Belfast Telegraph

Home News Politics

David Cameron urged to intervene in BP oil spill row

David Cameron is under pressure to intervene in the row over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill amid growing anger over Barack Obama's "anti-British" attacks on BP.

Senior figures including London mayor Boris Johnson have voiced concerns about the tone of the US president's comments as he seeks to minimise political damage from the disaster.

Mr Johnson demanded an end to the "beating up" of the oil firm, urging the American administration to avoid "name calling" and "buck passing".

And the chairman of insurance giant Royal Sun Alliance, John Napier, warned Mr Obama's criticism was "unstatesmanlike" and lacked "balance". However, despite an alarming slump in BP's share price, the Prime Minister merely said he understood the US government's "frustration". He is due to discuss the situation with the president in a "routine" phone call over the weekend.

Speaking on a visit to Afghanistan, Mr Cameron said: "Obviously everyone wants everything to be done that can be done. Of course that is something I will be discussing with the American president." Chancellor George Osborne contacted BP chief executive Tony Hayward on the orders of the PM.

Following the phone call, Mr Osborne said: "We are all concerned about the human and environmental impact and as the Prime Minister has said, we understand the concerns of the US administration. The Prime Minister is also clear that we need constructive solutions and that we remember the economic value BP brings to people in Britain and America."

It also emerged that Mr Obama had requested a meeting with BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg and other "appropriate" company officials on June 16 to discuss the response to the environmental crisis.

Mr Johnson echoed previous comments by business leaders by suggesting that the "anti-British rhetoric" was becoming a matter of "national concern". He added that BP was paying "a very, very heavy price" for what had been an accident, and pointed out that UK pension funds had a "huge exposure" to BP. The firm is estimated to account for one in every seven pounds of dividends paid to British shareholders.

Mr Johnson acknowledged that the spill was a "huge environmental disaster", but added: "I think that the best thing now is not to get into too much name-calling and buck passing and attempts to damage the reputation of a great British company but to get on, to work together to sort it out."

In an open letter to the president, Mr Napier warned that his "comments towards BP and its CEO (Tony Hayward) as reported here are coming across as somewhat prejudicial and personal". "There is a sense here that these attacks are being made because BP is British." He went on: "Whilst we all recognise the seriousness of the situation there is a need to put some balance back into the situation... The immediate issues are very challenging but are best solved working together in a more statesmanlike way."


From Belfast Telegraph