The Conservative MP for Newark at the centre of a ‘cash for favours’ row has today said he will publish some of the documentation about discussions held between himself and the developer behind a controversial 1,500 home development.
Today, Labour tabled a special debate calling for Mr Jenrick to reveal documents previously unpublished about what was said between himself and developer Richard Desmond, the former owner of the Daily Express and a Conservative Party donor.
Mr Jenrick agreed to make an ‘almost unprecedented’ release of all ‘relevant’ documents about the decision, which Mr Jenrick conceded in court was ‘unlawful’ and showed ‘apparent bias’.
However, Labour called for the details to be published ‘in full’. It says the decision and subsequent donation to the Conservatives amounts to ‘cash for favours’, and was reminiscent of the ‘Tory sleaze of the 90s’.
Mr Jenrick told MPs today that accusations his decision had been influenced by the donation were: “not simply wrong but actually outrageous”.
However, he conceded: “Things could and should have been done differently.
“On reflection, I should have handled the communication differently.”
Back in January, Mr Jenrick – who is also the Secretary of State for Housing – overruled his planning inspector and granted permission for a controversial 1,500 home development on the Isle of Dogs in London.
Just weeks earlier, he had sat at the same table as the developer, former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond at a fund-raising dinner.
Two weeks after the development was approved, Mr Desmond made a £12,000 donation to the Conservatives.
The planning permission was approved one day before rule changes meant Mr Desmond would have had to pay an additional £30 to £50 million for infrastructure, according to the local council.
A reduction in the number of ‘affordable houses’ included in the scheme saved the developer a further £106 million, Labour says.
When the matter was taken to court by the local council, Mr Jenrick conceded the decision had been ‘unlawful’, and that it showed ‘apparent bias’.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has said there was no ‘actual bias’, and that a decision would now be made on the development by a different, unconnected minister.
After the matter was heard in court, Mr Jenrick admitted he was aware the timing of his decision would mean Mr Desmond saved money.
Mr Jenrick had previously said he did not discuss the matter with the developer at the dinner. However he today acknowledged that several messages were sent between himself and Mr Desmond after the dinner.
In a later interview with the Times, Mr Desmond said he showed Mr Jenrick a promotional video for the development at the fundraising event.
Today, the shadow Secretary of State Steve Reed spoke on the matter in the House of Commons.
Mr Reed said: “Honesty is the best disinfectant for the very bad smell that surrounds this decision.
“There can’t be one rule for the Conservatives and their billionaire donors and another rule for everybody else.
“The only way to put that right is for the Secretary of State to publish the evidence about what really happened.
“If he has done nothing wrong, he has got nothing to fear.”
The documents are expected to be made public later today (Wednesday, June 24).