Westferry Printworks Development

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:50 pm, 24th June 2020

I think there is one thing in this debate upon which we can all agree: that my hon. Friend Mark Eastwood made a fantastic, powerful and personal maiden speech. He is right to say that, when we are first elected to this place, we sit in the Tea Room and talk to each other about the relative merits of our constituencies. He will know that, regrettably, when we turn to talking about majorities, size really does matter.

I should also like to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Henley (John Howell), for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith), for East Devon (Simon Jupp), for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), for North Cornwall (Scott Mann), for Guildford (Angela Richardson), for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards), for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey), for Orpington (Gareth Bacon) and for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) on their powerful contributions to the debate.

Let me be clear: we reject any allegations of impropriety either in relation to the appeal at Westferry Printworks or more widely. Today, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, our Department has published the documents on the record regarding the Westferry decision. They are now in the public domain for the full scrutiny of Members and the wider public. Those documents show what we knew from the outset: that no improper action was undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

As my right hon. Friend made clear in his remarks, it is far from uncommon for Ministers to disagree with a planning inspector’s recommendation. The involvement of Ministers in the planning system is clearly guided by both the ministerial code and the guidance set out by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. That guidance details the duty to behave fairly and to approach matters before us with an open mind. As my right hon. Friend has made clear abundantly again and again, the reason for granting planning permission for the proposed development at the Westferry Printworks are detailed in his letter of 14 January.