You may have read the Private Eye piece which raised questions about whether Conor Burns’ vehement opposition to Navitus Bay was influenced by his close connections to Trant Engineering, an engineering company which maintains Fawley and Wytch Farm. You may have even read the Burns’ response to the article in the Echo where he completely avoided all of the issues raised, including his views on the further potential drilling for oil within the Jurassic coast by Infrastrata.
Does Burns still consider himself to be accountable to the electorate? He referred to the article as ‘mischievous’. It is, however, the duty of opposition parties to hold elected members to account and ask questions on behalf of their members and local people, which is what we did.
When Burns mentioned in parliament that he did consultancy work, local member, JR Ryan, checked the register of interests and found declared interests of £40000 a year for 10 hours work a month. He then wrote, under the Freedom of Information act, to the IPSO asking for details about the nature of the work and learnt that they do not hold that information. Writing to Burns himself, Ryan received a reply which was similar to that of the Echo response; it completely avoided all the questions put to him. Burns was adamant that he had complied, as far as was necessary, with the law as it stands in declaring the money earned. Interestingly, in his recent election campaign, Burns declared himself to be committed to honesty and transparency where finances are concerned. Most would consider that declaring earnings of £333 an hour from a petrochemical company for consultancy work but refusing to say what you do for that money could hardly be perceived as transparent.
Frustrated, Ryan then discussed the issue with other Green Party members and the decision was made to put the information into the hands of the public via the press. The story, complete with verifiable references, was handed over to journalist Lee Williams and published in Private Eye.
Upon reading Burns’ reply in the Echo, Ryan responded, outlining the background to the piece and posing other possible reasons as to why local MPs and councils may be objecting to Navitus Bay. One of which was the possibility that Navitus Bay may actually interfere with the siting of off shore oil and gas rigs. Burns has consistently voted against low carbon subsidies but is in favour of fracking. However, fracking fossil fuels within the World Heritage site, Ryan rightly points out will have far more negative effects to local tourism and the environment as a whole.
So, we ask once again, what do you do for your money Mr Burns and where do you stand on the expansion of drilling in Dorset?
The South East Dorset Green Party