Robert Jenrick case ‘closed’, says PM, after documents reveal housing secretary was ‘insistent’ on approving £1 billion development
Boris Johnson considers the controversial approval of a £1 billion development by housing minister Robert Jenrick a “closed matter”, the head of the civil service has said.
On Wednesday night the Government published 129 pages of documents related to the Westferry Printworks scheme in east London, including transcripts of text messages between Mr Jenrick and developer Richard Desmond.
Internal housing ministry emails reveal that the Secretary of State was “insistent” on approving the scheme before January 15 this year, after which Mr Desmond’s Northern & Shell company would become liable for £45 million in new taxes.
The publication followed weeks of opposition pressure over Mr Jenrick’s approval of the scheme, which came 12 days before media mogul Mr Desmond donated £12,000 to the Tory Party.
The documents sparked outrage from Labour, with Durham MP Mary Kelly calling the affair “morally wrong”.
But the Prime Minister gave the housing secretary support on Wednesday evening via a letter from Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to Labour MP Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary.
Sir Mark wrote: “Thank you for your correspondence of 14 June about a planning decision taken by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
“You have asked a number of questions about the basis on which the Secretary of State made this decision, the contact the Secretary of State had with the developer of the site, and the subsequent actions the Secretary of State has taken to explain this situation.
“The Secretary of State responded to questions on this matter in the House on 15 June. Further details can be found in Hansard…
“The Secretary of State has today written to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee stating that he has set out a full and factual account. I understand that he has also published a number of documents in support of this account.
“In light of this account, the Prime Minister considers that the matter is closed.”