Lord Sainsbury ‘forgot’ £2 million Labour loan


You’ve got to be seriously rich to make a loan of £2 million – and then forget about it.

Well that’s exactly what happened to Lord Sainsbury, the latest rich man to get caught up in the Labour Party loans scandal.

The heir to the Sainsbury supermarket fortune, Labour’s Science Minister since 1996, loaned the money to the party but has now admitted wrongly disclosing it to the senior senior civil servant in his department. In fact he had disclosed an earlier £2m gift, but not the £2m loan, which he had forgotten.

Lord Sainsbury’s memory lapse is not so surprising for a man worth anywhere up to £2 billion and according to political commentators has given the party an estimated £11 million in recent years.

In 2003 Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC, 'In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.' Seddon said it was causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now 'in the pockets of the powerful and the rich'.

With such wealth the science minister has been able to spend vast sums in pursuit of his twin passions, science and politics.

In the 1980s the then plain David Sainsbury bankrolled the Social Democrats and was a particular admirer of the party's leader Lord Owen. However, he switched horses Labour when it moved toward the political centre following the collapse of the SDP/Liberal alliance.

He has also huge investments in the development of genetically-modified food and these financial interests have aroused controversy at a time when the government has come under attack for not banning GM crops.

Lord Sainsbury's interest in science was kindled at Cambridge University in the sixties. Although initially a history student he transferred to psychology because of a fascination with the breakthroughs then being made in the study of DNA.

He once said that if a fairy godmother were to grant him a wish it would be to become a Nobel Prize winner in plant genetics.

This passion for genetic research led him to donate £200m of Sainsbury shares to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation which funds work into genetically improving the resistance of plants to disease.

Thanks reading Big Business

David Davis


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