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Tory ministers lobbied Brazil on behalf of Shell and BP, Government accidentally reveals

Greg Hands used a meeting with a Brazilian minister to pass on oil companies’ concerns: Rex Features

Brazilian government later gave major drilling licenses to the two companies

Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade successfully lobbied the Brazilian government over environmental regulations on behalf of three major oil companies, an official document has revealed.

Greg Hands, the international trade minister, reportedly made representations on behalf of BP, Shell and Premier Oil during a trip to Brazil in March.

He asked the Brazilian government to help British companies secure deals to drill in the pre-salt region of Brazilian waters, according to a British diplomatic cable obtained by Greenpeace.

Pre-salt drilling involves looking for oil deep under the sea bed. Environmental campaigners have warned that it risks accelerating climate change.

The cable says Mr Hands used a “private breakfast” in Rio de Janeiro to listen to the oil companies’ concerns “around taxation and environmental licensing” in Brazil.

He then raised the issue “directly” with Paulo Pedrosa, Brazil’s deputy minister for mining and energy.

Mr Pedrosa “confirmed that his ministry is already lobbying its relevant counterparts within the Brazil government”.

Brazil later granted three oil licenses to Shell and two to a consortium including BP. It also offered up to $300bn (£227bn) in tax relief to oil and gas companies in the country.

The diplomatic cable also reveals that the UK Government welcomed Brazil’s decision to reduce “local content requirements” – regulations that force companies to hire local workers and use local goods in an attempt to boost the economy of developing countries and regions.

Mr Hands also opened an event showcasing UK energy companies, at which “hydrocarbons were a heavy focus”.

Details revealed in the cable were apparently released by mistake. Following a freedom of information request, the DIT sent Greenpeace the full cable, with sensitive passages highlighted instead of redacted. It later released a second version with the same passages blacked out.

Rebecca Newsom, senior political adviser at Greenpeace, said: “This is a double embarrassment for the UK Government. Liam Fox’s trade minister has been lobbying the Brazilian government over a huge oil project that would undermine the climate efforts Britain made at the UN summit in Bonn.

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