Pressure on Housing Secretary builds over £1billion deal: Boris Johnson defends Robert Jenrick over Tory donor tax bill storm as Labour demands an investigation

  • Labour asked for an investigation into Number 10’s dealings with a Tory donor  
  • Richard Desmond gained permission to build a £1billion property development
  • Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick is believed to have approved the development
  • The deal is believed to have saved Mr Jenrick up to £50million in tax
  • Boris Johnson has defended the Housing Secretary over his involvement 

Labour has demanded an investigation into Downing Street’s links to a lobbyist involved in a controversial £1billion property development.

Boris Johnson has defended Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick – after he approved the planning application from a Tory donor.

The Prime Minister himself has denied impropriety after it was revealed that the lobbyist Richard Patient had attended his leadership victory party.

Labour demanded an investigation into Downing Street’s links to a lobbyist in a controversial £1billion property development in London, believed to be approved by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) has defended Mr Jenrick’s involvement in the development 

Asked about the allegations yesterday, Mr Johnson said: ‘I can assure you I had absolutely nothing to do with that. I meet people the whole time.’

Asked if Mr Jenrick had done the right thing, he added: ‘As far as I know of course he did.’ 

It came after it emerged that Mr Jenrick was also linked to Mr Patient. He will face a series of questions today about the role of the so-called ‘Tory fixer’ in the scandal.

Mr Jenrick has been under pressure after approving a planning application by billionaire Tory donor Richard Desmond for 1,500 luxury flats in London. 

He overruled official objections and personally approved the plans the day before Mr Desmond would have been liable for a new tax, which would have cost him £30million to £50million.

Mr Jenrick later withdrew his decision after being accused of ‘bias’ in the High Court over the Westferry Printworks development in London’s Docklands.

Billionaire Richard Desmond (pictured left) had his planning permission for 1,500 luxury flats in London approved by Mr Jenrick, in a deal where he may have avoided a tax bill up to £50million

The property development involved is the Westferry Printworks development in the London Docklands (pictured)

Yesterday, the row reached No 10 after it was revealed that Mr Patient was photographed at Mr Johnson’s Tory leadership victory party last summer.

Mr Patient has boasted of his ability to access and influence Downing Street figures, according to the Mail on Sunday.

He has also boasted of his connections to Mr Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Eddie Lister, describing him as ‘a great friend’.

Labour plans to question the Housing Secretary on his links to the lobbyist, whose firm Thorncliffe Communications, declares the Westferry development as a ‘paid-for client’.

Mr Patient was photographed twice last year with Mr Johnson, once during his leadership campaign and again on the night he won the Tory leadership race.

Mr Johnson told MPs last week that he had never spoken to anyone about planning permission for the Docklands development.

Lobbyist Richard Patient (pictured left), who is linked with the development, was photographed with the PM on the night of Boris Johnson (right)’s leadership Tory leadership win

Mr Patient’s firm’s website describes Mr Jenrick as ‘a friend of Thorncliffe’. 

In January, two weeks after Mr Jenrick approved the development, Mr Patient posted a picture of him on his personal Facebook page with the caption: ‘Robert Jenrick is a great guy.’

Mr Jenrick has denied any friendship with Mr Patient, his firm or any knowledge of their links to Westferry at the time. He has admitted being lobbied by Mr Desmond over the deal at a Conservative Party fundraiser last year.

Thorncliffe Communications was hired by Mr Desmond in 2016 and has listed Westferry Developments as clients on the statutory register of consultant lobbyists since July 2019.

Lobbying firms only need report to the statutory register if they make communications orally or in writing to ministers or senior civil servants about key decisions on behalf of a client.

Mr Patient said that he had only registered Westferry as a paid client because he had discussed working with them, and insisted that he had not lobbied ministers over the project.

Last night, Labour wrote to the Cabinet Secretary to call for an investigation into the role of Mr Johnson and senior No 10 advisers in the scandal. 

Steve Reed, shadow communities and local government secretary, said: ‘The latest revelations expose the murky relationship between No 10, senior government ministers and lobbyists for billionaire property developers – they warrant urgent investigation by the Cabinet Secretary into any wrongdoing.

‘Ministers must not put the planning process up for sale to their wealthy friends.

‘Mr Jenrick must publish all correspondence about this case to allow full public scrutiny of what he’s been up to.’

A spokesman for Mr Jenrick said: ‘[He] has no relationship whatsoever… with Thorncliffe.’

A Tory spokesman said: ‘There is no question of any individual influencing party or government policy by virtue of any donations they may give to the party or their attendance at party events.’

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