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Lord Lawson’s sceptic think tank not ‘influential enough’ for funder to be named in public interest

Judge Alison McKenna has ruled following an Information Rights Tribunal that the name of the seed funder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation should not be disclosed after a Freedom of Information request because the think tank is not “so influential”.

The judge decided that the legitimate public interest in naming the donor does not outweigh his privacy because Lord Lawson and his charity, the GWPF, do not have a significant enough influence on the public debate about climate change, the Guardian reports tonight.

Judge McKenna said in her ruling: “We are not satisfied that the charity is so influential as to make the disclosure of its financial affairs a matter of legitimate public interest outweighing the privacy rights of the data subject.”

Brendan Montague, the director of the Request Initiative, made the original request to the Charity Commission and argued that because the think tank has board members from across the House of Lords and sets out to influence newspapers and policy makers the public should know where its funding has come from. Montague will seek legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

He said: “Judge Alison McKenna has found against me on the grounds that Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic thinktank is simply not as influential as the former chancellor has made out in his own company accounts. We provided evidence of Lawson enjoying private lunches with the current chancellor, George Osborne, and so I only wish I shared her view.”

“The tribunal has found the claims of influence over policymakers by Lord Lawson ‘surprising’ in light of the fact the Global Warming Policy Foundation is registered as an educational charity. The judge states this is ‘a matter for the Charity Commission’ and I hope the regulator will now properly investigate this highly-connected lobbying machine.”

Climate scientist professor James Hansen, climate historian professor Naomi Oreskes and professor of ethics Clive Hamilton submitted witness statement to the tribunal to say the public interest would be served by naming the donor. The Poles Apart report published by James Painter of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism was also presented in evidence of the influence of the GWPF.

Lord Lawson told the Guardian before the tribunal hearing that he had “no intention of responding to Mr Montague’s political attack on me and on the GWPF”. The GWPF states that it does not accept donations from the energy industry, or anyone with a “significant interest” in the energy industry.

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