The chief executive of UK energy giant BP has insisted that the company's record profits were helping to plug the nation's pensions black hole.

Lord Browne defended the level of his company’s full year 2005 profits, which came in at just over GBP11 billion – somewhat below analysts’ expectations. He then went on to insist that the considerable funds that BP was returning to shareholders would help to counter the effects of a looming pensions crisis.

We’re not profiteering, Lord Browne said in an interview with the BBC. We make most our money in what most people would regard as a wholesale market – that is the production of oil and gas not in the refining and sales of petrol and so forth.

The money doesn’t sit in the company. It is used to invest for the future but the vast bulk of it is sent back to our shareholders which are basically the pension funds of the United Kingdom.