The outgoing boss of BP, Tony Hayward, has rejected claims the company’s North Sea oil platforms are unsafe for drilling.
Mr Hayward told a committee of MPs he “did not believe” earlier newspaper reports which claimed to show a “fundamental weakness” in BP’s North Sea operations.
The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times quoted a report which found all but one of the company’s North Sea oil platforms had failed to comply with emergency regulations last year.
The papers cited correspondence between the oil company and, respectively, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department of Environment and Climate Change (Decc).
But Mr Hayward said the reports had no foundation when questioned by MPs investigating the implications of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill for offshore drilling in the UK.
He told the Energy and Climate Change Committee: “We have a very strong track record in the North Sea.
“It is better than the industry average. We have seen major improvements over the course of the last two years.”
The papers reported HSE and Decc had previously raised questions about the safety and emergency training BP offered its North Sea personnel.
Both regulators have responded by issuing statements downplaying the findings.
The HSE said the discussions merely reflected the “cut and thrust of the regulatory process”, while Decc said “nothing identified compromised the overall integrity of the installation or its pollution response provisions”.
Mr Hayward was called to the committee for questions over the oil spill that followed an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April.
He said the disaster – which killed 11 people and demanded a £20bn recovery operation – had been personally “devastating” because he had made safety the firm’s top priority.
And he insisted cost-cutting was not part of how the spill occurred.
Mr Hayward quickly became a figure of hatred in the US amid the disaster, following a series of ill-advised public statements.
In July, BP announced he would be stepping down as chief executive on October 1, to be replaced by American Bob Dudley.
On the PR gaffes, Mr Hayward told the committee: “There are many things that I would do differently if I had the opportunity again.”
And he added that he understood the criticism levelled at him in the US.
“This was a terrible tragedy that caused immense stress and distress,” he said.
“There was a lot of emotion and anger. The reaction was very understandable.”
Committee chairman Tim Yeo, speaking on Jeff Randall Live, said: “It is right that he (Hayward) is taking responsibly for it.
“I think there was a degree of overreaction in the United States amongst the politicians.
“I think there was a certain amount of domestic politics being played out there, of which BP was a sort-of unwitting victim.
“But clearly it was the most serious oil spill in US history, and BP, together I think with Transocean and possibly Halliburton, share the responsibly for it.
“And there are still some unanswered questions about that – human error, equipment failure and so on.”