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BP chief faces scathing criticism from US Congress

Tony Hayward accused of "stonewalling" US congressional panel by refusing to answer questions.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward faced scathing questioning from an angry US congressional committee yesterday.

Hayward, who has become a public hate figure in America since the oil spill began 60 days ago, was accused of "stonewalling" by refusing to answer questions.

"The committee is extremely frustrated with your lack of candour," Bart Stupak, who is leading the investigation, told him. "You are the CEO. You have a PhD. We hope you have more candour in your responses."

The energy and commerce committee is conducting an inquiry into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Hayward was there to answer specific questions about safety lapses and alleged shortcuts in the designing of the well.

Public anger at BP, and at Hayward in particular, was evident in the aggression of the questioning. Frustrated at the chief executive's refusal or inability to answer some questions, committee members resorted to sarcasm and outright criticism.

Texan Republican Michael Burgess expressed surprise when the BP chief said he had not known anything about the Deepwater Horizon well until oil discovery was confirmed in April.

"With due respect," said Hayward, "we drill hundreds of wells around the world."

"Yeah, that's what scares me right now," Burgess replied.

Members told Hayward that BP has a history of disregarding environmental rules and workers' safety, and ridiculed his claim that he had set new safety standards after taking over the top job in 2007.