Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng has been accused of making misleading claims about a £1.2bn cable project directly linked to a Conservative donor. As revealed in the Pandora papers, almost one in 10 Conservative MPs had taken money from firms linked to Russian tycoon Viktor Fedotov. One of those firms included Aquind. The UK Labour Party highlighted that Business Secretary Kwarteng had said he was supportive of the project in a 2019 letter released under freedom of information.
A source at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, cited by The Guardian, said the letter was part of a proposal for cross-border infrastructure schemes to the “EU projects of common interest” (PCI) register, which included Aquind as one of four interconnector projects. The source said the planning decision was separate and quasi-judicial and proposing the project to the PCI did not mean it would be approved.
In an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr, Kwarteng said he had “never commented on this specific project” and said he would rely on official advice from civil servants as to whether to approve or reject the application. He said, “I am very much in favour of more interconnectors because they can actually get electricity, sources of power, cheaply from the continent, and in many cases it helps with our decarbonisation because certainly in France a lot of that power is generated through nuclear power,” he said. “So broadly, I’m in favour of interconnectors, I haven’t said anything about this particular project.”
Kwarteng is due to decide whether to approve the project this week. Aquind and other businesses owned by Fedotov have given £700,000 to the Conservatives. Another donor, Alexander Temerko, who is the public face of Aquind, has also publicly donated over £700,000 to the Conservatives.
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said, “Britain cannot afford this chaos and incompetence.” He added, “Kwasi Kwarteng is in a vital position at this moment, safeguarding our energy supplies. He must be straight with people. He must now correct the record and recuse himself from making the decision on [the] project.”
Meanwhile, lawyers for Fedotov and Aquind have strongly denied all accusations of fraud and said accusations of corruption aimed at his Russian firm were “completely false”. They said Fedotov did not personally donate to the Tories.