The Prime Minister has said he has “full confidence” in Robert Jenrick, as the housing secretary faces calls to resign over accusations he was part of a “cash for favours” scandal involving a £1bn property development.
Downing Street this morning said the housing secretary still had the support of Boris Johnson after documents released yesterday showed Jenrick rushed through planning approval for the Westferry site to save its developer tens of millions of pounds.
“The housing secretary has set out his account in public and in Parliament, including publishing the relevant documentation. In light of this account the Prime Minister considers this matter closed,” said the PM’s official spokesman.
Bombshell text messages showed the housing secretary approved the 1,500-home property development just one day before a new levy came into effect that would have forced its developer, former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond, to shell out around £50m to the local council.
Desmond said he needed Jenrick to push through approval for the site because he did not want to hand over cash to “Marxists”.
Another document said that Jenrick “was insistent” that the Isle of Dogs development be hurried through to save Desmond’s Northern and Shell company up to £50m.
The messages came after Desmond sat next to Jenrick at a Tory fundraising event at the Savoy Hotel in November, at which the developer showed Jenrick a promotional video about the development on his phone.
It later emerged that Desmond donated £12,000 to the Conservative party 12 days after the housing secretary approved the deal.
Jenrick is now facing calls to resign over speculation he was involved in “cash for favours”.
But several ministers dug their heels in today and expressed their support for the housing secretary.
Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi maintained Jenrick had done nothing wrong, telling BBC’s Today Programme: “There is no smoking gun here. The intention was to get more housing built, quickly, for people who really need it.”