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Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are pulled into row involving ex-porn baron donor

Lunch: The PM and Mr Desmond in 2014

BORIS JOHNSON and Priti Patel have been dragged into claims a former porn baron and Conservative Party donor received favourable treatment for his business interests.

The prime minister and home secretary were yesterday embroiled in fresh controversies surrounding Richard Desmond, the former publisher of The Daily Express and top-shelf magazines such as Nude Reader’s Wives and Big Ones.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has faced questions over his approval — which he later overturned — for Mr Desmond’s development at Westferry Printworks in east London a day before the tycoon would have had to pay a £45million community charge.

It has now been claimed that Mr Johnson met Mr Desmond on several occasions while he was London mayor and wished him ‘good luck’ with the £1billion project when the pair discussed the initial idea in 2010.

The i newspaper reported Mr Desmond hosted a lunch in which he asked the then-mayor how he could obtain planning permission ‘without spending loads of money’ for the 1,500-home development.

A source told the newspaper that Mr Johnson allegedly replied the scheme was ‘interesting’ and advised him to meet planning officials. Mr Desmond told the i he could not remember the conversation, adding: ‘Honestly, you’re talking about ten years ago. At that lunch there were 15 or 20 people.’

A spokesman for the PM said Mr Johnson had not been involved in the current planning application and appeal. ‘The then mayor of London did consider a previous planning application with due process and a fair hearing in 2016,’ he added.

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that Ms Patel personally lobbied for a relaxation of lottery rules, as called for by Mr Desmond, who owns the Health Lottery company which is competing with Camelot to take over the National Lottery.

The gambling commission subsequently announced in April that the maximum jackpot for commercial lotteries would increase from £400,000 to £500,000.

A source close to Ms Patel told The Times she met Mr Desmond at events but said her backing for higher jackpots was aimed at increasing money for good causes.

Questions: Robert Jenrick PICTURE: PA

It has also emerged Mr Desmond’s company Northern & Shell hired PR firm Hawthorn Advisors, which is co-owned by Ben Elliot, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, in January to help change the gambling rules. The firm said Mr Elliot had no contact with its clients and stood down as a director in April.