Sunak reappoints Gove to housing brief

Michael Gove has been reappointed as housing secretary by prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Gove (pictured), who is understood to have been keen to pick up “unfinished business” at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), was one of a number of former ministers to return to the cabinet.

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps was appointed as business secretary, with Gloucestershire MP Mark Harper picked as the transport secretary.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was reappointed to the role he was handed by former PM Liz Truss just days before her departure. She had brought in Hunt in a bid to restore stability after a disastrous mini-budget triggered economic turbulence, and Sunak looks to have favoured stability for the markets with Hunt’s reappointment. The MP for South West Surrey is due to deliver a fiscal statement to Parliament at the end of the month.

The return of Gove, who spent almost a year in his role as levelling-up secretary, is expected to be welcomed by many in the housing sector. The veteran minister won over many in the industry with his tough stance on fire safety and remediation work for historical cladding defects in buildings. 

Earlier this year, he negotiated with leading developers to resolve for the private sector to pay a levy contributing to covering the cost of fire-safety issues. And in April, Gove vowed to pursue materials companies to ensure they paid their fair share towards the cost of remediating buildings.

In a strongly worded letter to the chief executive of the Construction Products Association, Peter Caplehorn, Gove said he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure construction-product manufacturers were “held to account” for their part in contributing to the building-safety crisis.

Gove also worked on the Renters’ Reform Bill, which will expand the Decent Homes Standard to private rental homes, and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament in May. The bill aims to overhaul the planning system and potentially replace section 106 contributions. 

Former transport secretary Shapps will now be in charge of implementing the new government’s energy policy, including overseeing the construction of nuclear power stations such as Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.

Incoming transport secretary Harper has steadily risen up the ranks of the Conservative Party in recent years. He has previously spoken out about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and also chaired the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, who lobbied for more relaxed restrictions. Harper was formerly chief whip under prime minister David Cameron prior to being sacked by Theresa May.

The appointment of Harper may soothe some nerves at construction firms involved in the building of the HS2 high-speed rail line. The MP has previously praised the scheme, which looked under potential threat from spending cuts, as some of the components for the new railway are being made by companies based in his Forest of Dean constituency.

The raft of new ministers came as the construction sector called for more “certainty” following months of political upheaval, including the resignation of two prime ministers within four months. 

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association said that the “overwhelming priority” of the new PM should be to restore stability to British politics.

Meanwhile, Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of construction-industry representative body Build UK, said: “We all know there will be some difficult choices to be made and it is up to us to continually make the point and demonstrate that construction, which delivers almost £3 of value for every £1 spent, is a good place for the public sector to invest, and the new prime minister would do well to put national and local infrastructure projects at the core of his strategic plan.”

Leave a comment