Tuesday 20 April 2021 9:04 am

Amazon executive in conflict of interest row over UK space role

A senior Amazon executive is said to be in the running for a role as government space adviser despite concerns over serious conflicts of interest.

Peter Marquez, head of space policy at Amazon, has been put forward to serve as a temporary, unpaid adviser to the government.

He would take up the position alongside his job at the US ecommerce giant, the Times reported.

The mooted appointment is said to have sparked concerns among Cabinet Office officials about conflicts of interest in the race to roll out satellite internet networks.

The UK government last year invested £400m to help bail out Oneweb, a British government planning a network of low-orbit satellites to provide remote broadband. Amazon has launched a similar venture dubbed Project Kuiper.

Marquez, a former White House national security official, was appointed as Amazon’s first head of space policy in September last year.

He is expected to provide advice to the government on policy, strategy and legislation.

The Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team is currently investigating the suitability of the appointment, according to the report.

It comes amid heightened scrutiny over unpaid government advisory roles following a scandal over lobbying on behalf of collapsed finance firm Greensill.

The company’s Australian founder Lex Greensill was closely linked to Downing Street and even had a business card describing him as a senior adviser to then-prime minister David Cameron.

If confirmed the appointment will also highlight the UK’s focus on satellite internet services as companies scramble to roll out the nascent technology.

Oneweb, which was rescued from bankruptcy in November by the government and Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal, has now launched 146 satellites.

Its technology has been tipped as a potential solution to rolling out full-fibre broadband services in the most remote parts of the UK.

But it is also competing with Elon Musk’s Starlink as well as Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

Amazon and the Cabinet Office have been contacted for comment.