The home secretary, Priti Patel, has become the latest senior Conservative to close ranks behind the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, claiming he was “transparent” in his involvement in the planning application of a Tory donor’s billion-pound housing scheme.
The “cash-for-favours” scandal surrounding Jenrick shows no sign of abating after the Sunday Times revealed a whistleblower said officials had apparently begged him not to give donor Richard Desmond’s Westferry Printworks development in east London the go-ahead.
Patel, like the prime minister, said the case was now considered to be closed.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “The correspondence, the documentation is out in the public domain on this particular application – and rightly so. It is a significant decision, a significant application.
“The papers have been published, the secretary of state has followed all issues around transparency.”
Plans for 1,500 homes in the Isle of Dogs proposed by former Daily Express owner Desmond were recommended for refusal by the Tower Hamlets local authority. Jenrick overruled the decision and granted permission for the scheme in January.
Emails between civil servants were released this week by the housing secretary after pressure from Labour, and suggest Jenrick was “insistent” the decision was passed in time for Desmond to avoid a £45m community levy to the borough. Desmond later donated £12,000 to the party.
Jenrick has consistently denied wrong-doing and removed his approval for the scheme over “apparent bias” last month.
Patel insisted the case has been been “discussed in parliament a number of times” and questions had been answered.
“It is through that matter of transparency that the matter is now deemed to be closed,” she said.
Cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, responded to the Labour party last week by letter, explaining no action would be taken as the prime minister considers the matter is finished with.
Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Steve Reed, led calls for Jenrick to turn over departmental correspondence on the issue and attempted to force him to do so by holding a Commons vote. The heavily redacted papers were released beforehand.
Following Patel’s interview, Reed tweeted that Jenrick had not been fully transparent and had “held back documents showing what advice officials gave and his WhatsApp discussions.”
He said: “This case won’t go away until Jenrick comes clean.”