'Case is not closed': Committee 'disagrees' with PM as it demands answers from Robert Jenrick over housing controversy

Embattled Robert Jenrick has been facing calls for his resignation after his controversial decision to approve multimillionaire Richard Desmond's application to build 1,500 properties in east London's Westferry. Credit: PA

Embattled Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has been given less than a week to provide the Housing Committee with answers to 26 questions relating to his controversial decision to approve a development application made by Tory donor Richard Desmond.

He's been embroiled in controversy for weeks after it was revealed he approved the 1,500-home Westferry Printworks scheme in east London after sitting next to its multimillionaire mastermind at a Tory fundraising event.

Two weeks after sitting next to the senior minister, former Daily Express owner Mr Desmond donated £12,000 to the Tories and it was recently revealed the timing of Mr Jenrick's decision saved the developer millions of pounds.

Mr Jenrick published a 129 page document revealing correspondence between himself and Mr Desmond, leading the prime minister and Cabinet members to insist the "matter is closed".

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said it "respectfully disagrees" with the prime minister and its chair has sent a letter to Mr Jenrick "with a further 26 questions about his decision based on the published documents, asking for a reply by 6 July".


Jenrick approved Desmond's bid to develop the Westferry Printworks but reversed the ruling following legal action by the local council. Credit: PA

The "chummy" text messages and letters showed Mr Jenrick was “insistent” the controversial development scheme was pushed through before a new tax levy came into force which would cost the developer millions of pounds.

Clive Betts - chair of the committee which scrutinises Mr Jenrick's department - in the letter to Mr Jenrick, said the documents "clearly do demonstrate that serious mistakes were made".

He was he was "not accusing" the minister of "deliberate wrongdoing" but said the documents have "created a strong perception of bias".

The documents released last Wednesday evening showed Mr Desmond had urged the minister to approve the development scheme before a new levy came into so that “Marxists” did not get “doe for nothing”.

Mr Jenrick overruled planning inspectors to sign off the development application but later had to quash his own approval, conceding that the decision was “unlawful” due to “apparent bias”.

The government has resisted calls for an inquiry into the issue and has repeatedly insisted the matter is closed.

In his letter to Mr Jenrick, Mr Betts wrote: “The committee respectfully disagrees with the prime minister’s assertion that ‘the matter is closed’ and believes that there are important lessons that must be learned.”

Mr Jenrick has labelled allegations against him as "wild accusations" and "baseless innuendo".

He wants answers to his 26 questions by July 6 and has invited Mr Jenrick to give speak at a public evidence session on July 13.