Energy firm seeking UK Gov approval for project claims donations to Tory party won’t ‘influence’ decision
An energy firm seeking approval for an infrastructure project has claimed donations to the Tory party will have “no political influence” over the UK Government’s decision.
Aquind Limited, which has donated significant sums to Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, wants authorisation from officials to build an undersea “interconnector” cross-Channel power cable between England and France.
The firm, and its owner, Alexander Temerko, have donated more than £1m to Conservative MPs and the party directly.
Nation.Cymru has previously reported that Simon Hart, who is the MP Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, received a personal donation of £2,000 from Temerko in February 2019 followed by £22,565 from Aquind Ltd in the form a winning auction bid in March of the same year.
Former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, who is the MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, received a donation of £5,000 to his campaign fund from Aquind Ltd in June 2019.
Aquind has been criticised after it was revealed that two ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – where the decision on the project will be made – have links to the company.
Junior Business Minister Lord Callanan was a director at Aquind between May 2016 and June 2017, stepping down several months before he joined the UK Government, while Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan was given £2,500 by Aquind last year with thousands more donated to her constituency party.
The UK Government has told Sky News that neither minister will play a role in the process and the decision will be taken solely by the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
His predecessor in that role, Alok Sharma, who is now president for the COP26 climate change conference, recused himself from the decision after it emerged he had accepted £10,000 from Aquind.
Cabinet ministers Brandon Lewis along with senior MPs Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox, are among the dozens of MPs who have been supported by Aquind or Temerko.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the recipients of the donations, Alexander Temerko, or Aquind Limited.
Richard Glasspool, an Aquind director, told Sky News that Temerko does not believe the money will make “any difference” to the upcoming decision on whether to give the power cable the green light.
He said: “We don’t see any link between making political contributions to the Conservative Party and what we’re doing as a project. Absolutely not.
“Aquind as a project since its inception, and through where we are now, received no favours from any party. It has been an uphill struggle all the way.”
On Temerko he added: “In his opinion, he has no political influence. He will fight his corner for the business and to get the interconnector up and running. But beyond that he doesn’t see that his contributions will make any difference.
“It’s all about supporting the party, supporting individual MPs for them to get re-elected, and that’s his agenda for making the contributions.”
The project faces fierce opposition in Portsmouth, where the cable infrastructure would be installed.
The local Labour MP Stephen Morgan is urging Tory ministers to focus on the interests of his constituents when considering the application.
He said: “It is clear Aquind would bring untold damage and disruption to Portsmouth with no clear benefits.
“Government has got to make decisions in the interests of the people it serves, not its party donors, particularly ones that will affect the day-to-day lives of the people of Portsmouth for years to come.
“My constituents deserve total transparency and when the time comes, the government must make the right call and stop Aquind.”
The planning inspectorate has been reviewing the application from Aquind’s and will make a recommendation to the business secretary by 8 June 2021.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “All applications for development consent are dealt with by the Department in line with Government Propriety Guidance, and are assessed on a case-by-case basis”.