By Tom Bergin and Daniel Fineren
LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - UK safety regulators criticisedBP Plc's safety training procedures in the North Sea just monthsbefore a blown-out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico causedAmerica's worst ever oil spill.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the UKgovernment body monitoring compliance with companies' approvedemergency plans, also cited BP for failing to adequately conductoil spill exercises.
The UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said in a letterto BP that there was "evidence of a culture among yourcontractors, Seawell (up to senior levels of management), ofworking outside of procedures, permit or permit conditions".
The publication of the criticism comes as BP's outgoingchief executive, Tony Hayward, prepares to appear before a UKparliamentary committee later on Wednesday to discuss North Seasafety.
BP's shares traded down 1.6 percent at 408.5 pence at 1013GMT, lagging a 0.8 percent drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Oil andGas index.
BP's culture towards safety has been criticised heavily bypoliticians in the United States following the Macondo welldisaster.
The company said it had addressed DECC's concerns and wasnow fully compliant with the relevant regulations.
With respect to the HSE criticism of its culture towardscorrect permitting of work on the Clair platform, BP said: "Theletter from the HSE last year relates to comments made by acontractor which the safety representatives on the platformstrongly felt did not reflect the reality of the platform'ssafety culture and practices."
"Following further engagement with the HSE the matter wasclosed," BP added.
Stavanger-based Seawell's chairman Joergen Rasmussen said hewas surprised by the HSE comments.
"We have not heard about it before. We worked for BP so ifthey had received a letter like this that mentioned us we wouldhave heard. This only seems strange, I cannot understand it," hesaid.
In one letter to BP, part of a batch released following aFreedom of Information Act request by two UK newspapers, the HSEalso criticised BP's procedures for investigating safetyincidents, and from learning from investigations.
BP last week published its own probe into the Macondo wellin the Gulf of Mexico and accused its drilling contractor,Transocean, of inadequate adherence to procedures.
BP and other oil companies have previously admitted theywere not prepared to deal with a blow out in deep water.
When Transocean's North Sea chief appeared before theparliamentary committee last week, he was also grilled aboutleaked criticism from the UK's safety regulator. (Additional reporting by Richard Solem in Oslo; Editing by JonLoades-Carter)