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Former Shell chairman James Smith to lead deregulation of UK oil and gas industry


The Government has appointed James Smith, the former UK chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, to lead a radical deregulation of the oil and gas industry.

By 6:00AM BST 07 Sep 2011

Charles Hendry, the energy minister, promised oil executives at Aberdeen’s annual Offshore Europe conference that they would be facing less regulatory oversight in years to come.

Mr Smith, the longtime head of Shell UK, who retired this year, will start gathering opinions in November from companies on how to cut regulation.

“You are not going to see more regulation,” Mr Hendry told delegates. “What we badly need is input from industry on how to reduce the burden of regulation. The approach of ticking boxes you see in other countries, that’s not the UK’s way of doing things.”

He promised that a non-prescriptive, flexible approach to regulation would be the Government’s starting point, as it seeks to encourage more investment in the North Sea.

The minister has written to “stakeholders” in the oil industry urging them to contribute their thoughts, while promising that current standards would not be lost. However, his comments may cause alarm among those who have pressed for tighter regulation in the wake of recent North Sea problems such as Shell’s pipeline leak and concerns from the Health and Safety Executive about platform corrosion.

Mr Hendry said the UK’s safety regime was one of the world’s “most robust”, as he unveiled two oil spill caps designed to tackle future oil leaks.


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