Mark Higson

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Nuclear spin.png This article is part of the Nuclear Spin project of Spinwatch.

Mark Higson was chief executive of the UK government's Office for Nuclear Development at the Department of Energy and Climate Change from October 2008 until January 2014.

In June 2015 he set up his own business, Mark Higson Consulting, which offers his advisory services on the 'UK energy market, economic regulation, government relations, nuclear power and waste management'. [1]


Higson is a career civil servant who joined the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) to head up its nuclear energy team in September 2006. Prior to this, he was deputy CEO of the Shareholder Executive, the organisation responsible for discharging the shareholder role for Government owned businesses, working initially on the creation of the organisation in the Cabinet Office and then subsequently to lead the shareholder role on Royal Mail, BNFL and the UKAEA.

In his role as CEO at OND Higson earned over £89,999 a year.

Living the high life

Higson and his colleagues Adam Dawson and Melvyn Draper first hit news headlines in February 2008 when The Independent revealed they had all enjoyed extensive hospitality from the nuclear lobby. [2]

The three were also amongst senior civil servants who were, in the department's first five months, wined and dined on over 30 occasions by companies with a vested interest in nuclear.

Energy companies, nuclear contractors, trade bodies, accountants, corporate strategists and legal firms took Higson and other key directors to some of London’s most exclusive venues. Bechtel, the engineering giant, paid for a reception at London’s OXO Tower, Alstom bought dinner at Madame Tussauds, while British Energy entertained three senior civil servants at a Burns supper at the Caledonian Club. Meanwhile, a Dutch nuclear company part-owned by BNFL paid for drinks and dinner in the Netherlands. [3]

In November 2012 an investigation by Spinwatch revealed that the OND's top officials continued to enjoy what some would see as excessive hospitality from an industry they are meant to regulate. Since the Coalition Agreement was signed in May 2010, Mark Higson and two other senior OND officials have been wined and dined over 50 times by nuclear companies or those with a stake in nuclear new build, including pro-nuclear pressure groups, law firms and accountancy firms. [4]

Higson, the Chief Executive of the OND has enjoyed dinners at some of London’s most exclusive culinary establishments where celebrities and businessmen mingle. These include the five Star Grosvenor House Hotel, where starters include oysters and caviar, and the Five Star Berkeley, just a stone’s throw from Sloane Square, whose infamous Blue Bar boasts some of the finest imaginative cocktails, vintage champagnes and selection of malt whiskies in London.
With stunning views over the Thames, the Royal Horse Guards Hotel, is another hotel famed for its chandeliers and luxury. It is here that Higson has enjoyed lunches, drinks and dinners in exclusive surroundings. He has also been entertained under the stunning soaring eight-storey glass roof atrium at the Winter Garden, where “cutting-edge gastronomy” dinner menus are in the region of £100.
... Officials from the Department have also attended "receptions" at the RAC Club, the Houses of Parliament, the House of Lords, the Royal Society and the Science Museum.
This hospitality is part of a multi-million pound lobbying effort by the nuclear industry to become a central tenet of the Coalition government’s low carbon energy. It seems to have paid off. [5]

DECC withheld the names of company representatives who provided the hospitality under Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act. [6]


Resources and Notes



  1. Mark Higson, LinkedIn profile, accessed 12 August 2015
  2. Andy Rowell and Richard Cookson, ‘Civil Servants lived the high life courtesy of nuclear lobby’, The Independent, 24 February, 2008.
  3. DECC, Email to Rich Cookson, March 2009
  4. HOSPITALITY REGISTER – OFFICE FOR NUCLEAR DEVELOPMENT 29 Oct 2009 – 29 Oct 2012, published on Scribd
  5. Andy Rowell and Rich Cookson, Nuclear Hospitality of Key Officials Exposed, Spinwatch, 28 November 2012
  6. Lucy Tanner Office for Nuclear Development, Letter to Richard Cookson, 20 December 2012