Big energy users get seven times more Treasury meetings than green sector | Environment |

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Oil giant Shell has had multiple meetings with ministers since May 2010, including various one-on-one meals.  Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian Oil giant Shell has had multiple meetings with ministers since May 2010, including various one-on-one meals. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

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Monday 23 July 2012

Chancellor George Osborne has not met a single green sector representative since the Coalition came into office

Ministers at the Treasury have held meetings with representatives from energy-intensive sectors seven times more often that with green sector representatives since the Coalition government was formed, according to a list of contacts released by the department.

In total, Treasury ministers have held 17 meetings with either green campaign groups or clean energy lobbyists since May 2010. In comparison, they have met with representatives from fossil fuel and energy companies; airports and airlines; and the motoring lobby and car manufacturers on 119 occasions over the same period.

Some companies appear to have enjoyed disproportionate access to ministers at the Treasury. Ministers have met with Shell on 12 separate occasions, including at least three one-on-one lunches and dinners, and there have been six meetings with the gas and electricity giant Centrica.

George Osborne, the chancellor, has not met a single “green” sector representative during his tenure, compared to eight meetings with oil companies and motoring lobbyists. Between April and May last year, Osborne met individually for a “general discussion” with Centrica, Exxon, Total and the offshore drilling trade group Oil and Gas UK.

The Treasury publishes a quarterly register of ministerial meetings with “external organisations” on its website. Most meetings involving either green or energy intensive sector representatives have been with the economic secretary to the Treasury. Until October 2011 this office was held by Justine Greening MP, but following her promotion to transport secretary, Chloe Smith MP has held the post.

By the time Smith held her first “climate change discussion” with a cluster of development NGOs in January of this year, she had already met with oil companies on eight occasions. Her first meeting with an environmental campaign group came in March, at which she met with 12 groups at once, including WWF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Renewable UK.

Due to the Treasury’s limited description of each meeting, it is not always clear what the topic of discussion was between a minister and an energy company. For example, in March of this year Smith met with RWE npower “to discuss energy issues”. However, the German-owned company has a renewables division in the UK, as well as owning a number of coal and gas-fired power stations.

The Treasury has long been accused of harbouring an anti-green bias. On Monday, Tim Yeo, the Tory chair of the Commons energy and climate change select committee, accused the Treasury of undermining government attempts to develop the clean-energy sector. He said: “The Treasury has never been signed up to the green agenda, but this has got much more serious in the past year. Their interventions on the energy bill, and clear interference over [renewable energy subsidies] ROCs have shown this – it all adds up to a clear sign that they are not supportive of progress on the low-carbon energy sector.”

The Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.

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