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Christopher Pincher becomes latest housing minister after PM sacks Esther McVey

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Christopher Pincher has become the 10th housing minister since 2010 following the departure of Esther McVey in the latest ministerial clear-out 

McVey had only been in the role for seven months, having taken over from Kit Malthouse, before she was sacked earlier today (13 February) by prime minister Boris Johnson as part of his ministerial reshuffle.

The former television presenter had been brought in last July together with Robert Jenrick who became her boss, replacing the ousted James Brokenshire as secretary of state at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It was confirmed that Jenrick will retain his position at the ministry.

McVey’s knowledge of the construction and design industries was widely ridiculed on social media following comments she made about ‘new methods’ of housebuilding at the Tory conference in October.

She told delegates: ‘We have this new way of doing it – 3D architects, 3D visionaries – doing it … on a computer.’

One of McVey’s most significant actions was in November when she called in David Adjaye and Ron Arad’s controversial Holocaust Memorial proposals for the Victoria Gardens site next to the Houses of Parliament.

Her exit from the housing role means 19 different MPs have held the position in the last 20 years. Pincher, the Conservative MP for Tamworth since 2010, had spent seven months as a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Before that the MP, who initially voted against HS2, was deputy chief whip.

Responding to the news RIBA President Alan Jones said: ’As the 10th housing minister in 10 years, Pincher must get to work urgently to ensure the delivery of high-quality, safe and sustainable homes that create and support community cohesion.

’This means bringing an end to Permitted Development Rules which allow developers to sidestep vital quality and environmental standards, and making urgent changes to fire safety regulations to ensure people are safe.’

Jones added: ’Strong leadership is essential to meet the Government’s ambitious housing targets and radically reduce the carbon emissions of the built environment to reach net zero by 2050.’

Elsewhere in Johnson’s reshuffle, environment secretary Theresa Villiers also lost her job.

In an even bigger shock, Sajid Javid resigned as chancellor. According to the BBC, Javid was told he could only remain in the post if he got rid of all of his advisers, but he refused and walked away from the job. Rishi Sunak, formerly chief secretary to the Treasury, has taken over.

Meanwhile the post-Brexit reshuffle also saw the exit of the government’s chief lawyer, the attorney general Geoffrey Cox. Last week the chair of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry agreed to ask the attorney general to grant immunity from prosecution to Studio E Architects and others relating to any evidence they give about the tragedy.

Inquiry chair Martin Moore-Bick hopes this will allow those involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower to speak more freely. The decision will now be made by Cox’s successor, Suella Braverman.

The reshuffle has also seen the rise of former housing minister Alok Sharma. He has been promoted to become president of the Cop26 climate talks.

 Comment

Félicie Krikler, director at Assael Architecture
There is a total incompatibility between the political cycles and the long-term aspects of housing, and appointing the 10th housing minister in the last 10 years makes a complete mockery of the role. The industry needs stability to make progress on the housing front and bring forward policies that clarify questions over design, quality and delivery methods concerning the homes we build.

Understanding and addressing the issues troubling the market takes time and effort, and while another minister gets to grips with the role, we have high streets in need of reform and high-quality homes in need of building. I hope whoever steps in to fill McVey’s place will be able to quickly adapt and contribute to the UK’s housing needs.

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