Cross-Channel power project backed by Tory donor and Russian oil tycoon thrown out

£1.2bn Aquind scheme also sparked warning that France could ‘turn off the power’ in post-Brexit battle

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 20 January 2022 16:26
<p>Kwasi Kwarteng chose to ‘refuse development consent’, after a long delay   </p>

Kwasi Kwarteng chose to ‘refuse development consent’, after a long delay

A controversial cross-Channel power scheme backed by a major Tory donor who was a Russian oil tycoon has been thrown out by the government.

The £1.2bn Aquind scheme for an underwater energy and communications cable also sparked claims by a minister that it would allow France to “turn off the power” in a future post-Brexit battle.

Now the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has announced his decision to “refuse development consent”, a letter on the Planning Inspectorate website revealed.

The benefits of the planned link between Portsmouth and Normandy in France were outweighed by “planning harms”, including to an historic fort and to tourism in the area, he said.

The decision has been long delayed, amid controversies over the donor – Alexander Temerko – and accusations that the trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, failed to disclose lobbying by him.

Mr Temerko is a director of Aquind, having donated £730,000 to the Conservative Party and its MPs since 2012, while the company itself has donated a further £500,000 over the same period.

His website has included photos of him with Boris Johnson, including one of them embracing at a dinner in tuxedos, it was reported.

This week, the trade minister Penny Mordaunt – a Portsmouth MP – warned the project would make Britain more reliant on France, which has threatened to interrupt supplies in disputes over fishing.

“The French have already said they will turn off the power. They will use future energy supply as a bargaining chip,” she said.

The decision was hailed by Stephen Morgan, Labour MP for Portsmouth South, who said: “This is a victory for the people of Portsmouth over years of uncertainty and Tory cronyism.

“I will continue to raise questions about how Conservative ministers came so close to allowing party donors to control a national infrastructure project.”

A second donor, Viktor Fedotov, who holds a controlling stake in Aquind, is Russian-born and a former vice-president of the Lukoil energy corporation.

The Ukrainian-born Mr Temerko became a Conservative patron after his high-powered career ended with him fleeing to the UK, facing charges over business activities.

He was head of the state-owned weapons firm Russkoye Oruzhie – “Russian weapons” – in 1995, before becoming a senior executive of Yukos, the Russian oil and gas company five years later.

Ms Trevelyan told the Commons, while serving as energy minister, that she had not been in discussion with the stakeholders of Aquind.

But Freedom of Information disclosures then revealed that Mr Temerko had sent her letters in the preceding two months about the interconnector project.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in