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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Labour call on Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick to 'come clean' over property decision after £12k Tory donation

Labour call on Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick to 'come clean' over property decision after £12k Tory donation

Robert Jenrick has come under fire over the deal

2 min read

Labour have urged Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to "come clean" over a property deal he approved which affected a Conservative donor who later handed over £12,000 to the party.

Shadow housing minister Mike Amesbury urged the Government to publish all correspondence relating to a £1bn planning decision after it was revealed developer Richard Desmond had donated £12,000 to the Conservative party just weeks after his plans were approved.

The Housing Secretary was already facing accusations of bias after he admitted he had been lobbied by Mr Desmond over the 1,500-home plan at a Conservative Party dinner last November.

Mr Jenrick has said he shut down the conversation with Mr Desmond, saying it would have been inappropriate.

But the Government later approved the decision, which came a day before a planned council tax hike would have seen the property developer's firm hit with a bill for £40m.

Mr Jenrick has now recused himself from future decisions over the project after he admitted "apparent bias" during a High Court challenge brought by the local council. 

The Conservatives have said government policy is "in no way influenced by party donations".

But Labour are calling for further transparency over the deal after new figures from the Electoral Commission - first reported by the Daily Mail - revealed that Mr Desmond had made the five-figure donation to the party weeks after Mr Jenrick gave the green-light to the decision.

"This is yet another indication that Robert Jenrick’s unlawful decision to approve this planning decision against the wishes of the local council was done to benefit Richard Desmond, a wealthy Tory donor, to the tune of millions of pounds," Mr Amesbury said.

"This latest revelation comes hours after Jenrick announced new plans to remove planning decisions from locally elected councillors, enabling Ministers to take more decisions over the heads of local communities for the benefit of their wealthy friends."

"Robert Jenrick should come clean and publish all correspondence with Richard Desmond about this case - otherwise the public will be entitled to think it’s one rule for the Conservatives and their wealthy friends, and another rule for everyone else."

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "Government policy is in no way influenced by party donations – they are entirely separate.

"Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law."

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