Labour calls on Conservatives to repay Richard Desmond’s donation in Westferry planning scandal
Labour has called on the Conservative Party to repay the £12,000 donation made by billionaire businessman Richard Desmond. The donation was raised in an urgent question in Parliament today about Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s unlawful decision to approve Mr Desmond’s billion-pound Westferry planning application just days before he handed over the cash. The pair had been seen dining together at an exclusive Conservative Party fund-raising event just weeks before Jenrick forced the scheme through.
The Secretary of State refused to come to the House of Commons to face questions over his behaviour despite reportedly being seen in the MPs’ tea room moments earlier.
Mr Jenrick has admitted that his decision to over-rule Tower Hamlets Council and his own planning inspector was unlawful, but has not explained what the ‘apparent bias’ was that Government officials say lay behind it. Labour is calling for Mr Jenrick to come clean and publish all documents and correspondence relating to his decision to grant planning consent.
Housing Minister Christopher Pincher, standing in for Robert Jenrick, failed to answer questions about the Secretary of State’s role in the scandal despite Labour sending him the questions in advance.
Steve Reed MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“Instead of answering questions about his behaviour, Robert Jenrick sent in a junior minister to speak on his behalf while he apparently laid low in the tea room. This attempt to avoid scrutiny shows contempt for the public who are concerned about the integrity of the planning process.
“Robert Jenrick dodged questions from MPs about his biased and unlawful decision to over-rule his own advisors and force through a billion-pound luxury development which saved Richard Desmond tens of millions of pounds in tax. Just weeks later, Desmond made a generous donation to the Conservative Party.
“The Conservatives have broken confidence in the planning system. They can only mend it by returning the donation to Mr Desmond and by Robert Jenrick immediately publishing all correspondence with Richard Desmond so the public can see the true reasons for his decision.”