MoD addresses Aquind concerns over national security

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has addressed objections raised by Aquind regarding the handling of national security concerns over the interconnector project.

The Aquind scheme, which proposes laying interconnector cables between Normandy and Portsmouth, has faced complications after the MoD expressed “serious national security concerns” in March. The former secretary of state for energy and net zero outlined a sensitive process for addressing these concerns.

The proposed process, which the MoD is generally “content” with, allows the ministry to express its concerns confidentially if needed. If major planning issues arise from these confidential comments, the attorney general can appoint a representative to attend the meeting on Aquind’s behalf. Both parties can provide further comments before the secretary of state makes a decision, though this process can be modified for fairness or national security reasons.

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On May 24, international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills wrote an eight-page letter to the MoD on Aquind’s behalf, criticising the process while outlining measures to ensure “procedural fairness and natural justice.” It argued that the use of an appointed representative in a closed meeting would be fair and lawful only in “exceptional circumstances.”

A 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest against Aquind in July 2021  Picture: Sam StephensonA 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest against Aquind in July 2021  Picture: Sam Stephenson
A 'Let's Stop Aquind' walking protest against Aquind in July 2021 Picture: Sam Stephenson

The letter also stated that confidential comments made by the MoD about “individuals involved in or related to Aquind” would not compromise national interest if disclosed.

It asserted that such concerns would not be material planning considerations relevant to the secretary of state’s decision on Aquind’s development consent order application.

Regarding costs, Aquind reserved its position that the secretary of state should direct a “fair allocation” of costs since the need for a representative arose “at a very late stage” of the redetermination process. It also proposed a timescale for the decision process, citing the “already significant delay.”

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In response, the MoD stated that Aquind’s suggested requirements for handling confidential representations would likely be contrary to “defence or national security interests”. The MoD also indicated it “does not understand” Aquind’s comment on costs, adding: “It seems to us that the ordinary principles apply; Aquind bears its own costs.” In closing, the MoD considered Aquind’s desire to “impose unrealistic timetables” as inappropriate.

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