This note summarises the key Ministerial changes of interest to house building in this week’s Government reshuffle.
DEPARTMENT FOR COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Secretary of State: Eric Pickles (no change)
Minister of State for Housing: Grant Shapps is replaced by Mark Prisk MP
Mark Prisk was previously Construction Minister in BIS and has done some work with HBF on the de-regulatory side of construction.
A chartered surveyor by profession, the new minister worked in property and economic development and began his own consultancy for firms involved in property, construction and environmental services. In 2001 he was elected MP for Hertford and Stortford where he has fought local campaigns against development and presented a Bill to defend the greenbelt.
He is seen as a safe pair of hands, business-friendly with decent defensive political abilities.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Planning): Greg Clark is replaced by Nick Boles MP
Nick Boles was elected in 2010 in the constituency of Grantham and Stamford; prior to his election he was the founder of Policy Exchange think tank which, under his leadership, published several radical policy papers on housing and planning.
Seen as a Cameron-loyalist, Nick Boles is actually far more radical than he is given credit for and has been happy to make several controversial statements in particular with reference to planning including this attack on groups like the National Trust:
“Business investment is deterred by the bureaucratic rigidity of our outdated planning regime so it is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scare-mongering of latter-day Luddites to strangle developments that will boost living standards.”
He is a proven media performer and is likely to become the visible face of further planning reform initiatives.
Parliamentary under Secretary of State: Andrew Stunnell is replaced by Rt Hon Don Foster MP
Liberal Democrat MP for Bath since 1992. Recently appointed Deputy Mayor of the Paralympics Village and attended ceremonies there, whilst being very active throughout the whole Olympic process. Somewhat unknown entity in housing and planning terms.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State: Bob Neill is replaced by Brandon Lewis MP
Previously the leader of Brentwood Borough Council, in 2010 he was elected to represent Great Yarmouth achieving a 9% swing to the Conservative party.
He is involved in a range of pro-business and pro-growth all parliamentary groups and his appointment is in line with many others in the re-shuffle to bring about more pro-growth policies in government.
OTHER OF INTEREST:
Secretary of State for DEFRA: Caroline Spelman replaced by Owen Paterson MP
It appears the new Secretary of State believes in placing the needs of the economy first. This is shown in his support of shale gas projects and his view on Heathrow expansion which he considers urgent; he is also vehemently opposed to wind farms, claiming it is a “massive waste of consumer’s money”.
The Prime Minister has said that the re-shuffle means that now every department shall be focusing on measures that will stimulate growth in the economy. Owen Paterson’s appointment fits with this message and certainly indicates he will value business interests in overseeing environmental policy and regulation.
BIS Minister (with responsibility for construction): Mark Prisk MP replaced by Michael Fallon MP
Michael Fallon is another pro-growth, pro-business appointment. In his first interview in the new role, Mr Fallon told Newsnight that he would “step up the pace” on infrastructure and housing proposals in his role at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. He denied that he had been appointed to “keep an eye” on business secretary Vince Cable. He said he was there to work on growth and business and to aid Mr Cable in helping British business to create jobs.”
He has held numerous ministerial roles since the late 1980s and is MP for Sevenoaks.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury: Mark Hoban replaced by Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
Of interest as Greg Clark was the previous planning minister.
The Prime Minister’s watchword for the reshuffle has been that it should focus on delivery of Government initiatives to promote economic recovery, including house building.
The Ministerial appointments of interest to HBF and its members clearly fit with this objective and HBF will be looking to engage quickly with new Ministers across the range of finance, planning and regulatory issues the industry faces.
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