David Cameron and other British ministers will “get out there” lobbying Russia and other oil-rich countries to give UK energy companies new business, according to Charles Hendry, the energy minister.
In the past few weeks, the Government has called a meeting of ambassadors informing them that British politicians are actively looking to help UK businesses secure big deals abroad.
Mr Hendry told The Daily Telegraph that the potential development of giant oil fields in northern Russia is a place where the Prime Minister or an energy minister should be promoting energy companies and key suppliers.
“Looking at the potential development of the Yamal Peninsula where Prime Minister Putin has actively said he wants international investment. I think it’s important for a British minister to be out there supporting British companies trying to get those contracts,” Mr Hendry said, in his first major newspaper interview.
It should be natural for the Prime Minister to shake hands with his foreign counterparts when big commercial oil and gas contracts are agreed, he argues. Mr Hendry believes that longer-term agreements with energy-rich countries could provide greater stability and guard against price fluctuations.
“We’ve never been very good in this country at long term contracts and I am very keen we do more to help secure those,” he said. “If you find a new international contract being signed with the Germans then Angela Merkel is there or President Sarkozy with the French. We send along the British ambassador who is a very fine man or woman but doesn’t quite have the same political clout.”
The move is part of a wider government push to make sure British business is being supported abroad, as the industry remains in a fragile state following the recession.
“We had a gathering for a large number of high commissioners coming through saying we actually want to engage with you to secure our supplies and help develop those contracts and help find opportunities overseas for British businesses,” Mr Hendry said.
The policy could be controversial in light of accusations that officials may have taken BP’s commercial interests in Libyan oil and gas into account when authorising the release of the Lockerbie bomber.