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Cronyism scandal: Kwasi Kwarteng agreed to lobby for AQUIND following letters from Tory donor

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng expressed strong support for the AQUIND interconnector following sustained lobbying from the company’s Director Alexander Temerko, new documents reveal.

Letters obtained through a Freedom of Information request reveal Kwasi Kwarteng stated the government’s ongoing support for the controversial project and agreed to lobby French officials to support it at their side of the channel.

A letter dated 17 March 2020, when Kwarteng was Minister of state in department he now leads, said “I do not think that there is much doubt that the UK government and Ofgem support the project.”

The letter continued: “please be assured that our support for the project remains. I will ensure that my officials continue to take suitable opportunities to communicate the benefits of the project in discussions with the French government.”

Another piece of correspondence, sent on 3 October 2019 was singed off with an affectionate handwritten note: “excellent to see you at [Conservative party] conference this year!”

The letters raise fresh concerns about the government’s handling of the contentious infrastructure project and comes amid a series of cronyism allegations against Conservative figures at the very top of government.

Kwasi Kwarteng will have the final decision about whether the project goes ahead later this year.

But it continues to face strong opposition from Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan as well as local campaign groups and has been mired in controversy.

AQUIND remains a major Conservative donor. The party has been given £1.6 million by Temerko or companies he has directed since 2012, and £55,000 by Aquind since last August.

Further conflict of interest concerns were raised earlier this year when Lord Wharton – former Conservative MP and paid adviser to AQUIND – was set to oversee the regulation of universities including Portsmouth, which will be impacted by the project.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“Against a backdrop of government cronyism, these revelations raise further questions about the nature of AQUIND’s relationship with government Ministers who are in charge of whether the project goes ahead.

“The project would cause untold damage and disruption with no clear benefits to our local area.

“Beneath the cosy relationships Ministers have with their billionaire donors are choices that affect the day-to-day lives of people as Portsmouth.

“They deserve total transparency from this government and a real say in the decisions about the project.”