Planning Process: Probity

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:34 am on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:34 am, 11th June 2020

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am very happy to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, and certainly never question your judgment.

The hon. Gentleman asked first about the nature of the decision of the Secretary of State for a redetermination. The Secretary of State, with the support of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and others in the local planning authority, believed the best course of action was for a swift redetermination of this particular issue. The way to achieve that, technically in law, is to accept the action that was brought by the local authority to the court. That is why the Secretary of State made the decision that he did.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Secretary of State acted properly and with propriety in making clear to the Department all discussions that he has had with applicants; yes, he did. At all times he has disclosed any conversations that he has had with applicants.

The hon. Gentleman also requests me to describe my right hon. Friend’s relationship with the applicant. My right hon. Friend has no relationship with the applicant, so that question is irrelevant. Both the applicant and the local authority have asked my right hon. Friend to make a site visit. My right hon. Friend, in discussion with officials in our Department, weighed up the pros and cons of such a site visit and decided against.

As for the decision on 14 January, which is outlined publicly and which the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members can see online, that decision is all very clear. There were no discussions about the CIL issue between my right hon. Friend and the applicant. My right hon. Friend has been very clear about his involvement with the applicant. I do not think anything further needs to be added.

The applicant has, I think, paid for tickets to a Conservative party event. That is apparently where the funds came from. Ministers have no knowledge of funds provided to political parties through donations or through payment for tickets. These are spendings made by donors which go to parties of all persuasions. They are declared in the proper and usual way. None of this is known to Ministers, and none of it is discussed by Ministers. It certainly was not discussed on this occasion.