MP defends energy expert in fresh political storm

greg barker mp
greg barker mp

BEXHILL MP Greg Barker has hit back at national newspaper claims that he “blurred” the role of a close advisor.

This was after an outside consultant with clients including BAA, Sky and Morgan Stanley was given a job in his department and handed out business cards bearing its name.

Mr Barker (pictured), the minister for climate change, worked closely in opposition with Miriam Maes, a Dutch-born environmental expert who also runs Foresee, a company paid to advise multinational companies on climate change policy.

The Guardian newspaper reported that Ms Maes was given a departmental staff pass to enter the building and continued to advise the minister after her departmental contract expired in May.

And until Monday she claimed on her website to be an advisor to Mr Barker, according to the newspaper.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) denied Ms Maes was a formal government advisor to Mr Barker, saying instead that she advised his department, which is a wholly different position.

A spokesperson for DECC said: “Miriam Maes is an expert in energy efficiency and worked for DECC on a consultancy basis between September 2010 and May this year following a competition.

“Following a separate competition she has recently been appointed along with three other providers to supply expert advice to DECC’s new Energy Efficiency Deployment Office.

“She was not appointed as an advisor to the Minister of State, and we asked Ms Maes to make that clearer on her website in order to avoid any misunderstanding, which she has now done.”

Mr Barker, who was not quoted in the Guardian’s article, branded it “a complete non-story”.

He told the Observer: “Ms Maes has provided the department with extremely helpful advice, not least actively assisting the government reduce its own carbon emissions by 13.5 per cent in our first year in office, saving the tax payers millions of pounds by slashing Whitehall energy bills.

“Mrs Maes is an expert in energy matters and was engaged by the Department in an open tender, in the usual manner.

“She remains engaged by the department to provide expert advice.

“She was issued with cards and a pass quite properly by officials because she was and is fulfilling a formal role on behalf of the department. Any confusion over her exact title as advisor has now been clarified.”

According to the Guardian, Mr Barker had not formerly declared any meetings with Ms Maes or Foresee Ltd in attendance.

The newspaper claimed Ms Maes received eight payments for “technical advice” totalling more than £30,000 between November 2010 and June this year.

Special advisors, who are employed to advise ministers on political issues, are required to register their business interests with the parliamentary authorities.

Meanwhile local political opponents say they believe there are still questions to answer.

Tim Macpherson, a Labour Party spokesperson from Bexhill and Battle, said: “Local people in the Bexhill and Battle area expect Greg Barker’s dealings, whether as an MP or Minister, to be transparent.

“Greg’s only there because of them and they need to know he’s working for them and not for big business or vested interests.

“We need to know whether he was involved in the appointment of Miriam Maes, who claimed to be his personal advisor.

“Following so quickly after the Liam Fox affair there are now wider questions about whether there is something rotten at the heart of government.

“Who are these people Ministers seem to keep by their sides?

“There is a whiff of cronyism and sleaze around the whole thing, which is especially disturbing when Greg Barker seems to show no interest in the problems his constituents are having as the economy fails and cuts begin to bite hard.”