- Tory minister Lord Nash failed to declare £50,000 investment in energy industry startup
- Firm lobbied UK government, a competition inquiry and the European Commission to act against its competitors
- Company claims credit for select committee inquiry and clampdown by regulator
- Peer voted on three different pieces of energy-related legislation
A government minister failed to declare shares worth £50,000 in a company lobbying government, a competition inquiry, a select committee and the European Commission. Private equity mogul and Tory donor Lord Nash also voted on several pieces of energy-related legislation while holding the shares.
The House of Lords code of conduct obligates members to declare shareholdings “exceeding £50,000 in value” in the chamber’s register of interests. In what some view as a highly evasive move, Nash bought £49,998.60 in energy switching company This Is The Big Deal Ltd — just £1.60 below the threshold under Category 4 of the rules, meaning a single additional share would have pushed him over the limit.
But Nash is likely to face accusations that he should still have declared the shares as a “miscellaneous financial interest” given his role as a top angel investor in the firm — and it’s extensive lobbying activities.
Looking to capture a share in the £100 million-per-annum market in consumer energy switching commissions, The Big Deal has been critical of anti-competitive practices of its competitors — including in written and oral evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority inquiry into the energy industry.
The company has also written to a swathe of different individuals and bodies across government, calling on them to act against its rivals. Recipients of an ‘open letter’ include:
- The EU Competition Commission
- David Cameron
- Ed Miliband (then opposition leader)
- Ed Davey (then energy secretary)
- Caroline Flint (then shadow energy secretary)
- The Energy and Climate Change Committee
The Department for Education has refused to reveal whether Lord Nash had declared the shares to civil servants under the ministerial code. A spokesman told Scrapbook:
“Lord Nash has met all of the disclosure obligations and requirements with regards to this shareholding. This is not a conflict of interest in his role as an education minister.”
The Big Deal said in a statement:
“We are proud to have exposed comparison sites for hiding the cheapest deals from consumers, prompting an investigation by the Energy Select Committee and a clampdown by energy regulator Ofgem on this poor behaviour.”
All very noble — but this hardly helps Nash. To re-phrase that statement:
‘Company in which government minister failed to declare £50,000 shareholding successfully lobbied regulator to crackdown on its competitors’.