BP link prompts Redwood attack

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Indy Politics
Gas liberalisation is presenting a potential conflict of interest for Lord Simon, the Minister for Competitiveness in Europe, who has a continuing stake in BP.

The former chairman of BP, who accepted an unpaid ministerial post in May, has been under increasing attack from John Redwood, the Opposition spokesman, because he has kept his pounds 2m BP shareholding in spite of his work at the DTI and the Treasury. Mr Redwood said yesterday that Lord Simon was in breach of the ministerial rule book and should resign.

But the Prime Minister's office mounted a robust defence of the minister, and accused Mr Redwood of trying to maintain his campaign for the Tory leadership.

A spokesman said Lord Simon had given up the chairmanship of BP and agreed to take a job without pay to help promote greater competitiveness in Europe - to the advantage of the British economy and employment.

Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, has told the Commons that Lord Simon is barred from seeing papers or attending meetings "which have a bearing on BP", and it had been decided that "he should not be involved in matters affecting British Petroleum".

But The Independent has discovered that on 26 June, Lord Simon signed an explanatory parliamentary memorandum on a European Community document on the Single Market which dealt, among other things, with gas liberalisation and state aid for industry.

Mr Redwood said that he was disturbed by the memorandum's contents, "when we had been assured he would not be dealing with issues that have a bearing on BP".

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