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Revolving door of housing ministers an insult to renters, say campaign groups

Rachel Maclean’s sacking comes just a day ahead of the Renters Reform Bill reaching a crucial stage in its passage through Parliament.

Aine Fox
Monday 13 November 2023 17:14 GMT
The sacking of the 15th housing minister since 201 has been described as an insult to renters (Alamy/PA)
The sacking of the 15th housing minister since 201 has been described as an insult to renters (Alamy/PA)

Sacking a housing minister who was the 15th to hold the role since 2010 has been branded “frankly shambolic” as part of the “revolving door of housing ministers”.

Conservative MP Rachel Maclean, ousted on Monday in the latest reshuffle, made way for Lee Rowley to re-enter the post.

He previously briefly held the role in 2022 and has been with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since last September.

His most recent role was parliamentary under secretary of state with responsibility for local government and building safety.

It is the 16th time the housing minister role has changed hands in the past 13 years – and the seventh in the past two years alone.

Housing and homelessness charities spoke of the need for “stability and consistency” in order to tackle what they described as a “crisis” in the sector amid a shortage of properties and high prices.

Now, just before the first day of the important committee stage, which involves poring over the detail of the Bill, she is sacked – it makes a mockery of Government and shows a shocking lack of respect for England’s 11 million private renters

Tom Darling, Renters’ Reform Coalition

Her sacking comes just a day ahead of the Renters Reform Bill reaching a crucial stage in its passage through Parliament, with campaigners saying the timing shows a “shocking lack of respect for England’s 11 million private renters”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Rishi Sunak needed to “make a decision in the round about who fits best for ministers and secretaries of state”, and insisted the change will “not detract from our approach”.

Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive, said: “People at the sharp end of the housing and homelessness crisis need stability and consistency if we are ever going to tackle it for good.

“Crucially, this move cannot delay the Renters Reform Bill any further. No-fault evictions are the leading cause of homelessness in England and renters are battling increasing pressures from soaring rents and the cost-of-living crisis.

“We urgently need the ban on these brought in, otherwise more and more people will be forced unnecessarily into homelessness.”

The revolving door of housing ministers over the past decade, and in particular the last 18 months, proves the Government’s failure to grasp the scale and urgency of the housing emergency

Polly Neate, Shelter

Ms Maclean told of her disappointment, saying she had been looking forward to introducing the Renters Reform Bill to the committee stage in Parliament on Tuesday – when it will undergo line-by-line scrutiny of its contents.

The Bill has been a long time coming for campaign groups who have called for it to be proceeded with urgently as renters face a challenging time amid high prices and a shortage of housing.

They said fulfilment of the pledge to ban section 21 no-fault evictions is key and must happen soon to protect tenants, but the Government has said the abolition will not come in until reforms in the court system to ensure it is a fair process also for landlords.

Shelter said there had not been a minister “in the job long enough to get to grips with the problem” of “soaring” evictions and record high numbers of people in temporary accommodation.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate described a “revolving door of housing ministers” which had proven “the Government’s failure to grasp the scale and urgency of the housing emergency”.

She said: “The 16th housing minister since 2010 has to hit the ground running and the first thing on their to-do list must be to pass a watertight Renters Reform Bill and scrap no-fault evictions.

“Time is of the essence for this Government to finally prioritise housing and push forward with the solutions that will end the housing emergency and improve people’s lives – including building decent social homes, fixing private renting and making it more affordable.”

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Ms Maclean said: “I’ve been asked to step down from my role as housing minister.

“Disappointed and was looking forward to introducing the Renters Reform Bill to committee tomorrow and later the Leasehold and Freehold Bill.

“It has been a privilege to hold the position and I wish my successor well.”

Her party colleague, Kemi Badenoch, described her as an “excellent minister” who had been “always attentive to MPs and their constituents and got some very tricky legislation over the line”.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove retweeted Ms Badenoch’s comments.

The Renters’ Reform Coalition (RRC) said Ms Maclean had attended their events and been “willing to engage with us – we wish her well for the future”.

The organisation’s campaign manager, Tom Darling, said: “It is frankly shambolic that we will now be on to our 16th housing minister since 2010, and incredibly nine just since the Government promised to end no-fault evictions.

“Now, just before the first day of the important committee stage, which involves poring over the detail of the Bill, she is sacked – it makes a mockery of Government and shows a shocking lack of respect for England’s 11 million private renters.

“Hopefully when we arrive for Bill Committee tomorrow morning there will be a minister there representing the Government.”

An official spokesman for Mr Sunak said: “The Prime Minister needs to make a decision in the round about who fits best for ministers and secretaries of state, that’s what he’s done today.

“It will not detract from our approach that has put us on course to deliver one million homes this Parliament.”

Ms Maclean’s predecessors were Grant Shapps (2010-12), Mark Prisk (2012-13), Kris Hopkins (2013-14), Brandon Lewis (2014-16), Gavin Barwell (2016-17), Alok Sharma (2017-18), Dominic Raab (2018), Kit Malthouse (2018-19), Esther McVey (2019-20), Chris Pincher (2020-22), Stuart Andrew (2022), Marcus Jones (2022), Lee Rowley (2022) and Lucy Frazer (2022-23).

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