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Revealed: Energy crisis has made 30 House of Lords members wealthier

Peers stand to make thousands from BP’s bumper profits as British households are told average bills could treble

Adam Bychawski
2 August 2022, 12.00am

At least two House of Lords members have investments in four or more gas and oil companies.

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PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Investments in energy companies have bagged UK politicians the equivalent of £705,000 since January – even as rising energy bills threaten to push millions more into poverty this winter.

It comes as BP is the latest to announce a windfall from the energy crisis, reporting that its profits in the last quarter have trebled compared to last year.

Thirty peers – 21 of them belonging to the Conservative Party – have seen their shareholdings in oil and gas companies soar in value, analysis by openDemocracy has found. 

Seven peers have shareholdings in BP and stand to make the equivalent of tens of thousands of pounds on their investments as stock prices have risen sharply since January. The company has also promised to pay out higher cash dividends.

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Last week, Shell announced earnings of $11.4bn (nearly £10bn) for the three-month period from April to June – almost double what it earned in the same period last year. The 23 peers who own shares in the oil giant will have seen the combined value of their investments increase by at least £640,000 in the last six months alone. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a particularly cold winter across Europe have pushed up already high oil and gas prices, leading to bumper profits and increased share prices for energy companies.

At least two peers have investments in four energy companies. Conservative peer Michael Bishop, a former airline owner, owns shares in Shell, BP, Chevron and Total, while crossbencher Peter Keith Levene is invested in Shell, BP, Total, Centrica and SSE.

Other beneficiaries include the crossbench peer Terence Burns, who sits on the Industry and Regulators Committee, which scrutinises the regulation of energy companies; and the Conservative peer Sheila Masters, a member of the Economic Affairs Committee, which also assesses energy policy.

Ruth London, co-director of campaign group Fuel Poverty Action, said: “Individuals who are already grotesquely wealthy stand to gain financially, at the cost of UK residents’ standard of living, and at the cost of the climate and everything we hold dear.”

Peers are required to declare any shareholdings worth more than £50,000 in the official register of Lords’ interests. But they do not have to specify the exact number of shares they own, meaning the true value of their energy crisis boost could be much higher than the figures in this article.

A further three peers own shares in US oil giants Chevron and ExxonMobil, which last week announced combined profits of almost $30bn for their second quarter – three times what they earned in the same period last year.

Peers are separately set to make thousands of pounds from cash dividends from the energy companies they hold investments in, some of which are increasing their payouts in response to bumper profits. Shell promised a payout worth £6.5bn to shareholders last week.

More than 40 members of the House of Lords have investments or senior roles at oil and gas companies, according to the Ferret.

Last week, British households were warned that average annual energy bills could top £3,850 in 2023, three times what they would have been under tariffs at the start of this year.

More than eight million households are already predicted to fall into fuel poverty after the price cap rises in October, according to National Energy Action, which defines fuel poverty as spending more than a tenth of household income on energy bills. The government defines it as any household living in a property with an energy efficiency rating of D or lower whose disposable income is below the poverty line.

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