Robert Norman Edmiston, Baron Edmiston (born 6 October 1946) is a British motor trade entrepreneur based in the West Midlands who has established a number of religious and educational charities, including Christian Vision.
Bob Edmiston became a millionaire through his companies IM Group, a car importer, and IM Properties. In 1974 he was finance director at sports car manufacturer Jensen Motors, and used a £6,000 redundancy payout when the company went bankrupt to set up International Motors, which acquired the UK franchise for Subaru and Isuzu cars. He later branched out into property and vehicle finance. In the Sunday Times Rich List 2013 ranking of the wealthiest people in the UK, he was placed 209th with an estimated fortune of £440 million. IM Group is now managed by his son, Andrew Edmiston.
Through two other charities, Edmiston is the sponsor of three secondary schools within the English academy programme (Grace Academy (Coventry), Grace Academy (Solihull)) and Grace Academy Darlaston: he is chair of the governors for all three academies. Edminston paid £2m to sponsor each academy.
The academies follow a Christian ethos. On 20 August 2013, the academies were among schools named by The Independent newspaper and the British Humanist Association as adopting policies similar in wording to the repealed anti-gay legislation Section 28.
In 2007 it was announced that Grace academy, Solihull had awarded contracts worth £281,000 over 2 years to the IM Group for payroll and other "management services" without going to competitive tender. The school also donated £53,000 over a 2-year period to Christian Vision. In response, Edmiston claimed that the school had no capability to pay wages and that he had transferred a member of Christian Vision to manage the project at cost price. The DfES refused to say why it had waived its "strict" rules requiring 3 competitive tenders but Sarah Teather, the then Liberal Democrats education spokesperson, said that the absence of tendering was worrying and "Lack of proper regulation will leave loopholes for the unscrupulous."
By 2014, the 3 schools had paid "more than £1m" to companies owned by Edmiston, academy trustees or their relatives. A company belonging to Edmiston's brother-in-law, Gary Spicer received over £367k for consultancy work over 6 years whilst the charities established by Edmiston received over £170k. In response, the academy's director of corporate development said the companies had financed the academy's development and provided office space. The payments – including for consultancy fees, IT advice and legal services – led to fears that the Department of Education was not monitoring the schools' accounts closely enough. Shadow Schools Minister Kevin Brennan said it was "deeply concerning that so much taxpayer money is ending up in the pockets of academy chain directors and trustees" and that the Government urgently needed to prioritise protection of public money over the rate of expansion.
Edmiston has also been a backer of the Conservative Party, which he supported with a £2 million loan, later converted into a donation. He was one of the businessmen behind the Midlands Industrial Council, a Conservative Party political campaigning organization.
In 2005 The Times reported that he was on a list of proposed new working peers; however, his nomination was overtaken by the "Cash for Peerages" scandal and was blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission. The Inland Revenue also opposed his appointment as a peer because of a tax dispute with IM Group.
On 19 November 2010 it was announced that Edmiston was to be created a Life Peer. He sat as a Conservative in the House of Lords, with the title (created 14 January 2011) Baron Edmiston, of Lapworth in the County of Warwickshire. In the House of Lords debate on gay marriage on 3 June 2013, Lord Edmiston opposed gay marriage on the grounds that it could lead to other forms of marriage. He said: "If there is no possibility of genetic offspring or indeed no requirement for consummation, why should not close relatives get married?" [Hansard].
- "The Sunday Times Rich List 2013". features.thesundaytimes.co.uk. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- IC Birmingham
- Charity Commission. Christian Vision, registered charity no. 1031031.
- Charity Commission. 1117366 Grace Academy Coventry, registered charity no. 1117366 Check
- Charity Commission. Grace Academy Solihull, registered charity no. 1103029.
- Rob Evans, Richard Cookson and Matthew Taylor (5 March 2007). "Alarm over academy deals linked to sponsor". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- Grace Academy
- Nigel Morris (20 August 2013). "The return of Section 28: Schools and academies practising homophobic policy that was outlawed under Tony Blair". The Independent. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Rajeev Syal (12 January 2013). "Revealed: taxpayer-funded academies paying millions to private firms". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- Hayley Dixon (13 January 2014). "Academies paying millions to businesses linked to their directors". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- Birmingham Post: Power 50
- BBC: West Midlands: MIC names behind the cash...
- The Times: Sleaze row as election donors get peerages
- Telegraph: "Police wanted to talk to 80 people in peers inquiry but many refused, reveals donor"
- The London Gazette: . 19 January 2011.