Tory donor ‘showed Jenrick promo of controversial development’

Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent
·2-min read

A Tory donor has said he showed Robert Jenrick a promotional video of a development before the Housing Secretary controversially approved the planning application.

Media mogul Richard Desmond told the Sunday Times that Mr Jenrick watched the video for “three or four minutes” at a Conservative Party fundraiser at the Savoy Hotel.

Mr Jenrick would later grant permission for the development of a 1,500-flat scheme the day before a new council community levy would have cost Mr Desmond’s company an extra £40 million.

Westferry Printworks Redevelopment Jenrick
A view of the Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs, east London (Yui Mok/PA)

The Cabinet member has said he did not discuss the development at the Westferry Printworks in east London with Mr Desmond and has told MPs he acted in “good faith” and “within the rules”.

Mr Desmond, who used to own the Express and Star newspapers, told the Sunday Times: “What I did was I showed him the video,” adding that the minister viewed it for about “three or four minutes” at the November fundraiser.

According to Mr Desmond, Mr Jenrick replied: “I’m sorry Richard. I can’t discuss it.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock backed his Cabinet colleague on Sunday.

“Mr Jenrick answered questions for an hour in the House of Commons this week and I think he’s put out a statement about this which is perfectly reasonable,” Mr Hancock told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.

Richard Desmond
Richard Desmond was at a dinner with Mr Jenrick (PA)

“He was put on a table with Mr Desmond, he didn’t know that was where he was sitting before, so I think his explanation is entirely reasonable.”

Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill has been tasked with carrying out a review into the handling of the development.

The redevelopment, said to be worth £1 billion, was approved in January by Mr Jenrick against the recommendation of a planning inspector.

The decision was reversed after legal action by Tower Hamlets Council and Mr Jenrick admitted what he did was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias”.

Two weeks after the minister stepped in to approve the scheme, Electoral Commission records show that Mr Desmond personally gave £12,000 to the Conservatives.