Tory donor Richard Desmond embroiled in 'cash for access' row had drinks with Boris Johnson at No.10

Tory donor Richard Desmond embroiled in ‘cash for access’ row had drinks with Boris Johnson at No.10 months before ministers approved controversial £1bn planning application

  • Tory donor Richard Desmond was pictured with Boris Johnson last November
  • But it has been revealed the tycoon had drinks with Mr Johnson months before  
  • Robert Jenrick was reported to Parliament’s standards watchdog yesterday
  • The Housing Secretary rushed approval for a £1bn development by Mr Desmond

The property tycoon at the centre of a ‘cash for favours’ row had drinks with the Prime Minister in No 10 months before ministers approved a controversial £1billion planning application.

Tory donor Richard Desmond was pictured with Boris Johnson at a fundraising dinner last November – but the tycoon also had drinks with the PM months before at another meeting, the Mail can reveal.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick faces a potential Commons sleaze probe after rushing approval for the £1billion development by Mr Desmond which would have saved him tens of millions of pounds.

Tory donor Richard Desmond was pictured with Boris Johnson at The Savoy (above) fundraising dinner last November. But it was revealed he also had drinks with the PM months before at another meeting

Tory donor Richard Desmond was pictured with Boris Johnson at The Savoy (above) fundraising dinner last November. But it was revealed he also had drinks with the PM months before at another meeting

The Housing Secretary was reported to Parliament’s standards watchdog yesterday over his failure to declare a conflict of interest before instructing officials to fast-track Mr Desmond’s planning application for the east London site.

Mr Jenrick did not disclose he sat next to the businessman at a Tory party fundraising dinner until four weeks later. Mr Desmond was also pictured with Mr Johnson at the same event. 

But last night, the former newspaper tycoon said: ‘I have been to No 10 for a drinks evening, not on a one-to-one [basis],’ he said. 

‘I think it was about September last year. That’s it. I didn’t go to school with him.’

He played down his relationship with Mr Johnson saying: ‘He is not close to me.’

Asked if he had sent text messages to the PM about his planning appeal, Mr Desmond said: ‘I have never discussed it with Boris Johnson.’

The Housing Secretary is fighting to keep his job as the furore grows over his lack of transparency. 

Robert Jenrick (above) was reported to Parliament’s standards watchdog yesterday over his failure to declare a conflict of interest before instructing officials to fast-track Mr Desmond’s planning application for a £1billion east London development

After exchanging mobile numbers at the fundraising dinner, the billionaire pleaded with the minister to give the Westferry housing project the go-ahead before a local levy came in that would cost him £45million.

Last night, Labour called on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to investigate whether Mr Jenrick had breached the code of conduct for MPs over his handling of the plan.

In a letter to Kathryn Stone, Labour’s housing spokesman Steve Reed said Mr Jenrick had ‘not lived up to’ the standards expected of MPs. 

He accused Mr Jenrick of ‘acting on the instruction’ of the businessman by speeding up his application after he warned the development would not be viable if he had to pay the local levy.

A YouGov poll yesterday revealed 39 per cent of the public want Mr Jenrick to resign, compared to 11 per cent who do not. The remaining 50 per cent did not know.

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