Conservative donor Michael Hintze has resigned from the IEA – an influential free-market think tank criticised for inspiring Liz Truss’s ill-fated economic policies – days after joining the House of Lords.
The Australian hedge fund manager, who has donated millions of pounds to the Conservative party over the years, resigned as a trustee of the Institute of Economic Affairs after a 17-year stint.
The news follows increased scrutiny of the libertarian groups clustered around Tufton Street, located a short walk from parliament, after Truss’s budget of unfunded tax cuts led to market turmoil and her swift resignation as prime minister.
Alongside his involvement in the IEA, Hintze is a long-time supporter and one of the few known funders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which dismisses climate change and opposes measures to cut emissions.
Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrats’ climate spokesperson, described Hintze’s peerage as “completely indefensible” after the “disastrous Trussonomics experiment”.
“In the midst of COP27, climate change deniers are being shoehorned into positions of power,” she said. “And while people choose between heating and eating, the man partly responsible is being rewarded by the Tory party.”
Hintze, who financially backed the official pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign, was confirmed as a peer at the beginning of November after being nominated as part of Boris Johnson’s resignation honours.
Last week, he gave up his position at the IEA, Companies House records show.
Hintze was first rumoured to be in line for a peerage in June, a move Green MP Caroline Lucas called “utter hypocrisy” in light of the UK’s hosting of the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow last year.
Nominations to the House of Lords are vetted by an independent commission, whose requirements say that the individual should be “in good standing in the community” and their past conduct “would not reasonably be regarded as bringing the House of Lords into disrepute”.
A spokesperson for the body said it could not comment on specific cases.
Hintze is a supporter of Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who called the UK’s net zero goal “unilateral economic disarmament” during her party leadership bid over the summer but has since appeared to soften her stance.
He was also previously listed as an advisor to the lobbying firm set up by Liz Truss’s chief of staff Mark Fullbrook, which DeSmog recently revealed had been working for a wind energy company advocating further North Sea oil drilling, to be powered by its turbines.
There are no parliamentary rules forbidding affiliations with external organisations, and Hintze will be joining various other peers with ties to the GWPF and IEA.
They include Nigel Lawson, the GWPF’s founder and chancellor under Margaret Thatcher; former GWPF trustees Peter Lilley and Charles Moore; and Matt Ridley, who sits on the GWPF’s academic advisory council.
Nigel Vinson, the IEA’s “life vice president” and a funder of the GWPF, and Jamie Borwick, a member of its advisory council, are also both Conservative peers.
Ruth Lea, a former GWPF trustee and “regulation fellow” at the IEA, was made a baroness at the end of October as part of the same series of honours as Hintze.
No interests have been registered yet by Hintze.
The IEA has faced criticism in recent weeks for its close relationship to Truss, who set up a group of pro-free-market Tory MPs with the think tank soon after being elected to parliament.
Truss’s programme of tax cuts and high government borrowing, announced by her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, was praised as a “boost-up budget” by Mark Littlewood, director general of the IEA and a friend of Truss’s since university.
Last week, Julian Jessop, one of Truss’s advisors and an IEA fellow, described her economic approach as a “fairly sound pro-growth strategy” but said it had been “really badly handled” and “badly explained”, according to reporting by Bloomberg.
The IEA has played a leading role in opposing green policies in the UK and arguing in favour of increased fossil fuel production, including the controversial gas extraction technique fracking.
The group, which has received funding from oil giant BP for decades, has made public pleas this year against windfall taxes on North Sea oil and gas producers.
The IEA’s chief operating officer called for the UK’s net zero target to be scrapped at the Conservative party conference last month and its head of policy has previously called green legislation “Soviet”.
BP has repeatedly declined to say whether it still funds the group.
Both the IEA and the GWPF’s campaigning wing are chaired by Neil Record, a currency trader who also chairs the remuneration committee of Nuffield College, Oxford.
Hintze’s Climate Views
Hintze’s CQS hedge fund states that ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations are “at the heart” of its “culture, business ethics and shared company values”. The investment firm is a member of numerous green initiatives and says it wants to help “deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement”.
The same webpage says Hintze “personally supports many educational and research organisations which work on a broad range of issues” and that he “believes that in order to have a balanced and informed perspective, any complex topic is best understood with a 360 degree-view”.
A now-deleted statement on his personal website said it was “highly likely” that rising emissions were “in part” due to human activity but that the “sole focus on [carbon dioxide] emissions is too narrow”.
Hinzte is a major supporter of the arts whose £5 million donation to the Natural History Museum led to the central hall being renamed “Hintze Hall” and prompted criticism from climate campaigners.
CQS was a sponsor of the Science Museum’s recent “Our Future Planet” exhibition. The company wrote of the “need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the most significant cause of climate change” and Hintze spoke at an event at the museum in June.
A spokesperson for Hintze said he declined to comment on his resignation from the IEA and would not confirm whether Hintze still provides funding to the GWPF.
The IEA and government did not respond to requests for comment.
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