Transparency call after MP set up Westminster energy group months after donation from energy company

The Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns. Picture by Number 10 (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Alun Cairns set up a Westminster interest group for energy security months after receiving a donation from an energy company at the heart of a row about lobbying by another Conservative MP.

Last June, the Vale of Glamorgan MP registered a £5,000 donation to his general election campaign fund from Aquind Ltd, a company with plans to build an electricity interconnector between England and France.

The company’s director, Alexander Temerko, has donated more than £1 million to the Tories.

After winning re-election, Cairns established the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for energy security.

He is listed as the “chair and registered contact” for the group which held its first meeting in February this year, the UK Parliament register of APPG’s shows.

The purpose of the group is to “promote the security of energy supply in the UK”.

Temerko is described on his personal website as a “vocal champion of UK energy security and independence”, while Aquind’s website states that its interconnector is needed to “ensure additional security and diversity of energy supply.”

The funding from Aquind is completely legal. However, Cairns’ formation of the group could raise questions after fellow Conservative MP David Morris was ordered to apologise by Parliament’s standards watchdog for breaching rules on donations tied to the same company.

Morris had accepted a donation of £10,000 from Aquind last September. A month later he used Business Questions in the Commons to call on the UK government to urge energy regulator Ofgem to “protect British companies by granting regulation as soon as possible” for Aquind’s project.

He followed up his request the next day with an email to the UK Business Secretary.

Westminster’s standards commissioner found his actions broke paragraph 12 of the code of conduct for MPs which states: “No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House.”

Jane Dodds, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems, told Nation.Cymru that it was important to ensure that the activities of Alun Cairns’ cross-party group were transparent.

“Discussing energy security is a very noble cause, however it would be interesting to know what the precise aims and objectives of this group are,” she said.

“Alun Cairns and other members of this group need to ensure that the group’s activities are clear and fully transparent.”

 

‘Challenges’

In March, Cairns published an article on his website announcing he had started a new role in Parliament “looking into energy security.”

“Mr Cairns was recently elected as the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Energy Security, which is a cross party group with the support of Labour, Plaid Cymru and SNP representatives in its membership,” the entry states.

“At present they are looking into the challenges facing the energy sector and are engaging with key stakeholders on this basis.”

While the article gives the impression Cairns was elected to an existing group, the register of APPGs shows no such group has existed during the last five years.

The three other members of the group are Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire Craig Williams, Labour MP for Newport East Jessica Morden and Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion Ben Lake.

Nation.Cymru reported last November how Cairns and Simon Hart, his successor as Wales Secretary, were among Conservatives to receive pre-election donations from Aquind or Temerko.

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