Penny Mordaunt was taking heat tonight for accepting thousands of pounds from a trustee of a climate-sceptic lobby group.
The would-be Prime Minister took two £10,000 donations from a business run by tycoon Terence Mordaunt, a distant relation of the MP.
Mr Mordaunt is a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank once branded “the UK’s most prominent source of climate-change denial”.
Labour ’s green champion Ed Miliband led criticism of Ms Mordaunt. The Shadow Net Zero Secretary said: “Any candidate seemingly taking money from climate deniers must explain to the British people why they oppose action that will cut energy bills and deliver energy security for our country.
“All the evidence says that delaying action on climate will cost us more and is the imprudent, reckless choice.”
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And Lib Dem climate change spokesman Wera Hobhouse said: “Taking money from those linked with climate denial shows Penny Mordaunt just doesn’t care about our environment. We can’t have this sort of person as Prime Minister.”
Ms Mordaunt accepted £10,000 from Terence Mordaunt’s business in January 2021, shortly before she was appointed Commons minister for leaving the EU.
Another £10,000 was received in May 2019, weeks before the Government awarded Mr Mordaunt’s cargo handling business, Bristol Port Company, £100,000 to help prepare for Brexit.
There is no suggestion of rule-breaking in accepting, or making, the donations.
Ms Mordaunt’s record on climate change has raised eyebrows. She has described it as an “existential threat” but has voted against measures aimed at tackling the issue.
The Portsmouth North MP, 49, voted not to reduce the permitted CO2 emissions rate of new homes and against requiring a move to make power firms use their excess of the gas to make greener energy.
Terence Mordaunt is worth £390million, according to the 2020 Sunday Times Rich List. He has claimed the link between rising carbon dioxide emissions and climate change is unproven – contrary to scientists’ near universally accepted views.
He told the open-Democracy website in 2019: “No one has proved yet that CO2 is the culprit. It may not be. If you ask me should we just put CO2 in the air, I would say ‘no’.
“And that is the stance of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It is a credible theory.”
The think-tank was founded by ex chancellor Nigel Lawson to lobby “extremely damaging and harmful policies” designed to mitigate climate change.
The group has been accused of “giving a platform to fringe climate science deniers” and getting “credibility within the political world through its high profile Westminster connections”.
It says on its website: “We are deeply concerned about the impact of climate change policies: that they may be doing more harm than good, to the world’s poorest people and the environment.”
In June, GWPF director Dr Benny Peiser introduced the group’s State of the Climate report, remarking: “It’s extraordinary that anyone should think there is a climate crisis.
“Year after year our annual assessment of climate trends document just how little has been changing over the last 30 years. The habitual climate alarmism is mainly driven by scientists’ computer modelling, rather than observational evidence.”
Its campaigning arm Net Zero Watch published a report in April claiming that there was “no evidence of a climate crisis”.
The group also lists Tory MP Steve Baker as a trustee.
Records show Ms Mordaunt also accepted a £3,000 donation from climate sceptic Sir Michael Hintze in January 2020.
The Australian hedge fund billionaire is the most prominent known GWPF supporter.
She took £2,000 from another of the Foundation’s backers, Neil Record. She has said that she would not scrap or delay the UK’s net zero targets by 2050. But she has pledged to slash green levies from energy bills and halve the VAT for fuel.
Seven of the UK’s top 10 hottest days on record have been logged in the past 10 years. And the EU has just published a report saying climate change is “making countries more prone to wildfires”.
A GWPF spokesman said: “We don’t deny climate change – never have – and have nothing to do with donations to candidates in this leadership election.”
A spokesman for Bristol Port Company said: “Our Chairman is currently unavailable and therefore we will not be commenting.”
Ms Mordaunt was also approached for comment.
Meanwhile, Ms Mordaunt was blamed for an election dubbed a “fiasco of epic proportions” when she was a 22-year-old student politician.
The would-be Tory leader graduated in philosophy from Reading Uni and won the race to become its union president in 1995. But within months she was accused of bungling polls to fill other union committee roles.
The November 1995 elections were chaotic as no hustings went ahead, said reports in the student paper Spark.
One candidate who dropped out told the paper: “Absolutely nothing was organised. We all turned up for the hustings and they didn’t seem prepared.
“I wouldn’t point the finger directly but the President has to take the blame.”
Reports at the time described the scenes as “election madness” and pictured a fresh-faced Ms Mordaunt – who went on to land a string of PR jobs.
She became uni president after winning just 820 votes from a possible 12,000.
She was a Tory member early – becoming the party’s head of youth under John Major and later serving as William Hague’s head of broadcasting.
She also worked for George Bush’s second presidential campaign in 2004.