Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Congress attacks Tony Hayward over BP oil spill

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 June 2010

Members of a Congressional Committee in Washington have strongly attacked the embattled BP chief executive Tony Hayward during sharp exchanges, and Channel 4 News Washington correspondent Sarah Smith says he has "not been doing brilliantly" with his replies.

Tony Hayward gives evidence (Credit: Reuters)

Mr Hayward was repeatedly accused of ignoring safety warnings, shirking responsibility and running a company with "astonishing" corporate responsibilty during an appearence before the House of Representative's Committee on Energy and Commerce.

He had used his opening statement to once again apologise for April's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The explosion and fire on board Deepwater Horizon and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico never should have happened and I am deeply sorry that they did, he said.

"When I learned that 11 people lost their lives I was personally devastated," he continued.

But Mr Hayward faced tough questioning during increasingly strident confrontations with committee members, and was accused of "stone-walling" and "failing to co-operate" with its members.

He repeatedly replied "I was not involved in that decision" and "I'm afraid I can't recall" when asked about specifics concerning the construction and safety testing of Deepwater Horizon.

Bart Stupak, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said: "Quite frankly, BP blew it. You cut corners to save money and time."

Mr Hayward said the investigation was "ongoing", and said it was "too early" to reach conclusions over the explosion's cause.

He said safety had been his focus since becoming BP chief executive in 2007, yet was accused of ignoring concerns to save costs.

More on BP's $20bn fund from Channel 4 News
-Oil spill: BP's Tony Hayward faces Congress
-Obama's 'King Solomon' in charge of the account
-What is an escrow account and is it legally enforceable?
Gulf oil spill: how will BP cover its costs?

Rep Henry Waxman said he was "amazed at this testimony".

"You are not taking responsibility, you are kicking the can down the road and acting like you have nothing to do with this company, he said".

"Business as usual"
On a highly-charged afternoon, Mr Hayward listened to an hour-and-a-half of strong criticism from Members of Congress on the committee before he began giving evidence.

One member had earlier promised to slice and dice" him, and the committee chair went on to accuse BP of "astonishing" corporate complacency.

Rep Waxman said Mr Hayward had showed no interest in the Deepwater Horizon well before it exploded on 20 April.

He accused the oil giant of repeatedly taking "shortcuts that endangered life and increased the risk of a catastrophic blow out."

He said Mr Hayward had provided "not a single email or document that showed you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers of this well," Mr Waxman said.

Rep Peter Welsh, a Vermont representative accused BP of repeated safety breaches in the years before the Deepwater Horizon blast.

"For 59 days, BP has told the American people that this was an aberration. It is not an aberration - for BP this is business as usual," he said.

"It is deja vu again and again and again."

BP cuts dividend, reduces investment and sells $10bn of assets
Last week on conference call the Chief Executive Tony Hayward and chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg went to great lengths to reassure investors that they had plenty of firepower to not only meet the costs of the operations in the Mexican Gulf but also meet its other commitments, reports business correspondent Siobhan Kennedy.

While they didn’t specifically say they would pay the dividend they left investors with no doubt they had the money to do so, it was just a question of prioritising the Mexican Gulf spill first.

Yet just one week later under pressure from President Obama to put aside a massive $20bn fund, the company has now decided it no longer has the cash reserves to meet all its costs and pay the dividends.

The payments for the quarter are expected to be about $2.5bn and the company chairman on Monday had discussed a number of options with investors on a conference call including the temporary suspension of the dividend.

But while most investors, who have been broadly supportive of Tony Hayward's management, have factored in a cancellation of the payout for one quarter, few were expecting it to be wiped out for the rest of the year. One investor told Channel 4 News last week that if the dividend was cancelled he would likely pay for it with his job.

It's clear that Obama's decision to push BP to put aside such a huge amount of funds has forced BP's hand. As of last week BP almost bragged about its available cash reserves - $5bn in ready cash and a further $10bn in facilities - yet having to set aside more than that for the liability fund clearly BP has been left with no choice but to rein in its spending including its dividend.

BP is saying this is prudence but investors will see this as panic.

BP had yesterday pledged to set up a $20bn (£13.5bn) compensation fund and suspending dividends for the rest of the year after meeting Barack Obama at the White House.

Mike Doyle, a Pennsylvanian Congressman accused the oil giant of "bad judgment at best and criminal negligence at worst".

"When you operate on our land and our waters, you are only there because the public trust allows you to be there," he said.

"You violated that trust in the worst possible way."

A protester was bundled out of the hearing as Mr Hayward began to give evidence.

She repeatedly shouted at the BP chief executive as security guards rushed to restrain her.

"You need to be charged with a crime. You need to go to jail," she shouted.

Channel 4 News Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith said the committee members had been giving Mr Hayward "a very hard time", but were "angry that they're not getting answers."

"Tony Hayward has become a rather notorious bogeyman in America over the last few weeks and this really was a chance to set the record straight in his own words," she said.

He's got hours on live television in front of this committee to explain himself and to explain what happened.

"He's not been doing a brilliant job of it as he keeps trying to dodge these questions very obviously."

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest BP Oil Spill news

7-day catch-up


Watch Channel 4 News when you want to, from the last week.

BP spill timeline

BP oil spill timeline (Getty)

How events have unfolded since the April 20 Deepwater blast.

BP oil spill live feeds


Watch 12 live video feeds of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Harsh lessons?


Biologist Professor Rick Steiner on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill consequences.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.