Keir Starmer has declared that the ‘cash-for-favours’ case involving Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick is “far from closed” and said that the “Prime Minister’s judgement is in issue”.
In an interview with BBC News, the Labour leader said that the party and the public want “straight answers”, and called for “full disclosure” with an investigation by the cabinet secretary.
Starmer said: “The Prime Minister’s judgement is in issue – he says the matter is closed, but it’s far from closed. The latest disclosures show discrepancies. They show that Jenrick initiated conversations… We want straight answers on this.”
The comments by the Labour leader follow the publication of documents relating to a decision by Jenrick to overturn his own approval of a Tory donor’s planning application for a development after admitting “apparent bias”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says the Robert Jenrick row is "far from closed", despite what Boris Johnson says
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 25, 2020
129-pages of documents relating to the case were released on Wednesday, showing emails and letters between Jenrick and his officials and representatives of the developer.
Jenrick has acknowledged that he had published his decision in time for the developer to avoid a new charge – known as a community infrastructure levy – which would have cost the developer additional £30m to £50m.
Labour has highlighted that as well as approving the decision the day before the new charge was introduced, Jenrick had overruled his advisors to reduce the amount of affordable housing in the development – saving Desmond a further £106m.
Business minister Nadhim Zahawi defended his colleague this morning – arguing that ordinary members of the public could “interact” with MPs in the same way the Richard Desmond had influenced Jenrick.
A spokesperson for No. 10 said: “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.”
But Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Steve Reed has called for the Housing Secretary to come to parliament to explain himself in light of the released documents “as a matter of urgency”.
He said: “The public must be reassured that there is not one rule for the Conservatives and their wealthy donors and another rule for everyone else.”