Portsmouth MP hits out at Aquind's 'murky financing' in bid for cross-Channel power cable
THE energy company behind a power cable coming ashore at Portsmouth has ‘murky financing’ and plans that are ‘suspicious,’ an MP has told the House of Commons.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan today spoke out against Aquind – the company hoping to bring a subsea power cable from France ashore at Eastney and up to Lovedean.
It comes after a well-attended protest on Sunday galvanised grassroots supporters opposed to the £1.2bn project, part-owned by director Alexander Temerko.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has to reach a decision on the plans by September following a lengthy public examination of the scheme.
But the Conservative Party has come under repeated questioning after being the recipient of donations from both the company, and Mr Temerko.
Shadow minister Dr Alan Whitehead, the Labour MP for Southampton Test, said ‘the whole thing stinks’ and asked ministers to turn down the ‘wild and inappropriate’ plans.
Questions were been raised today in the Commons about the company’s funding.
Speaking this morning at business questions, Mr Morgan said: ‘I've long represented Portsmouth's opposition to Aquind which would cause untold disruption to our communities and no clear benefits to my constituency.
‘There are serious concerns about the company, its murky financing and influence its leaders have over ministers who are responsible for giving the project the go-ahead.
‘Last weekend I launched a petition to give a real voice to local people opposed to the development.
‘With no secretary of state here today, will she listen to the weight of concerns from my constituents and reject these damaging and suspicious proposals?’
Energy minister Amanda Solloway said: ‘Local communities have had the opportunity to raise concerns during the examination undertaken by the Planning Inspectorate.
‘The secretary of state will consider all relevant matters and I will ensure I pass on the message when he takes a decision.
‘But as this is a live planning application, I can't comment further on these issues.’
Dr Whitehead said: 'Is the minister aware that we're talking about a company that as its sole activity is proposing to build an interconnector with France, that has attempted to get itself exempted from all the rules governing interconnectors, is now extraordinarily seeking government backing to trash parts of Portsmouth to land its cable, but throughout all of this has never traded and is completely reliant for its existence on loans from unnamed overseas companies?
‘But it has been active as a company in one other thing, and that is giving huge donations to the Conservative Party and a number of its MPs to the tune of £1.1m either from the company itself or through the good offices of its part owner, and now perhaps in return it wants the government to support its rackety scheme through the secretary of state personally approving its planning application.
‘This whole thing stinks. I would ask ministers to call a halt to this seedy enterprise, and certainly not endorse its wild and inappropriate planning proposals.’
In response, Ms Solloway said: ‘As previously stated the secretary of state for Beis will have until September 8, 2021 to take his decision on whether or not to grant development consent on this proposal.’
Business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told MPs she could not answer questions in the House of Commons on the interconnector.
She was responding to Labour MP Catherine West’s questions.
Ms Trevelyan said: ‘I am unable to answer any of (Ms West’s) questions as I have recused myself from all matters to do with the Aquind Interconnector because Northumberland Conservatives received some funds from one of the owners of the company.’
An Aquind spokesman said it ‘fully complies with all relevant laws and regulations’.
He said: ‘Aquind Interconnector has been carefully designed to avoid and minimise impact on the environment and local communities.’
He said it would create 500 jobs, meets government policies and objectives and could transmit five per cent of Britain’s electricity annually.