As 30% owner of UK fracker Cuadrilla, and with a seat in the heart of government, Lord John Browne is the UK’s fracking Czar.
Indeed, John Browne is an extraordinarily powerful man. Notorious for his involvement in raising student tuition fees and as a twelve-year head of controversial oil company BP, Browne is now an unelected part of the Cabinet Office, right in the centre of government decision making.
The peer’s influence comes from the many jobs he has created during his time in the corridors of power. The people appointed to these jobs have one thing in common: they owe their position to Browne.
To understand his role it’s necessary to go back to June 2010 when Francis Maude, MP for Horsham (a constituency including the fracking site at Balcombe), appointed him to the Cabinet office. A government press release stated: “one of his first tasks (was) to appoint Non-Executive Directors to the board of each government department”.
This job has become a key plank in Browne’s power. It gives him the ability to appoint large numbers of people into key government positions. Each appointee sits alongside Ministers of State, Under Secretaries of State, Permanent Secretaries, Chief Operating Officers and Director Generals as they make the decisions which govern the country.
Hence today we find four Browne appointees at the treasury, the government’s most powerful department.
Three more are found at DECC, which grants oil and gas licenses and oversees the industry.
At DEFRA, which oversees the Environment Agency, Browne has overseeen the appointment of four non-executives.
There are many more government departments – and many more Browne appointees.
This new culture of non-executive directors extends deep inside the government machine. That’s because each government depertments oversees agencies, projects, national authorities and regulators: all of which are busy appointing non-executive directors.
As such there are hundreds of people within government departments who owe their jobs to one man: Lord Browne.
Outside government, the web of Browne’s influence spreads through the commercial world. As well as being the managing director at Riverstone LLC (through which he owns part of Cuadrilla) he’s a director at CODA Automotive Inc (car batteries) and Cuadrilla Resources Holdings Ltd. He sits on seven advisory boards, including that of fracking Services group Schlumberger, two financial services groups and two oil and gas groups.
He’s previously been Non-Executive Director at Apax (another private equity group), Daimler Chrysler, Intel and Smithkline Beecham.
That’s not to mention he was CEO of BP for twelve years, one of the world’s largest companies.
Browne’s Minions: non-executives Directors in government
Dame Deirdre Hutton
Sir Callum McCarthy
Iain Ferguson CBE
Tony Hawkhead CBE
Barbara Stocking DBE
Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (oversees OFGEM)
David Fisk CB
Miriam Greenwood OBE DL
Lord Mogg KCMG
John Wybrew OBE