Badge Engineering

In the 1970s carmaker British Leyland did not have the money to develop new models, and so adopted a different approach. They would revamp an existing model, give it a new name and a new look, and launch this “new” model in an expensive blaze of publicity. The motoring world was not fooled and referred to this as “badge engineering”.

Predictably the new models sold little better than the ones they replaced, and despite huge injections of taxpayers’ money British Leyland finally went bankrupt in 1975.

Unfortunately badge engineering has recently crept into the political world.

Historically the petroleum industry on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf was handled by the Department of Trade and Industry. The civil servants in the DTI were professional and helpful and it was important for lawyers involved in oil industry on the UKCS to have good communications with them.

With the rise of North Sea oil the responsibility for energy matters was transferred in January 1974 to a dedicated Department of Energy.

In 1992 the Department of Energy was abolished and the oil and gas functions were transferred back to the Department of Trade and Industry.

In the New Labour years the rot set in. After the 2005 general election the Department of Trade and Industry was renamed the Department of Productivity, Energy and Industry (with accompanying logo redesign). But the move was widely ridiculed and the name change was reversed less than a week later.

In June 2007 the oil and gas supervisory functions were transferred to the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

In October 2008 they were transferred again to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, where for the time being they remain.

Predictably DBERR never got round to any serious regulatory reform, and DECC is powerless to do anything effective about climate change.

Meanwhile the oil and gas supervisory functions have been carried out competently, by the same civil servants working at the same offices, throughout the entire period.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.