By our count the Right Hon Chris Pincher will be the 10th Housing Minister in as many years. It remains to be seen if Pincher will be the latest in a long line of Housing Ministers who have used the post as a stepping-stone to bigger roles in Government. Previous Housing Ministers such as Grant Shapps, Dominic Raab, Brandon Lewis and Alok Sharma are now all in senior roles in the new Cabinet.
Pincher takes up the reins from Esther McVey who has been forcefully returned to the back benches after failing to make a significant impact in the role. But who is Chris Pincher and what has he done before?
The answer is – plenty, but, as has become customary for this role, not much relating to housing or planning.
Appointed as a minister for the first time at the same time as Ester McVey, Chris Pincher had already been a Deputy Chief Whip, serving and surviving Theresa May’s fraught premiership. His role in the Whips Office will have given him a close understanding of the Conservative Parliamentary Party and the inner workings of government.
Following Boris Johnson’s election as leader of the Conservative Party he was made Minister of State for Europe and the Americas at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in July 2017 serving up until this week’s reshuffle. His appointment to the role may be seen as a reward for his support of Johnson during the Conservative leadership campaign. Indeed, he holds the distinction of being the final UK Minister to represent the country at an EU meeting.
Like many of his predecessors, Pincher has little apparent history of working on housing and planning matters. While not an ideologue, Pincher is generally a conventional free market Thatcherite who has a track record of supporting deregulation and has voted against more public control of assets. His only real apparent brush with developers was a campaign to restart development of a half-finished scheme within his Tamworth constituency. Pincher has previously expressed some concerns around HS2 given his constituency is on the line of route in the section North of Birmingham however as the Government now has a settled position on this issue it is expected he will put some distance between himself and the subject.
His traditional Conservative world view may sit well with the rumoured plans to speed up the planning process and reduce regulation surrounding the planning process – and be compatible well with the approach previously advocated by Jack Airey the new Housing Special Advisor for Housing at No10.
What is certain is that he faces the same challenges as previous Housing Ministers –
In addition to those, he will have to navigate a system in which No10 and its occupants have far more control over ministerial decisions and policy than at any time since early in the Blair era with a large Commons majority. Whether Pincher can leave a lasting legacy unlike many of his recent predecessors or whether the role we be a staging post for a broader career will largely depend on whether Pincher is afforded sufficient time to make his mark at MHCLG, a luxury denied to a succession of Housing Ministers.