Osborne accused over gas lobbyist father-in-law

Campaigners ask if Chancellor's energy policies are influenced by Lord Howell

George Osborne was facing fresh questions yesterday over his controversial push to make Britain a worldwide hub for fossil fuels, after it emerged that his father-in-law is the head of a lobbying organisation for big oil and gas companies.

Lord Howell of Guildford, who is an energy minister at the Foreign Office, is also the president of the British Institute of Energy Economics (BIEE), which is sponsored by Shell and BP – prompting suggestions of a conflict of interest.

Green campaigners demanded to know whether Lord Howell, a former energy secretary under Margaret Thatcher and who was a political influence on the young Mr Osborne, had pressed his son-in-law to promote oil and gas from inside the Treasury while weakening the renewable energy sector.

Last week, the Chancellor and the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, reached a compromise deal over the coalition's energy policy after a cabinet showdown, with Mr Davey fending off an attempt by Mr Osborne to slash wind energy subsidies by 25 per cent, instead agreeing to 10 per cent cuts. However, the deal alarmed environmental campaigners as it contained a £500m tax break for offshore drilling for North Sea gas as part of Mr Osborne's mission to make the UK a "gas hub". There was also no commitment for all electricity generation to be green by 2030, a demand of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

While Lord Howell, whose daughter Frances married Mr Osborne in 1998, has declared his role at the BIEE on the Register of Lords' Interests, there was criticism that this clashes with his ministerial brief. The Conservative peer is a Foreign Office minister with responsibility for international energy policy, which involves him travelling around the world setting out British energy policy to foreign governments. Whitehall insiders alleged that Lord Howell, who has been sceptical about climate change and is an enthusiastic supporter of shale gas as well as traditional power generation, has told ministerial counterparts that the British Government is not serious about renewable energy.

Mr Osborne has not hidden his scepticism for green policies, declaring in his Autumn Statement last year: "We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills." He has also pushed for the Government to keep a third runway at Heathrow on the table. Yet the revelation about his father-in-law's interests will only heighten concerns about the Chancellor's "dash for gas".

Louise Hutchins, senior energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said yesterday: "We'd hate to think that the UK's direction of travel on energy policy was being decided over claret and duck chez Osborne. But Lord Howell's links with big oil and gas special interests are well established. Questions must surely be asked about whether he has been bending the ear of his son-in-law to help his friends in the fossil fuel lobby."

Lord Howell and his son-in-law share their enthusiasm for shale gas extraction, through the controversial method of fracking. Two years ago, the 76-year-old minister told the House of Lords: "There is the fascinating development of shale gas, which has changed the energy landscape in the US. If it is replicated elsewhere, it could be fundamental in altering the energy vista in every continent."

Mr Davey has become increasingly frustrated by the belief held by some in the Conservative Party that global expansion in shale gas will lead to lower bills in Britain. A senior Lib Dem source said: "There is a Tory obsession that somehow there is going to be this revolution in gas and the price is going to plummet. We shouldn't be banking on it being a big game-changer."

As the Treasury and Decc fought it out over energy policy last week, Tim Yeo, the chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, accused Mr Osborne of undermining green energy policy, ahead of the Government's Energy Bill this autumn, to please backbench Tory MPs.

It also emerged that Mr Osborne has not met a single renewable energy representative since becoming Chancellor, but has held eight meetings with oil and gas companies.

In an interview in 2006, Mr Osborne praised his father-in-law, who was a key member of Mrs Thatcher's cabinet. He said: "I grew up during the 1980s and the achievements of the governments of the 1980s are phenomenal. Whether it was the battle against trade unions, reform of the economy or defeating the Soviet Union.''

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "There is no reason for the minister in the Foreign Office responsible for international energy policy not to continue to hold the honorary position as president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which is sponsored by Decc. The UK Government is clear that it supports the UK energy industry."

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit