. Increased uptake of meters will be particularly important in locations with current and future risks of supply-demand deficits.

“We must take adaptation more seriously if we are to manage the growing risks of floods and droughts. This can be done by investing more in flood defences, faster roll-out of water meters and giving serious consideration to where and how we build our housing and infrastructure. Without action by households and businesses to prepare for these inevitable weather extremes the country faces rising costs, unnecessary damage and future disruption.”

Is surely going to be an unmistakable conflict of interest for the new chairman if he is involved financially with a company that, in his own words, "puts in water meters for water companies".

Is this post normal morals or is this man so brazen that he thinks nobody cares if he has his snout in the trough?

Sep 4, 2012 at 8:39 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook
Veolia are waste contractors in Norfolk.

Sep 4, 2012 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered Commenteriain

A very cursory search on Google of Veolia reveals a significant presence in New Zealand as both Public Transport (omnibus) operators and as a major supplier of water. Perhaps there are Chinese walls between the various international arms of Veolia, but to state that the company he chairs only installs meters for other water companies is nonsense,

Sep 4, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

"Veolia are waste contractors in Norfolk."

Not very good ones at that. They seem to take great delight in leaving the wheely bins all over the pavement, frequently blocking them completely. How is it that in many other areas this would lead to prosecution of householders if they did the same thing?

Sep 4, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

He says 'but I can assure you I've been through that very carefully.'......We are so reassured...

Not exactly the clip I was after but it still sums things up,....

Sep 5, 2012 at 3:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

The website shows Anglian Water and Thames, as part of Veolia.

For their other water companies check, or Ofwat,

A subsidiary of Veolia Environment is Onyx Waste Management, a major international waste management company.

Veolia Environmental Services (VES) is the world's largest waste services company, with 77,864 employees in 35 countries generating revenues of €9.02 billion dollars in 2009.

Veolia is also involved in Smart Metering via G4S

As I mentioned in a previous thread:

Officials preparing the launch of the Green Investment Bank are understood to have met with a number of businesses about committing cash to a number of environmentally friendly schemes, such as recycling plants.

The spokesman added that the officials are also looking at other initiatives, including offshore wind, waste recycling facilities, and energy-from-waste projects.

The bank will be run by several heavy-hitters from the private sector. The chairman is Lord Smith of Kelvin, who is chair of energy giant SSE and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games organising committee, and his deputy is Sir Adrian Montague, who is chairman of private equity group 3i and led the advisory group that set up the bank." (he has been heavily involved in PFI)

Lord Smith of Kelvin says offshore wind power and energy efficiency will be among priority areas for £3bn GIB 22 Jun 2012

SSE is a partner in the Forewind Consortium, of which Lord Deben is chairman

"But Smith confirmed the bank would not be investing in early stage technologies, such as marine power and carbon capture and storage projects, because they are far from being commercially viable."

Sir Adrian Montague is currently chairman of the Anglian Water Group. Anglian Water is part of Veolia UK, of which Lord Deben is chairman.

Sep 5, 2012 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

Will this misleading evidence about Veolia be brought to the attention of the HOC ECC committee? Bishop? Anyone? Who to approach?

Sep 5, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

What an awful lot of "conflicts of interests" this man seems to have. And he is still going to be head of an "independent" committee. This is a strange usage of the word independent!

Sep 5, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

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