British lawmakers launch inquiry into mining, oil industries

LONDON Wed Jul 3, 2013 5:37pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers launched an inquiry into the mining and oil and gas industries on Wednesday, seeking to better understand their contribution to the economy and the impact of having scandal-prone companies listed in London.

The wide-ranging investigation comes as Britain seeks to maximise its hydrocarbon reserves in the North Sea and start exploiting shale resources, and it follows a series of scandals at mining companies with shares trading in London.

Parliament's Committee for Business, Innovation and Skills on Wednesday invited submissions on almost a dozen questions including how extractive industries contribute to the economy, jobs and exports; what are the corporate governance concerns of companies operating abroad but trading on UK exchanges; whether Britain has the skills base to remain a centre for extractive industries; and what the impacts are of signing up to a resource transparency initiative.

Britain said in May it would join a global initiative requiring oil and mining firms to comply with new disclosure measures aimed at tackling corruption.

Lawmakers in May flagged they were considering a transparency inquiry. High-profile corruption probes are already underway involving Kazakh miner ENRC and Indonesia-focused coal producer Bumi, which they fear have dented the London stock market's reputation.

This latest inquiry appeared to go further by also considering the economic impact of oil and gas and mining companies and whether British businesses are well placed to benefit from shale gas opportunities.

The government, eager for energy to play a part in reviving the economy, is trying to encourage investment in the sector by a series of tax breaks. In June, it also began a review of oil and gas recovery in the North Sea.

The inquiry will produce a written report, which is not expected until 2014, with policy recommendations for consideration by the Conservative-led coalition government.

The committee is made up of lawmakers from across the three main British political parties. Other ongoing inquiries include an examination of the British retail sector and the possible business implications of Scottish independence.

(Reporting by Sarah Young and William James; editing by Jane Baird)

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