A firm seeking approval for a cross-Channel power cable says a donation to the Tory party will have “no political influence” over the government’s decision.
Aquind Limited wants authorisation from officials to build an undersea “interconnector” 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.
Image: The proposed power cable would connect from the Portsmouth coast to France
The project is facing opposition in Portsmouth, where the cable infrastructure would be installed, with the local Labour MP urging ministers to focus on the interests of his constituents when considering the application.
Stephen Morgan, the MP for Portsmouth South, 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.”
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Richard Glasspool, an Aquind director, told Sky News his colleague does not see the money making “any difference” to the upcoming decision on whether to give the power cable the go-ahead.
“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,” said Mr Glasspool.
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 the firm between May 2016 and June 2017, stepping down several months before joining government.
Image: Sky’s Rob Powell interviews Aquind director, Richard Glasspool
Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan was given £2,500 by Aquind last year with thousands more donated to her constituency party.
The government 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, recused himself from the decision after it emerged he had accepted £10,000 from Aquind.
Mr Sharma is now President for the COP26 Climate Change Conference.
Cabinet ministers Brandon Lewis and Simon Hart, along with senior MPs Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox are among the dozens of MPs who have been supported by Aquind or Mr Temerko.
There’s no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Alexander Temerko, Aquind Limited or the recipients of the donations.
Image: Aquind owner Alexander Temerko poses for a photo with former PM David Cameron in 2014. Pic: alexandertemerko.co.uk
Richard Glasspool said: “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 company director also said they were in the process of ‘folding down’ a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands that has provided loans to Aquind.
Mr Glasspool said a Luxembourg-based holding company will now be used “in the interest of transparency” and in order to make things “more open”.
The planning inspectorate has been reviewing Aquind’s application 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”.
Source : Sky News