27th February 2020

Housing Minister Profile – Christopher Pincher MP

Another reshuffle, another Housing Minister. The latest incumbent – Christopher Pincher - will be the tenth housing minister in the last decade and will not have a seat at the cabinet table as his predecessor did.

A change in this department was not a surprise to Westminster onlookers as it was widely reported that Esther McVey did not always see eye to eye with Secretary of State Robert Jenrick. Reports suggested that Mr Jenrick was a more hardline supporter of private home ownership while Ms McVey may have preferred to direct more resource towards publicly owned social housing.

So what to expect from the new team?  

Christopher Pincher has held the seat of Tamworth since 2010, increasing his majority at each election.  

Prior to his current appointment, he was a Minister of State for Europe and the Americas – so working out what he thinks when it comes to housebuilding is tricky.

He has previously opposed a “mansion tax” policy, rumoured to be part of Sajid Javid’s budget proposals, and has also voted against raising housing benefits in line with inflation and in favour of reducing benefits for social tenants.

It rather looks as if private sector housebuilders are likely to have the ear of the ministry and that hopes for a major expansion in social housing may be disappointed.

Perhaps the more important question, however, is whether there will be sufficient continuity within the department to see any coherent policy emerge.

Since the Ministry for Housing was brought under the umbrella of the renamed Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government in 2018 there have already been three secretaries of state (Sajid Javid, James Brokenshire and Robert Jenrick).

Given the political focus on housebuilding numbers and the pressing need to address issues around skills shortages, planning reform and building regulations, it seems hard to understand the logic behind such a churn rate.

Some continuity is provided by Robert Jenrick’s continuation in his role, and he has certainly been focused on the housing sector since taking up the post in 2019. Most recent was the announcement of a potential First Buyers discount on new homes – potentially a successor to the Help to Buy Scheme.

No doubt Mr Pincher is currently in the midst of a steep learning curve. The first indications of a direction of travel for his department will be followed with interest.