Alex Ralph in The Times reports that consultancy firms working for the government on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station were advising the project’s Chinese investor and its French builder at the same time:
- KPMG, the professional services group, was paid £4.4 million between 2012 and 2017 as a financial adviser to the energy and business departments, despite telling officials that it was also acting for China General Nuclear Power Corp on the project.
- Lazard, the financial advisory firm, was paid £2.6 million between 2012 and 2015 to advise the business department on Hinkley Point. Details of its previously redacted tender documents reveal that it was an adviser to EDF, the French developer investing in Hinkley Point alongside the Chinese.
- Leigh Fisher associates, another government adviser, had been awarded contracts worth a combined £1.2 million, though the British division of Jacobs Engineering Group, an American firm that owns Leigh Fisher, was working for EDF on Hinkley Point.
First FOI response delivers heavily redacted documents
The details were released more than eighteen months after The Times complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which intervened to press for disclosure from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The department had previously handed over heavily redacted documents in response to a Freedom of Information request claiming that the information was commercially sensitive.
The FT notes that Hinkley C’s expected contribution to UK electricity demand on completion in 2025 is only 7% for a cost of almost £20bn. A report from the National Audit Office in June found that the government’s deal had “locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits”.
Paul Flynn, a Labour MP who has campaigned against Hinkley Point C, said that the project was the “worst civil investment decision made by any government” and that the potential conflicts of interest were “further proof that the contract was agreed for political imperatives . . . To avoid future calamities, a full national inquiry must be held.”