Let’s Stop Aquind, the grassroots community pressure group formed to stop the Aquind Interconnector, calls for an immediate halt to the project’s Development Consent Order application process and a thorough and transparent enquiry into the relationship between the Conservative Party and Aquind Limited.
The last three months have seen one revelation after another as the sheer scale of Aquind’s financial support for the Conservative Party has come to light. The number of donations made by Aquind to MP’s, Lords and ministers already posed a frighteningly high risk of a conflict of interest, but this risk has been ramped up even further now a former director of Aquind Limited has a ministerial post in the very department that will take the final decision on whether to grant the Development Consent Order sought by… Aquind Limited.
In July this year, the company, owned by former Russian citizen and Oil Executive Viktor Fedotov and the Ukrainian-born rising star of the Conservative Party Alexander Temerko, released its accounts for the year ending 30 June 2020. The company, which will attempt to raise as much as £1.2billion to complete the Interconnector project if it goes ahead, has never recorded any trading income and has historically been kept afloat by financing ultimately provided by a web of offshore holding and investment companies. The accounts showed that the company, despite accumulated debts of over £36million and no income other than loans from its Luxembourg based parent, was still able to afford donations of £261,000 to the Conservative Party.
The total amount donated to the Conservatives by current and former directors of Aquind and the company itself is now widely believed to be £1.6 million in the last 10 years. The recipients included the constituency associations of:
- A large number of Conservative MP’s such as Jeremy Hunt, Simon Hart, David Morris, Nigel Adams, Brandon Lewis, Liam Fox, Andrew Percy and Simon Clarke (in an unguarded moment, Alexander Temerko once claimed to “have” as many as 37 MP’s*)
- James Wharton, former MP for Stockton South and Northern Powerhouse Minister, who went on to become Baron Wharton of Yarm and a paid consultant to Aquind Limited
- Business Secretary Alok Sharma, who has had to recuse himself from decisions involving Aquind
- Energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was also unable to answer Parliamentary questions about the company
Martin, now Lord, Callanan the Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility was a former director of Aquind (between May 2016 and June 2017). The BEIS, led by Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng, is now considering the final decision over the Aquind Interconnector project. Earlier this year The Times revealed** that Mr Kwarteng had already expressed support for the project in correspondence with Aquind co-owner Alexander Temerko.
Let’s Stop Aquind believes that Aquind’s extraordinarily broad political patronage, almost exclusively directed to Conservative politicians, amounts to what Stephen Morgan called*** “a coordinated and concerted effort (to) influence British political figures” including “substantial financial donations to current and former BEIS Ministers directly involved in whether the project goes ahead.”
In the cause of good government and a transparent democracy, it is time for this charade to end. It is now surely impossible for the BEIS to make an impartial decision on Aquind. The project is, to use Stephen Morgan’s words, “mired in cronyism”**** and the Development Consent Order process must stop immediately.
Viola Langley, co-founder of Let’s Stop Aquind, said of the crisis in public confidence around the DCO decision:
“The citizens of Portsmouth deserve a thorough and transparent enquiry into the relationship between the Conservative Party and Aquind Limited to restore faith in our democracy, a democracy that many of our members believe is now up for sale”.
We welcome all voices objecting to Aquind to our rally and static protest at Guildhall Square, Portsmouth at midday on Saturday 2nd October 2021. Speakers include Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Let’s stop Aquind founders Viola Langley and Paula Savage.
*** in his letter to the BEIS Committee on 7/9/21 – https://www.facebook.com/StephenMorganMP/photos/a.1164493750251793/4608257985 875335/
**** in his statement to the House on 14/9/21 (when presenting 6,200 signatures of those opposed to the Aquind Interconnector) https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-09- 14/debates/EFDDDB3B-9DBF-431B-ADC3-49F659925F3B/AQUINDInterconnectorProject