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Housing Secretary ‘avoided conflict of interest’ over Westminister Holocaust memorial, court hears

Robert Jenrick is facing a legal challenge concerning the government's decision-making process over the Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick arrives at 10 Downing Street for a cabinet meeting on November 5, 2019 in London, England. The UK’s main parties are gearing up for a December 12 general election after the motion was carried in a bid to break the current Parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick performed his duties in making decisions over the Westminster Holocaust Memorial “in an objective manner and avoiding a conflict of interest”, the High Court has heard.

The government is facing a legal challenge by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust over its decision-making process regarding a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, the Grade II-listed park next to the Houses of Parliament.

In a written submission, Tim Mould QC, barrister for Mr Jenrick and the government, told a remote hearing on Wednesday that rules in England meant there were arrangements in place to ensure “appropriate separation” between “conflicting functions”.

Mr Mould added: “The defendant has published handling arrangements which set out how the called-in decision on the planning application for the Holocaust Memorial will be handled, so that there is a clear process for decision-making which ensures that the decision will be taken in an objective manner and avoids any conflicts of interest.”

Lawyers for the Gardens Trust argued that there was a conflict of interest in the way the government has approached the handling of the planning application.

John Howell QC raised the “many statements” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Mr Jenrick over their “commitment to the development proposed in Victoria Tower Gardens being carried out.

“These statements, which go far beyond any mere predisposition in favour of the development proposed, show unequivocally that the defendant and the Prime Minister as well as the government remain implacably committed to the project in Victoria Tower Gardens, regardless of any objections to the planning application that any ‘naysayers’ may have. These statements make manifest the stark conflict of interest that the defendant has placed himself in by calling his own application in for his own determination and by subsequently declining to take any steps to entrust the decision on the application to an independent inspector.”

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