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 Jenrick watched the video for “three or four minutes” at a Conservative Party fundraiser at the Savoy Hotel.
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 Desmond’s company an extra £40m.
The Cabinet member has said he did not discuss the development at the Westferry Printworks in east London with Desmond and has told MPs he acted in “good faith” and “within the rules”.
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 Desmond, Jenrick replied: “I’m sorry Richard. I can’t discuss it.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock backed his cabinet colleague on 21 June.
“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,” Hancock told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC.
“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 Mark Sedwill has been tasked with carrying out a review into the handling of the development.
The redevelopment, said to be worth £1bn, was approved in January by Jenrick against the recommendation of a planning inspector.
The decision was reversed after legal action by Tower Hamlets Council and 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 Desmond personally gave £12,000 to the Conservatives.
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