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Government energy adviser quits BP after ‘conflict of interest’ fears revealed

Peter Mather was appointed to the government’s BEIS board despite being paid to chair a BP shareholders’ group

Adam Bychawski
4 January 2023, 4.08pm

Former BP UK boss Peter Mather joined the BEIS board in March.

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BEIS

A government energy mandarin has stepped down from his paid role chairing BP Europe’s board after openDemocracy revealed concerns over a potential conflict of interest.

BP’s former UK head, Peter Mather, was appointed to the board of the Department of Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) as a non-executive board member in March 2022.

The department, which is responsible for the UK’s strategy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, said Mather’s role would “be vital in shaping government policy” at the time. 

openDemocracy revealed in October that Mather had continued to chair a shareholders’ group for 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. 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’.

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But BEIS today 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. BP Europe had not replied to openDemocracy’s request for comment at the time of publication.

According to BEIS, its departmental board “provides direction on strategy, performance and risk management”.

openDemocracy found more than a dozen other instances of the department recruiting energy industry insiders into 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, the 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.

A BEIS spokesperson said: “Peter 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.” 

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