An alleged meeting between Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and Lord Pickles to discuss the proposed Westminster Holocaust Memorial last October appears not to have taken place – even though it is listed as having gone ahead on the government website.
The pair had reportedly met up on October 29 last year – just a day before the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, of which Lord Pickles is co-chair, had written to Cabinet Minister Mr Jenrick on October 30 to ask for the controversial project to be called in.
The Ministry of Housing , Communities and Local Government (MHGLG) website states that a meeting between Mr Jenrick, Lord Pickles and Christopher Katkowski QC went ahead to “discuss the Holocaust Memorial”.
The alleged meeting has been seized upon by critics of the Holocaust Memorial project as further evidence of possible improper conduct ahead of the decision taken by Mr Jenrick to call in the proposal for ministerial determination on November 5.
But the JC has seen a photograph that confirms Lord Pickles was in fact at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on October 29.
The previous evening he was also known to have attended a World Jewish Congress dinner in Munich at which Chancellor Merkel was honoured for her efforts to fight antisemitism.
On the following day, October 30, records show that Lord Pickles spoke at a Federal Government event in Berlin.
One government source told the JC: “Quite why Lord Pickles has been recorded as being at a meeting in London on October 29 is a mystery.”
The crossbench peer Baroness Deech had expressed concern over the alleged October 29 meeting, which was also reported as having taken place in last weekend's Sunday Times.
They both highlighted the fact that the very next day, the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation wrote to the Department of CHLG to request that the minister call in the planning application to build the memorial, although no decision had yet been reached on the application by Westminster City Council, which was “ongoing”.
Speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Deech cited the meeting, and another between Mr Jenrick and Gerald Ronson, another chair of the foundation, on October 7 as “another example of what appears to be a breach of the guidance on planning propriety, and less than impartial behaviour by the department”.
She added that the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation were “in effect appealing to the minister to permit this controversial development”.