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Fri, 14 August 2020

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By Hft

Boris Johnson has 'full confidence' in Robert Jenrick despite new twist in Tory donor planning row

Boris Johnson has 'full confidence' in Robert Jenrick despite new twist in Tory donor planning row

Number 10 says it has 'full confidence' in Robert Jenrick amid the Westferry development row (PA)

2 min read

Number 10 said Boris Johnson still has "full confidence" in Robert Jenrick despite new revelations in the row over a Tory donor's planned development.

It has emerged the Communities Secretary watched a promotional video about the controversial project on the phone of the man behind it - media tycoon Richard Desmond - before unlawfully approving it

The Cabinet minister has since admitted he was wrong to give the green light to the Westferry Printworks planning application, which has since been overturned.

There have been calls for Mr Jenrick to stand down as the timing of his decision, against the judgement of the local authority and the planning inspector, helped the developers save more than £100 million in fees and levies.

But asked if Mr Johnson still had "full confidence" in Mr Jenrick, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters “yes”.

He also sought to distance Downing Street from the row, saying: "No one in Number 10 has discussed this with Mr Desmond or the applicant.

"Number 10 has no involvement with the Secretary of State's appeal decision.”

The row began when it was reported that Mr Jenrick and Mr Desmond had been sat next to each other at a Conservative Party fundraiser just weeks before he approved the proposed £1billion development in east London.

The minister has repeatedly defended his actions and said he told the developer he could not discuss the project when they spoke at the event inside the Savoy Hotel late last year.

But there was a further twist this weekend when Mr Desmond said he had shown the Newark MP a video for "three or four minutes" about the 1,500-flat scheme.

The mogul, who used to own the Express newspapers, told the Sunday Times that Mr Jenrick replied: "I'm sorry Richard. I can't discuss it."

Asked whether Number 10 knew of this, the PM's spokesman said: "What the Communities Secretary has said is that he is confident that all the rules were followed in taking the decision and he has rejected the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision."

The Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been sent papers relating to the process, but Downing Street has insisted he was not investigating what happened.

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