Unanswered questions about Robert Jenrick’s part in approving a controversial planning application mean the matter isn’t closed, a powerful Common’s committee chair has claimed.
It comes after Boris Johnson claimed the matter was closed after an internal probe by the head of the civil service.
But Clive Betts MP, who chairs the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee, has written to Mr Jenrick to demand answers to 26 questions into the planning row.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary is fighting to keep his job after documents revealed the extent of the contact between himself and billionaire Tory donor Richard Desmond before the Cabinet minister signed off on the 1,500-home Westferry Printworks scheme in east London.
The pair exchanged text messages following a meeting at a Conservative Party event in November, and officials in Mr Jenrick’s department described the minister as being “insistent” that the project be given the green light before a new levy added millions to the cost.
There’s no suggestion of wrongdoing on Mr Desmond’s part.
In texts to the Minister, Mr Desmond said the levy would add £45 million to the cost of the development, and said he didn’t want to give “marxists loads of doe (sic) for nothing.”
Mr Jenrick later had to quash his own approval, conceding that the decision was “unlawful” due to “apparent bias”.
Last week, the PM resisted launching a full government inquiry into Mr Jenrick’s handling of planning appeal, and has said he considers the matter to be closed.
But MPs on the Housing Committee are now demanding Mr Jenrick answer their questions on how he handled the appeal.
Mr Betts wrote: “I am not accusing you, or any official in the ministry, of deliberate wrongdoing.
“However, the documents do clearly demonstrate that serious mistakes were made during the process, and that these put into doubt your ability to act as a neutral arbiter in this case and created a strong perception of bias.
“You have accepted that your decision was unlawful on that basis.”
The adds: “ 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.”
Last week the case was referred to Parliament’s sleaze watchdog.
Labour said remaining questions about the case forced them to report Mr Jenrick to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate a potential breach of the MPs’ code.
The PM has resisted launching a full government inquiry into Mr Jenrick’s handling of the Westferry Printworks planning appeal and has said he considers the matter to be closed.