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Minister reshuffle – who’s who for construction?

15 June 2017 | By James Kenny

After an astonishing election result last week, embattled prime minister Teresa May has begun a Cabinet reshuffle and announced new government appointments. A number of senior and junior appointments will have a direct impact on construction.

Here’s who the industry needs to know about:

Alok Sharma – Minister of state for housing and planning

There have been six housing ministers since 2010 and Alok Sharma is the latest to take up the role.

He takes over from Gavin Barwell who lost his seat and landed the job as May’s chief of staff.

In his new role Sharma is responsible for housing and home ownership policy, as well as the planning policy which underpins it. Other important parts of the portfolio including estates regeneration and regulation of the private rented sector.

He has no direct background in housing and is a chartered accountant by profession. Previously he worked in corporate finance before going into politics. Since becoming an MP for Reading West he has been on the Treasury select committee and the science and technology select committee.

He will report to Sajid Javid who retained his job as communities secretary. Sharma has generally voted in line with the government on housing-related matters. He voted in favour of the bedroom tax and has consistently voted for a reduction in welfare spending.

He takes over the job as the UK continues to struggle with a housing crisis and in his new role he will have the burden of delivering Conservative housing manifesto promises such as plans to extend their one million new homes by 2020 target to a further 500,000 homes by 2022.

The issue of housing quality, one that has hit the headlines, was also a pledge in their programme. The manifesto stated: “We will build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations. That means supporting high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets.”

He will also be pushed to act on the recommendations within the 2017 Housing White Paper, that aim to diversify the supply of new homes and revitalise the SME house building sector.

Damian Green – First secretary of state

The former work and pensions secretary takes the title generally associated with the role of deputy prime minister. He will also take on the role of minister for the Cabinet Office and will be responsible for the government’s construction strategy.

He was minister for state for police and criminal justice until 2014 and worked as a journalist before becoming an MP in 1997.

As part of his brief in delivering the government’s construction strategy, his responsibilities will include procurement, cost-cutting and BIM.

Anne Milton – Minister of state at the Department for Education

Milton replaces Robert Halfon who announced earlier in the week he would not be reappointed to the job of apprenticeships and skills minister.

Milton, the MP for Guildford, began her ministerial career as shadow minister for tourism in 2006, before being named parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department of Health under former prime minister David Cameron.

Like housing, as minister for apprenticeships and skills she will also have one of the more difficult jobs, particularly as the construction industry grapples to encourage more young people into the sector and also to get its head around the apprenticeship levy that launched in April.

The government levy will apply to businesses with a payroll of more than £3m and will be charged at 0.5% of companies’ wage bills. This is aside from the payments of 0.5% of PAYE bills made by qualifying construction firms to the CITB.

A cross-party sub-committee on Education, Skills and the Economy has already dubbed the government’s apprenticeship plan as “a blunt tool” and said that it lacks focus.

Baroness Anelay - Minister of state at the Department for Exiting the European Union

David Jones, a minister of state in the Department for Exiting the EU, was sacked by May and replaced by Baroness Anelay, who is thought to have supported the Remain campaign before last year’s EU referendum. Another Brexit minister, Lord Bridges, resigned last weekend.

The changes mean that the government’s Brexit department has lost two of its four ministers just days before talks are due to start.

However, a shift in the government’s Brexit strategy could be a huge win for the construction sector as there has been a dark shadow looming over the industry with an already widening skills gap and the prospect of a severe cut off from the European talent pool post-Brexit.

Previous to her new appointment Anelay had served as minister of state of the foreign and commonwealth office since August 2014.

Lord Prior of Brampton - Parliamentary under-secretary of state

Originally appointed in December 2016 Lord Prior of Brampton has kept his position as parliamentary under-secretary of state,  responsible for construction.

The Conservative peer took over the role from Jesse Norman. He was an MP for North Norfolk between 1997 and 2001, and has held a number of jobs outside of politics, including a senior executive role at British Steel.

His responsibilities include infrastructure, construction, professional services, the rail supply chain, and the defence and maritime sectors.

Jake Berry – Parliamentary under-secretary of state

Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen has taken up his new role as Andrew Percy, MP for Goole announced his resignation earlier in the week.

The Northern Powerhouse Minister works within the Department for Communities and Local Government with specific responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse policy.

It was among pledges in May’s election manifesto to keep the Northern Powerhouse project alive. She also promised to build a new Northern Powerhouse Rail line across the region.

The Northern Powerhouse was the pet project of former chancellor George Osborne, who left parliament to edit the Evening Standard newspaper.

Michael Gove - Secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs

After posts as justice secretary and education secretary in David Cameron’s government, Gove has made a return to the government following almost a year on the back benches.

Gove was sacked in disgrace last year after stabbing Boris Johnson in the back during the Tory leadership race to replace David Cameron.

He now replaces Andrea Leadsom as environment secretary, while she will become Leader of the House of Commons.

Liz Truss - chief secretary to the Treasury

Truss was removed from her post as justice secretary after less than a year in the role and will now take on the second most senior ministerial position at the Treasury.

She will be in charge of budget allocations across government including in areas such infrastructure policy and projects, procurement, transport policy and housing and planning.

The rest

Elsewhere in the cabinet, five of the top posts remain unchanged – including Philip Hammond as chancellor of the exchequer, Amber Rudd as home secretary, Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, David Davis as Brexit secretary, and Michael Fallon in charge of the ministry of defence.

Greg Clark holds on to his job as secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy and David Gauke takes over as work and pensions minister.

Liam Fox stays in his post as secretary of state for international trade, while Justine Greening has been re-confirmed as secretary of state for education. She additionally gets the portfolio as minister for women and equalities.

David Lidington takes charge as Lord Chancellor and justice minister and Alun Cairns is the new secretary of state for Wales.

May has also kept Jeremy Hunt in his post as health secretary, Gavin Williamson is the new party chief whip or parliamentary secretary to the Treasury and Chris Grayling has been reappointed transport minister.

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