Secretary of State for Housing
Organization: Conservative Party (UK)
Date of Birth: 9 January 1982
Age: 41 years old
Place of Birth: Wolverhampton, West Midlands, England
Activity: British Conservative Party politician serving as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2019. He has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Newark since 2014.
Robert Edward Jenrick (born 9 January 1982) is a British Conservative Party politician serving as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government since 2019. He has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Newark since 2014.
From 2015 to 2018, Jenrick was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Employment Minister Esther McVey, Justice Secretaries Michael Gove and Liz Truss, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. He served as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury under Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond from January 2018 to July 2019, where he was the youngest male minister in the government of Prime Minister Theresa May.
Jenrick was appointed Communities and Housing Secretary by Boris Johnson in July 2019. In April 2020, despite repeatedly urging the public at televised press briefings to stay at home during the COVID-19 lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus in the UK, Jenrick twice flouted government restrictions by travelling to a second home and then by travelling to see his parents. In May 2020, Jenrick was involved in controversy as he overruled the Planning Inspectorate and approved a £1 billion luxury housing development for Richard Desmond, a Conservative Party donor. Jenrick’s decision saved Desmond’s company up to £50 million in tax, with the release of documents from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in July 2020 indicating corruption and leading to calls for Jenrick’s resignation for his use of a public office for political favours. Planning experts for Tower Hamlets council have estimated that Jenrick helped Desmond save an additional £106 million through leniency on affordable housing levels, which could have resulted in a total discount of approximately £150 million.
Early life and education
Jenrick was born in Wolverhampton in 1982. He grew up in Shropshire near the town of Ludlow, as well as in Herefordshire.
Jenrick attended Wolverhampton Grammar School before reading history at St John's College, Cambridge, graduating in 2003. He was news editor at student newspaper Varsity in 2001. He was Thouron Fellow in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania from 2003–2004. He subsequently studied law, gaining a graduate diploma in law from The College of Law in 2005 and completing a legal practice course at BPP Law School in 2006.
Law and business career
Jenrick qualified as a solicitor in 2008 and practised corporate law with Skadden Arps and Sullivan & Cromwell in London and Moscow. Immediately prior to being elected to parliament in 2014 Jenrick was a Director of Christie's, the auction house.
At the general election of 2010, Jenrick contested Newcastle-under-Lyme for the Conservative Party, but lost to the incumbent Paul Farrelly of the Labour Party by 1,582 votes, although he did achieve one of the largest swings to the Conservatives at 9.4%.
In November 2013, Jenrick was selected to contest the parliamentary constituency of Newark, where the sitting member Patrick Mercer had resigned following a cash for lobbying scandal. At a by-election held on 5 June 2014, he retained the seat with a reduced majority of 7,403. Jenrick became the first Conservative candidate to win a by-election in government since William Hague in Richmond in 1989 and achieved the strongest peacetime by-election result for the Conservative Party in government for over 40 years.
During the campaign, Jenrick was attacked by UKIP's candidate, Roger Helmer, for owning several properties. Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, defended Jenrick, insisting that being self-made and successful was nothing to be ashamed of.
In February 2016, Channel 4 News alleged overspending in Jenrick's 2014 by-election victory. Jenrick said he was confident his election expenses had been compiled in compliance with the law. Nottinghamshire Police took no action as too much time had passed since the alleged offence. In March 2017, the Electoral Commission released a report on their investigation into spending allegations at a number of elections. They concluded that the Conservative Party had contravened the spending rules three times (the 2014 Newark by-election being one of those times) and committed offences twice, and accordingly fined the party £70,000.
Early parliamentary career
Shortly after his election in 2014, Jenrick was elected to the Health and Social Care Select Committee.
In February 2015, he was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey.
Jenrick was re-elected in the 2015 general election with a majority of 18,474, or 57% of the vote, the largest majority in the history of the constituency and the largest swing of any Conservative MP in that election.
In May 2015, he was appointed PPS to the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, and continued to fulfil the role under Gove's successor, Liz Truss from July 2016.
Following the 2017 general election, he was appointed PPS to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd.
In July 2017, he was elected by fellow MPs to be their representative on the Board of the Conservative Party.
He was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Theresa May in her reshuffle of January 2018. He was the youngest minister in the government.
Jenrick was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum. However, he was one of 188 MPs to vote to leave the EU as planned on 29 March 2019, without a deal, voting against the government motion to extend the Article 50 process. Jenrick has been Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Trade & Investment and Vice Chairman of the Groups on China and France.
As Chairman of the APPG for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, he along with Home Secretary Amber Rudd met Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist who was in 2018 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, to discuss how the UK could help with the reconstruction of Yazidi areas.
Jenrick is a member of the Parliamentary Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) group. In June 2019, he represented the government at the Israel-Palestine peace initiative, led by Jared Kushner.
In July 2019, he said: "I want tackling antisemitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as secretary of state", adding about his visit to Auschwitz concentration camp, "It had a huge impact on me and in particular because my wife is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from modern day Poland and the Ukraine." In September 2019, he said: "I will use my position as Secretary of State to write to all universities and local authorities to insist that they adopt the IHRA definition at the earliest opportunity...and use it when considering matters such as disciplinary procedures. Failure to act in this regard is unacceptable." Jenrick has said his connection to the Jewish community forms "a very important and integral part of my life".
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election, Jenrick was appointed as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. He assumed office as Communities Secretary on 24 July 2019 and became the youngest member of Johnson's cabinet.
His response to the national crisis with regard to housing safety following the Grenfell Tower fire was criticised as demonstrating a misunderstanding of the issue, alongside his reluctance to engage with representatives of the many thousands of British citizens whose lives remained at risk. His approach, which was said to include "naming and shaming", was seen by some as lacking robustness and ineffective. Jenrick was criticised as having failed to deliver on promises and take concrete action. There were eight significant fires after Grenfell, including the Bolton Cube. Thousands of affected residents continued to face financial burdens and their lives remained at risk. This stood in contrast to some more effective measures put in place by the Australian Government to keep their citizens safe. In February 2020, in a survey of leaseholders from 117 housing developments by the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, a charity that supports leaseholders, 90 per cent of respondents said the government's response to the 'cladding crisis' had been "no help at all".
In April 2020, despite Jenrick repeatedly urging the public at televised press briefings to stay at home during the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, it was claimed on the front page of the Daily Mail, dated 10 April 2020, that he had twice flouted government restrictions after they were announced first by travelling 150 miles from London to a second home in Herefordshire, Eye Manor, where he was now living with his family, and then by travelling 40 miles to see his parents near Ludlow, Shropshire. He was accused of hypocrisy. Sources close to the minister defended the latter trip by saying that he was delivering food and medication, and did not enter the house.
He had previously written an article for the Mail on Sunday arguing that rather than relatives travelling, local communities should help out.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed that Jenrick's primary residence was in fact his £2.5 million townhouse in Central London, where his wife worked and his three children attended school. Senior MPs called for Jenrick to consider his position, given his high-profile role in Downing Street's campaign to keep the British public inside during the outbreak, including the ban on travelling to second homes.
Unlawful approval of housing development
In May 2020, Jenrick accepted that his approval of a £1 billion luxury housing development on Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs had been unlawful. The 1,500-home development was proposed by Richard Desmond, a Conservative Party donor, former porn publisher and owner of Northern & Shell. The government's planning inspector had previously advised against the scheme, as it delivered an inadequate amount of affordable housing and as the height of the tower would be detrimental to the character of the area. However, Jenrick approved the scheme on 14 January, knowing that an approval by that date would enable Richard Desmond to avoid having to pay a council-imposed infrastructure levy of between £30 and £50 million, which could have been used for funding schools and health clinics. Tower Hamlets council pursued legal action against Jenrick, arguing that his decision showed bias towards Desmond. It was also reported that Jenrick helped Desmond save an additional £106m by allowing affordable housing at 21%, instead of enforcing the local and London-wide planning policy requirement of 35%.
Jenrick has maintained that although the decision was unlawful, there was no "actual bias". Desmond, whose company had donated to the Conservative Party in 2017, made a further personal donation to the party shortly after the approval was given. Andrew Wood, the leader of the Conservative group on Tower Hamlets Council, resigned because of his concerns over the property deal. The planning decision will now be re-determined by a different government minister. In conceding the move did show "apparent bias", Jenrick effectively blocked the judicial review, which originally prevented documents between his department and the developer from being made public. Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: "We may never know what emails and memos the secretary of state received before making his decision and what influence they had, but his reluctance to disclose them speaks volumes".
In June 2020 Desmond told The Sunday Times he had lobbied Jenrick at a Conservative Party fundraising dinner held at the Savoy in November. He said he had showed the minister "three or four minutes" of a promotional video for the Westferry Printworks development on his mobile phone, adding "he got the gist". The controversial interview was followed by a Labour Party opposition day motion debate in the House of Commons on 24 June, which forced Jenrick into releasing all "relevant" documents surrounding his dealings with Desmond, including private text messages between him and the developer that show discussion of the then live planning application beginning the night of the fundraising dinner. One of the emails revealed that MHCLG officials were being pressured by Jenrick to work out how to overrule the government's own planning inspector so he could approve the plans before any increase in the Tower Hamlets council community infrastructure levy (CIL), which Desmond would have had to pay. That the minister did not disclose to his department his potential conflict of interest until a month after his dinner has raised concern.
Other relating to planning
In June 2020, Jenrick faced questions over his links to Conservative donor after it emerged that he met an Israeli businessman, Idan Ofer, with an interest in the future of a multibillion-pound project that Jenrick, then exchequer secretary to the Treasury, was overseeing. Ofer stated that the £10,000 donation via Ofer’s Quantum Pacific business was made at the behest of Conservative Friends of Israel, of which Jenrick was a member. Jenrick later admitted that Ofer was a family friend.
In June 2020, Jenrick was described by Baroness Deech as breaching “the guidance on planning propriety” over his management of a planning application to build a national Holocaust memorial, which she described as controversial. The government department headed by Jenrick took control of the approval process from Westminster Council days after he met the project’s main backers, including Gerald Ronson.
In June 2020, it was reported that Conservative councillors approved a planning application for an extension to Jenrick's townhouse despite officials objecting to the scheme three times over its damaging impact in a conservation area.
The article about Jenrick on Wikipedia was one of a number edited in May 2015 by computers owned by Parliament in what The Daily Telegraph described as "a deliberate attempt to hide embarrassing information from the electorate".
In January 2020, Jenrick spoke at the Conservative Friends of Israel parliamentary reception and told the audience that he would "look forward to the day" when Britain's embassy in Israel will be "moved to Jerusalem", adding that "as Housing Secretary I don't like land-banking. I want us to build that embassy". The British government had not indicated it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the US did in 2018.
In April 2020, The Sunday Times revealed that Jenrick had charged taxpayers more than £100,000 for "a third home" in his constituency of Newark, that he appears to use only rarely.
Jenrick is married to Michal Berkner, an Israeli-born corporate lawyer. She is 9 years older than Jenrick and is the child of Holocaust survivors. They have three daughters, whom they are bringing up in the Jewish faith.
Jenrick owns two £2m homes in London, one of which is a £2.5m townhouse less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament. He also owns Eye Manor, a Grade I listed building in Herefordshire which he purchased for £1.1 million in 2009. His constituency of Newark is 150 miles (240 km) from his 'family home' in Herefordshire. He rents a £2,000-a-month property in his Newark constituency, which he bills to the taxpayer.
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