The MP for Newark has faced renewed criticism over his involvement in a £1billion property deal which was ‘unlawful’.
The Conservative Newark MP is also the Secretary of State for Housing, and admitted in the High Court he had acted ‘unlawfully’ and in a way which showed ‘apparent bias’.
An urgent question was brought to the House of Commons today, but Mr Jenrick declined to attend, instead, sending his junior minister.
In January, Mr Jenrick went against his own planning inspectorate to approve a £1bn planning development one day before the developer would have had to pay between £30 and £50 million towards local infrastructure.
Two weeks later, the developer Richard Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservatives.
Today in the House of Commons, one SNP MP said the case had similarities with the Dominic Cummings affair, with the Government attempting to ‘defend the indefensible,’ and that the decision ‘simply stinks’.
Mr Jenrick has been under significant pressure to reveal details of what communication was had between himself and Mr Desmond, particularly after it emerged they had sat at the same table at a Conservative Party fundraiser last November.
However junior housing minister Chris Pincher insisted the Government had acted properly.
Labour’s Steve Reed, the Shadow Communities Secretary, said this morning: “By an astonishing coincidence, just two weeks after the secretary of state took his decision Mr Desmond made a generous donation of £12,000 to the Conservative Party.
“This sequence of events raises grave concerns about cash for favours.
“The public needs reassurance that the integrity of the planning process cannot be auctioned off at Conservative Party fundraising dinners.”
But junior secretary Mr Pincher said Mr Jenrick had “no relationship” with Mr Desmond.
He also said at the dinner he had made it “absolutely clear” to Mr Desmond that: “He could not discuss planning matters, that he would not discuss that planning matter and the issue was closed”.
He added: “I have no idea what Mr Desmond asked for at that dinner, where he wished to be seated or who made the decision where he was seated, and the reason why is because ministers in my department and others do not know what donations or funds are being spent by donors on political parties.
“There is a firewall quite properly between the two.
“This government is committed to maintaining public confidence in the probity of the planning process at all levels.”
He added that “at all times”, Mr Jenrick had acted within the rules.
Alan Brown, the SNP’s housing spokesman told the session: “This is a matter that simply stinks.”
He said: “For a Tory government, it’s one rule for them and one rule for another.”
The junior minister also told the chairman of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee that his department would consider any request the committee made for more information.
Formal questions have also been tabled on the matter by Labour’s Lord Adonis, asking for memos and emails between the developer and the Secretary of State to be made public.
A spokesman for the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We reject the suggestion there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be re-determined.”