Lord Sainsbury successsor another industry crony? (23/1/2005)

Anyone who thought that Tony Blair could never outdo his choice of an unelected biotech investor and food industrialist as his Science Minister, will be reassured to know that the man tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor is Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association (Motto: 'Promoting UK Biotechnology'). And just as the Sainsbury-Blair relationship has brought allegations of corruption and cronyism, the Drayson-Blair relationship has also been mired in accusations of sleaze.

Lord Sainsbury is a major donor to Blair's Labour Party - indeed he's just about to give them another 2 million (see item 1 below) to add to the GBP11 million they've already received. In September 1997 he gave Labour its biggest ever single donation. On October 3 1997 he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later Minister for Science.

The former head of the Bioindustry Association, Paul Drayson, is also a Labour Party donor. Drayson has also been given a peerage by Blair in highly controversial circumstances.

The controversy began when Drayson, previously an admirer of Mrs Thatcher, made a substantial donation to Labour while the government was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson. (see item 2 below)

Controversially, the Blair government awarded Drayson's company, PowderJect, the smallpox vaccine contract without any competition. The contract was worth GBP32million and Drayson is thought to have made around GBP20m for PowderJect from this deal.

It later emerged that Drayson had been in a group of businessmen who had breakfasted with the Prime Minister in Downing Street at about the time Ministry of Defence (MoD) experts were meeting to decide what type of smallpox vaccine to buy. When the vaccine deal came to be finalised, officials discovered that Drayson had already made an exclusive deal with the manufacturer of the Lister smallpox vaccine, thus cornering the market in the vaccine the MoD had decided to buy.

It is also said that after meetings between Drayson's BioIndustry Association and a Treasury minister, Blair's Chancellor (Gordon Brown) uncharacteristically approved a tax reform which would save Drayson's company an immediate GBP2m on its tax bill.

After selling his company for a very considerable profit, Lord Drayson described himself as "a very successful guy through my own hard work".

Drayson's company, while he still headed it, was a financial supporter of the pro-GM Science Media Centre - a pet project of Lord Sainsbury's. Powederject's support for the SMC dried up following Drayson's departure. Drayson has also served on a working party of the controversial pro-GM lobby-group Sense About Science.

While Drayson was the head of the BioIndustry Association, it proposed sweeping new restrictions on the right to protest. The introduction of such legislation would make it difficult to legally conduct a boycott or protest against a corporation (see item 3 below).

For more on:
Lord Sainsbury
Science Media Centre
Sense About Science

1.Sainsbury to give Labour GBP2m as unions hold back
2.Vaccine-row donor gave Labour GBP500,000
3.Biotechs target activists

1.Sainsbury to give Labour GBP2m as unions hold back
Robert Winnett and Zoe Brennan
The Sunday Times, January 23, 2005

LORD SAINSBURY, the science minister, is poised to donate GBP2m to Labour’s general election campaign to compensate the party for a sharp fall in financial backing from the trade unions.

The money is expected to be handed over in the next few weeks as Labour gears up for the election.

Lord Levy, its chief fundraiser, is trying to raise more than GBP12m for the campaign as unions scale back contributions because of their opposition to the war in Iraq and public sector reforms.

The party has established its election war room and hired staff in preparation for an expected poll on May 5.

A Labour party source said: "The problem with raising money is the unions who have come up very short this time. But Lord Levy has rounded up some serious donors. We are expecting a handful of people to make donations of GBP1m plus.”

Sainsbury confirmed that he would make the biggest financial contribution to the campaign. "I intend to support the party in this coming election in the same way I have done in the past. It is likely to be at the same sort of level as the sums I've given in the past."

Labour sources confirmed that they were expecting a GBP2m donation from the minister, which will bring his contribution over the past decade to at least GBP16m.

Sainsbury, whose family is worth an estimated GBP1.7 billion, became a donor to Tony Blair before 1997 and has given regular seven-figure sums since. He has attracted controversy because of his support for genetically modified food in which he has personal interests through a charitable trust.

The party's other big donors, including Christopher Ondaatje and Lord Hamlyn's widow, are expected to make six or seven-figure donations. Lord Drayson, the pharmaceuticals tycoon who is tipped to replace Sainsbury as science minister after the election, has also been lined up for a large donation.

2.Vaccine-row donor gave Labour GBP500,000
Matthew Tempest and agencies
The Guardian, August 24, 2004

A businessman who benefited from a lucrative contract with the government for vaccines - and was later ennobled by Tony Blair - has donated half a million pounds to Labour, it emerged today.

Lord Drayson's firm Powderject made an estimated GBP20m from a deal to supply the government with smallpox vaccines in the wake of September 11 2001, at a time when he had recently donated GBP50,000 to the party.

Today it emerged he had made a further GBP505,000 donation in June this year, just six weeks after being made a peer by the prime minister.

The revelation came as the Electoral Commission published its figures on party political donations for the past four months.

Although Lord Drayson's individual donation is dwarfed by the funds supplied by the trade unions to Labour, it is likely to prove more controversial. At the time, ministers denied any wrongdoing over the timing of the contract and the first donation.

As Paul Drayson, he donated a total of GBP100,000 to Labour in the past, but the figures published today reveal that he donated a further GBP505,000 on June 17 this year.

Three years ago Powderject won a government contract to supply TB vaccines as well as the deal to supply smallpox vaccines.

The smallpox deal was mired in accusations of sleaze because Lord Drayson gave a GBP50,000 donation to Labour while the government was deciding who should be given the contract.

He was also invited to a private Downing Street breakfast for a small group of businessmen just as civil servants were deciding which type of vaccine to go for.

Ministers insisted there was no connection between the donations and any contracts, which they said had been awarded simply because the company was best-placed to deliver them.

A No 10 spokesman said at the time the breakfast was "held as a private event" and it was not "normal practice to release details

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