Robert Jenrick is the Housing Secretary in the Tory Government. He is the MP for Newark, and was appointed to the Cabinet by Boris Johnson when he became Prime Minister last year. Prior to that he served as exchequer secretary to the Treasury under Theresa May’s premiership.

Jenrick was caught in a row back in April when after giving daily briefings urging people to stay at home amid the height of the coronavirus lockdown, he was found to have twice flouted UK Government travel restrictions by going to his second home and then travelling to see his parents.

However the latest scandal involving the MP relates to decisions he made as Housing Secretary.


Jenrick gave the green light to the Westferry Printworks redevelopment scheme for 1500 homes in January, against the recommendation of a planning inspector. The local east London council took legal action of the decision and the approval was eventually reversed.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson backs Robert Jenrick despite fresh revelations

The Housing Secretary approved the development just one day before new infrastructure charges came into force. That meant Richard Desmond’s development firm managed to avoid playing about £30 million-£50m more to the local authority.

Labour has accused Jenrick of making the decision following a fundraising dinner in November, at which he sat beside Desmond. According to the Sunday Times the former Daily Express owner showed him a promotional video for the development while they were at the event. However, Desmond says when he showed Jenrick the clip he told him he could not discuss it.

Two weeks after the housing scheme was approved in January, Electoral Commission records show Desmond gave £12,000 to the Tory Party.


Labour is calling for “full transparency” from the UK Government, and demanded all correspondence from Jenrick in relation to the development should be published. Many of these documents were released earlier this week, and some showed Jenrick was “insistent” the planning application should be allowed before the new infrastructure charges came into force.

An email sent on January 9 by an official in his department said Jenrick “was insistent the decision issued this week ie tomorrow – as next the viability of the scheme is impacted by a change in the London CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy] regime”.

The document also revealed there had been texts between Desmond and Jenrick. On November 18, the Housing Secretary texted him to say: “Good to spend time with you tonight Richard. See you again soon I hope.”

And in another exchange Desmond tried to arrange a meeting with Jenrick on December 19. He also tried to arrange a site visit to Westferry Printworks and complained about having to deal with “Marxists”.

But Jenrick declined to meet up until after a decision was made on the development. He argued it was “important not to give any appearance of being influenced by applicants of cases that I may have a role in or to have predetermined them”.

Later on January 14, an email shows Jenrick was keen to pass a decision quickly. A department official wrote that they needed confirmation “by 5pm”.


Boris Johnson is standing by Jenrick and has said he has “full confidence” in him. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the Tory leader had spoken to Jenrick and considers the matter to be closed.


LibDem MP Layla Moran has called for Jenrick to go, saying his position is “untenable”.

She has said: "The public will be appalled at what looks like a clear abuse of power - Robert Jenrick must go and the Conservative Party must hand back this donation.”

Meanwhile Labour’s Steve Reed said the documents unveiled this week “raise more questions than they answer”.

He said: "It seems highly inappropriate that Mr Jenrick told the House that he closed down a conversation with Mr Desmond at the dinner and then the very next morning, there he is sending him very chummy text messages seeking to meet up.

"The documents make crystal clear that Robert Jenrick was trying to do favours for Richard Desmond by rushing this decision through the day before a community levy came into force."