Calls on ministers to ‘be honest’ about links with cross-Channel power cable sponsor | Business

Two ministers face calls to recuse themselves from a decision on whether a company jointly controlled by a major Conservative Party donor should be allowed to build a £ 1.2bn cross-Channel power cable after having “financed the Conservatives”.

Labor is warning of “a clear conflict of interest” at the heart of the business department, and this evening called on two of its ministers to “make clear” their ties to the sponsors of controversial power cable projects.

Aquind Energy, which is jointly owned by Alexander Temerko, who was an arms executive in Russia and worked for the Yukos oil company before seeking political asylum in the UK, requested permission from the business department to build a 148 mile cable between Portsmouth. and Normandy in France, which could supply up to 5% of the UK’s electricity and contain one of the largest fiber-optic data links in Europe.

But shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said it would be “a total fantasy” to believe ministers could make an impartial decision on the project after receiving financial benefits from Temerko and Aquind Energy.

Miliband called for urgent government action to resolve any perceived conflict and ensure that “this will not be another episode of Conservative harassment.”

Born in Ukraine, Temerko, now a British citizen, became one of the Conservative Party’s most generous donors. Temerko and the companies he is linked to, including Aquind, have given the Tories at least £ 1.3million.

Martin Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of the Business Department and Conservative Peer, was previously a non-executive director of Aquind between May 2016 and June 2017.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan accepted £ 2,500 from Aquind last year, as part of a £ 10,000 donation to the Northumberland Tories. In addition, his local branch of the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party of Berwick upon Tweed, accepted donations totaling £ 17,000 from Temerko between 2013 and 2015, when Trevelyan first ran as an MP.

Miliband called on the two ministers to formally recuse themselves from meetings and discussions on the cable project, and asked the government to give assurances that neither will play a role in the final decision, which faces the local opposition on both sides of the Channel.

Miliband said that “any belief that ministers in the business department could make genuinely impartial decisions about the future of our energy sector while pocketing donations from the companies involved, is a total fantasy.”

“There is a real cultural problem with this government, which comes straight from the top and from Boris Johnson. The government must be frank and explain how this will not be another episode of Conservative harassment, ”he said.

A government spokesperson said that neither Trevelyan nor Lord Callanan “would have a role in the decision” on the Aquind project, but did not exclude their participation in the affairs department’s discussions relating to the project.

“All development consent requests are handled by the ministry in accordance with government ownership guidelines and are assessed on a case-by-case basis,” the spokesperson added.

Former government affairs secretary Alok Sharma has recused himself from making a decision on the Aquind project after it emerged he had accepted £ 10,000 in donations from the company.

The new business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, is now expected to have the final say on whether to give the green light to the Aquind project later this year. In letters leaked under freedom of information laws, Kwarteng corresponded with Temerko, saying business department officials would advocate for the project in meetings with French officials, who previously opposed the project.

In a letter dated March last year seen by the Guardian, Kwarteng said he would ensure that UK officials “continue to take appropriate opportunities to communicate the benefits of the project in discussions with the French government. “.

In a separate letter, dated October 2019, Kwarteng added, “PS, great to see you at [the Conservative] conference this year!

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, said the minister’s decisions “would affect the daily lives of the people of Portsmouth” who “deserve full transparency from this government and a real say in decisions about the project. “.

Portsmouth Council has raised nearly £ 250,000 to oppose Aquind’s plans, saying it could seriously disrupt local traffic and threaten parts of the South Downs National Park. “Aquind would cause untold damage and disruption to Portsmouth with no obvious benefit to our region,” Morgan said.

A spokesperson for Aquind said the company was “in strict compliance with all relevant laws of the UK, France and the European Union” and that all of its political donations were “in accordance with relevant laws”.

The UK’s development permit application is handled by the Planning Inspectorate, an independent authority, which provides a recommendation to government ministers. Aquind said it was “the UK’s most comprehensive and comprehensive planning consent process.”

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