Nigel Lawson's climate-change denial charity 'intimidated' environmental expert

Academic claims that the former chancellor's foundation complained to his employer

A A A

A think-tank that has become the UK's most prominent source of climate-change denial is embroiled in a row about its charitable status. There are also claims that one of its trustees tried to exact "retribution" on the person who complained about it to the charities watchdog.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), set up by the former chancellor Lord Lawson, a Conservative, was accused of publishing "inaccurate and misleading" information about climate science in a formal complaint to the Charity Commission in June last year.

In his submission to the commissioners, Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said the "continual activity has damaged the public interest" and was a breach of the rules governing charities.

After receiving advice from the commission, GWPF announced on Friday that it would create a non-charitable company that would be able "to conduct campaigns and activities which do not fall squarely within the educational remit of the charity".

Mr Ward, well known for his attempts to hold climate-change deniers to account, said he had submitted the complaint in a private capacity. But he revealed that a trustee of GWPF had written to his employer, the London School of Economics, earlier this year accusing him of making "unacceptable", "ill-informed" and "ranting" comments in the media about global warming and energy policies despite not being an academic.

In one letter, the trustee said the LSE should be aware that a "distinguished Oxford scientist" had told him: "It's appalling that the LSE employs people like Bob Ward." The trustee, whose identity Mr Ward requested be kept anonymous, did not mention his own link to the GWPF.

Mr Ward, who is a fellow of The Geological Society, said he had informed the Charity Commission about the letters, only to be told they could not investigate.

He has now written to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which oversees the Charity Commission, to complain about the length of time it has taken the commissioners to act and its failure to look into the letters. He noted in his complaint that he believes the letters were "intended, at least partly, as a form of retribution against me for having raised concerns about the foundation with the Charity Commission".

"This is the way in which the foundation goes about its business, trying to intimidate its opponents into silence," he told The Independent on Sunday. "For someone in a less secure position than [me], this could be extremely damaging."

Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist who is director of the GWPF, said the foundation was not involved in the actions of the trustee.

"I don't know anything about this letter …. This has nothing to do with the GWPF, which is unaware of any of this," he said.

Dr Peiser confirmed the changes to the foundation were made following advice from the Charity Commission, but dismissed the role of Mr Ward, claiming that he "didn't feature at all" in their discussions with the watchdog.

And he said that setting up the new non-charitable body "just makes us more effective and allows us to be a little bit more outspoken because, under charitable law, you cannot really campaign".

The GWPF does not dispute the physics of climate change – such as the warming effect of greenhouse gases – but argues that the Earth's atmosphere is less sensitive than thought by the vast majority of scientists and that humans should simply "adapt" to the new conditions, rather than trying to prevent them from occurring by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The Charity Commission said that Mr Ward's complaint was still an active case.

"The commission has been engaging with the trustees of the charity [GWPF] since we received a complaint relating to some of its statements and published material," it said.

"We advised the trustees that we did not consider that all the contents of the website advanced education, as required of a charity. In addition, we had raised a question with the trustees about whether all the content of the website was in line with our guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities."

It said it had suggested that parts of the website should be "separated from the charity and hosted by an independent organisation" and the GWPF had submitted its proposals to do this.

The Charity Commission added that it hoped the plans would be finalised by the end of July.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there