Portsmouth City Council leader says Kwasi Kwarteng must step aside from 'murky' Aquind decision over 'smell of corruption'
THE plan for an interconnector coming ashore at Portsmouth has been branded ‘murky’ by the city council leader who said there is a ‘smell of corruption about it’.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written to the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng asking him to play no part in refusing or approving Aquind’s £1.2bn undersea cable proposal. The cable would run from France to Eastney, and then underground to Lovedean.
A decision on the plan is due by October 21 by Mr Kwarteng, who said on the BBC’s Marr show on Sunday he would rely on official advice.
But as reported, he also said he had never commented specifically on the project. Letters from him previously released publicly show in March 2020 he wrote to Aquind’s director Alexander Temerko while a business minister.
In the letter he said: ‘Please be reassured our support for the project remains.’
Now Cllr Vernon-Jackson has asked 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. Lord Callanan, a business minister, was a non-executive director at the firm until 2017 and will also play no part in the decision.
In his letter, the council leader said: ‘Clearly, when you were speaking on the Andrew Marr Show you had either forgotten that you had written in those terms or were not telling the truth, as you have not only commented on the Aquind project but written to the director of the company to say you support Aquind.
‘I therefore think the people of Portsmouth are owed an apology that you did not tell the truth when interviewed, and that you need to remove yourself from any part in the decision on Aquind as you have been shown to have prejudged the decision in favour of donors to your political party.
‘The more I see of this murky proposal the more people tell me that this has the smell of corruption about it, and we do not need Kremlin style politics here.
‘For the good of all involved in politics, it is important that there can be no impression given that planning permission is on sale in the UK. I therefore urge you to remove yourself from this decision.’
The intervention comes after Tory opposition group leader Simon Bosher wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson, and his deputy Dominic Raab, asking him to scrap the plan as it would case ‘havoc’. The News also wrote an open letter against the plan, which now forms part of the official submissions to the government – alongside dozens of letters from people in Portsmouth.
A spokesman for Aquind said it is a UK-registered company whose directors and shareholders ‘are all British citizens’ and they ‘ fully comply with all relevant laws and regulations’.
He added: ‘Aquind’s Development Consent Order application has gone through a comprehensive examination led by independent examiners. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and defamatory.’
The plan has been ‘carefully designed’ to minimise damage to the environment and communities, he said, and it would create 500 jobs in the UK.
He added the interconnector will transmit up to five per cent of Britain’s electricity, and help in the south east of England where demand is higher than generation. It will save people money on bills, and cut carbon emissions, he said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been approached by The News.