Rees-Mogg blocks China from accessing key information about Britain’s power grid

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg has blocked China from accessing sensitive information about Britain’s power grid amid growing concern about Chinese involvement in critical national infrastructure.

The Business Secretary has restricted the information that Electricity North West (ENW) can share with its Chinese state owners, after deeming that their 35pc stake gives rise to a “national security risk”.

He has also restricted the influence of China over the appointment of senior staff at the company, which owns and runs the electricity cables that distribute electricity to homes in the north-west.

Mr Rees-Mogg stepped in under the National Security and Investment Act, which came into force at the start of the year amid efforts to protect British companies from falling into the wrong hands. He issued a final order on September 29.

China has owned a chunk of the ENW since 2019 alongside other investors, via its CNIC investment company. It has now passed some of its stake to its State Development and Investment Corporation, triggering the Business Secretary’s intervention under the tougher national security powers.

In a final order issued in September, Mr Rees-Mogg said the deal gave rise to a “risk to national security [...] relating to the security of an important asset” and the order is “necessary and proportionate to mitigate the risk”.

China has poured billions of pounds of investment into the UK’s economy in recent decades, snapping up stakes in everything from Heathrow airport to nuclear power plants.

Ministers have become more wary of its involvement, however. The Government is believed to be trying to remove state power company China General Nuclear from involvement in the planned Sizewell C nuclear plant and other future nuclear projects.

The company is EDF’s minority partner in the Hinkley Point C station in Somerset, and also holds a development stake in Sizewell C.

Earlier this month the Government also imposed restrictions as China took over development rights in a major battery storage project in Wiltshire.

China first took a stake in Electricity North West in 2019 when CNIC and other investors, including Japan’s Kansai Electric Power, bought shares from First State Investment and JP Morgan Asset Management.

A spokesperson from Electricity North West said: “We note the order from BEIS and confirm that we will fully comply with its requirements.”

A government spokesperson said: “The Government is required to publish a Final Order Notice when imposing remedies on a particular acquisition, and has done so today.”

They added: “The Business Secretary has powers under the National Security and Investment Act to intervene in transactions on national security grounds where necessary.”