Friday, 30 November 2007

Daily Hansard Debate for 27 Nov 2007 - Donorgate.

The following is taken from the Daily Hansard - Debate for 27 Nov 2007.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar) (Con): I would like to ask a question on planning procedures. Besides using intermediaries to make donations to the Labour party, Mr. David Abrahams used the same method to apply for planning permission. Will the Minister now agree to a review of regulations so that the true identity of the applicant is not hidden from the public?

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears): Yes, I think it is essential that people have trust in the integrity and transparency of all our systems in government, and I certainly undertake to look at the issue and to try to ensure, as far as we possibly can, complete transparency around applications. It is important that people know exactly what has taken place.

Mr. Pickles: In the interests of that transparency, can the Secretary of State explain why Government objections to the building of a business park on the established green belt of County Durham was suddenly and unexpectedly withdrawn? What steps were taken to ensure that the persons withdrawing the Government objections knew that the directors of the developers, Durham Green Developments—a Mr. Ruddick and a Mrs. Kidd, both employees of Mr. Abrahams—made a substantial donation to the Labour party? In view of the controversy surrounding the business park, will she release all Government papers relating to the development?

Hazel Blears: The hon. Gentleman is aware that the issue has arisen very recently indeed and that it concerns the Highways Agency; it is certainly not an issue that involved Ministers in the process. He has raised some important issues, and I will certainly undertake to liaise with my colleagues in other Departments to ascertain exactly what happened. I can also give him an undertaking that the Government will be transparent in all their dealings on this matter.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): In wondering what first attracted the Labour Government to millionaire property developer, David Abrahams, may I ask whether Ministers will confirm whether any Minister has had discussions with him over the content of the Planning Reform Bill?

Hazel Blears: No Minister has had discussions with Mr. Abrahams about the Planning Reform Bill.

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