Westferry Printworks Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:36 pm, 24th June 2020

I gently remind Conservative Members that in the past 10 years of Tory austerity rough sleeping has seen extraordinary increases. Fewer social homes were built last year than at any time since the second world war, and the Grenfell fire atrocity revealed a huge issue with bad buildings. Numerous blocks with Grenfell-style cladding are still in place three years after the Grenfell fire. I just ask Conservative Members to take care with the attacks that they make, because they do not have a record to stand on.

Last week I asked the Secretary of State if he knew, when he signed the planning consent for Westferry, that the very next day the new levy would come into effect, which would have cost the developers tens of millions of pounds. The Secretary of State said that that was a matter of public record.

In the ministerial code published last year, the Prime Minister said that to

“win back the trust of the British people, we must uphold the very highest standards of propriety…no actual or perceived conflicts of interest.”

The code goes on to say that it

“should be read against the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law”.

The Secretary of State has admitted that his decision was unlawful.

The code says:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”

The Secretary of State told us that he advised the applicant that he was not able to discuss the issue. He now implies that he watched a video about it, and he has not qualified the facts.

The code says:

“Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public, refusing to provide information only when disclosure would not be in the public interest”.

The Secretary of State has only today, after several weeks, said he will publish some papers after the debate.

The code says:

“Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.”

The Secretary of State has admitted that a fair-minded person would conclude that his decision was biased in favour of the developer.

The code says:

“Ministers must not use government resources for Party political purposes”.

Richard Desmond gave the Conservatives a large donation shortly after the Secretary of State made his decision. We think that the Secretary of State has admitted that he watched the promotional video, although he was unclear, and the rules on the Secretary of State’s decision making in planning state:

“Privately made representations should not be entertained unless other parties have been given the chance to consider them and comment.”

We cannot legislate for integrity, but surely we can ask the Secretary of State to tell us whether he watched the video, did he tell his officials the next day, and does he now think—