The Daily Telegraph

1922 Committee chairman sorry over Jenrick sitting next to donor


THE Conservati­ve Party chairman issued a “full-throated” apology to backbench MPS for his role in the fundraisin­g dinner in which Robert Jenrick found himself sitting next to Richard Desmond.

Ben Elliot and Amanda Milling, his co-chairmen, were summoned for a meeting with the 1922 Committee last week to explain how the Housing Secretary was put in the predicamen­t.

During the dinner last November, the Tory donor lobbied Mr Jenrick about a £1 billion property developmen­t. The developmen­t was later given the green light by the minister.

The resulting scandal sparked calls for Mr Jenrick to resign and left MPS “furious” with the party machine for allowing the seating arrangemen­t.

After listening to concerns in a meeting of the 1922 Committee, Mr Elliot apologised and assured the committee that procedures were in place to stop a similar situation occurring. A 1922 member told The Daily Telegraph: “The apology was welcome, but many of us have been more than a little miffed that this was allowed to happen in the first place.

“The whole party system seems to have broken down. Desmond is not the sort of individual that should have the red carpet rolled out to meet ministers. He seems to want unparallel­ed access for rather mediocre sums of money.”

Mr Jenrick expressed his “regret” at being seated next to Mr Desmond at the £900-a-head Savoy hotel dinner. He told MPS that such encounters were an “occupation­al hazard” as planning ministers were regularly approached by those who want to discuss applicatio­ns. However, Mr Jenrick told the housing, communitie­s and local government select committee that he was right to sign off the controvers­ial Westferry Printworks in order to “prioritise brownfield sites”.

He added that “with hindsight, it would have been better not to have exchanged text messages”.

Mr Jenrick put through approval for the housing developmen­t after receiving a text message from the Tory party donor telling him that delays would “cost £45million”.

Permission was granted the day before a community infrastruc­ture levy came in to force, potentiall­y saving the magnate millions. The Cabinet minister later had to quash his own approval due to “apparent bias”.

Mike Amesbury, the shadow housing minister, said: “The stench of this grubby affair won’t go away until Mr Jenrick comes clean: he needs to give a statement to the House.”

‘The apology was welcome, but many of us are more than a little miffed that this was allowed to happen’

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