A senior advisor on government energy policy has reportedly stepped down from the BP payroll, as an investigative news source voiced concerns over a potential conflict of interest.
openDemocracy reported yesterday on Peter Mather, BP’s former UK head, and chair of BP Europa SE’s supervisory board. Mather, a BP employee since 1987, was appointed to D-BEIS’ board as a non-executive member in March 2022.
openDemocracy revealed in October that Mather had continued to chair BP Europe’s supervisory board, one of several such appointments that sparked allegations of a “revolving door” between the government and the energy sector it is supposed to oversee.
Founded in 2010, BP Europa SE is described on its website as the European public company of the BP Group. Billed as one company operating in seven different countries, rather than a holding structure, it includes the company’s country organisations in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland, plus Deutsche BP. BP’s Swiss interests were integrated in April 2011.
Months before his appointment to BEIS, Mather had also held two further roles at BP as senior vice president in Europe and ‘UK head of country’.
|BEIS yesterday confirmed in its latest register of board members’ interests that Mather is no longer holding his position with BP as of last month, though he remains listed in the position on BP Europe’s website.
According to BEIS, the ministry’s departmental board “provides direction on strategy, performance and risk management”. The department told the investigative website last year that Mather had declared any potential conflicts of interest before taking his post, and had agreed to recuse himself from any conversations involving BP.
openDemocracy claims it found more than a dozen other instances of D-BEIS recruiting energy industry insiders to senior positions.
Among those given key roles in energy policy are a former British Gas director who was responsible for Ofgem’s decision to allow energy suppliers to raise the energy price cap more frequently.
Other BEIS staff who have passed through the revolving door include a former BP regulatory specialist, who claimed on LinkedIn that he had “improved commercial operations” for the oil giant by “influencing the design” of the UK’s gas market.
After being hired by BEIS in 2015, that staff member “led the in-house advisory team on best practice to develop analysis of UK energy policy regulation proposals”. He now heads the government’s heat pump scheme.
In October, a BEIS spokesperson said: “These claims are, as usual, ridiculous. It is right that, as the government department responsible for energy policy, we appoint people with experience in the energy sector to make best use of the wealth of knowledge held within industry. Any potential conflicts of interest are always declared and properly managed as a matter of course.”
In its public register of board members’ interests, updated yesterday, D-BEIS’ website implies Mather’s post as unpaid chair of BP Europe ended last month. Yet he remains listed today on BP Europa SE’s website as ‘Vorsitzender’ – chairman – of its supervisory board.
The Energyst has approached BP Europa SE for clarification today. Their response is awaited.
D-BEIS confirmed to The Energyst today that Peter Mather remains in his non-executive directorship. The ministry lists Mather among eight non-executive board members. A further 19 members hold executive roles.
A D-BEIS spokesperson added today: “Mr Mather declared any potential conflicts of interest before taking post, in accordance with normal procedure. He has also agreed to recuse himself from any conversations which present a conflict with BP.
“But as the government department responsible for energy policy, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we appoint people with experience in the energy sector to make best use of the wealth of knowledge held within industry. Any potential conflicts of interest are always declared and properly managed as a matter of course.”