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Labour to force Commons vote over Westferry Printworks Development 'cash for favours' scandal

LABOUR will today force a Commons vote over the “cash-for-favours” scandal involving Richard “Dirty Des” Desmond.

If successful, the government would have to release all documents relating to the Westferry Printworks Development on the Isle of Dogs, which is being undertaken by Northern & Shell, a company owned by the billionaire former press baron and Tory donor.

It had been revealed that Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick unlawfully approved the application in January, overruling Tower Hamlets council and his own planning inspector.

Mr Jenrick made the decision the day before a new community infrastructure levy was enforced, saving Mr Desmond up to £50 million.

He also overruled his advisers to reduce the amount of affordable housing in the 1,500-flat development, saving Mr Desmond a further £106m.

Two weeks later, Mr Desmond — nicknamed “Dirty Des” as he made his fortune from pornography publishing — made a £12,000 donation to the Conservative Party.

Faced with a judicial review brought by Tower Hamlets council, Mr Jenrick quashed his decision, admitting that it was unlawful.

He therefore avoided publishing documents in open court that would have revealed the reasons behind the move.

Labour shadow communities and local government secretary Steve Reed said: “If the Secretary of State has nothing to hide then he has nothing to fear from publishing these documents.”

It later emerged that Mr Jenrick had sat next to Mr Desmond and four senior executives of Northern & Shell, which used to own the Express and Star newspapers, at an exclusive Conservative Party fundraising dinner in November 2019.

Mr Desmond told the Sunday Times that Mr Jenrick viewed a promotional video about the development on the property tycoon’s phone, which he denies.

Ministers are not permitted to take part in planning decisions if the applicant has lobbied them.


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