COMMENT: Aquind decision - we need to know that everything is above board
By branding as 'murky' the plan for an interconnector power link between Europe and the UK to come ashore at Portsmouth, city council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has said what others may be thinking.
The News has previously reported how Aquind’s co-owner Alexander Temerko has handed more than £1.6m in donations to Conservative political figures over recent years.
That sits uncomfortably enough. But now we have business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claiming on the BBC's Marr show that he will rely on official advice to decide on the plan, when in March last year he wrote to Mr Temerko while a business minister and said: 'Please be reassured our support for the project remains.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson says Mr Kwarteng has clearly prejudged the decision 'in favour of donors to your political party', despite reportedly saying he had never commented specifically on the project.
We agree with him when he adds that Mr Kwarteng should therefore play no part in refusing or approving Aquind’s £1.2bn proposal to run a cable under the Channel to Eastney and then underground to Lovedean.
The decision, due to be made by next week, is a massive one and must be made with impartiality.
That means Mr Kwarteng should not be involved.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson wants Mr Kwarteng to recuse himself from the decision, as did energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan who received a £2,500 donation from Aquind in 2020.
Meanwhile Lord Callanan, a business minister, was a non-executive director at the firm until 2017 and will also play no part in the decision.
That is only right.
Because we need to know that everything is above board and that Aquind is not benefiting from any perceived influence to get a decision made in its favour.