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So, who is the new Housing Minister?
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Dominic Raab, the 16th Housing Minister in only 20 years. His predecessor, Alok Sharma, only managed 6 months in the post, the shortest tenure in the last 20 years (which includes a further 5 Ministers who didn’t last a year). So, who is Dominic Raab?
Elected to Esher and Walton in 2010, Raab has been identified as a key Brexiteer on the right of the Conservative Party. Before entering politics, Raab was a competition lawyer, with a traditional Oxford (and then Cambridge) education. His career started with Linklaters and later progressed to the Foreign Office where he covered a range of briefs including bringing war criminals to justice at The Hague, advising on the Arab-Israel conflict and the European Union. Following his stint in the Civil Service Raab went on to be Chief of Staff for David Davis who was shadow Home Secretary at the time.
No doubt, this is an impressive resume, and it gives warrant as to why Raab is seen as one of the future leaders of the Conservative Party. However, this resume does make you wonder why he was moved from his position of Minister of State for Courts and Justice, a role that would naturally suit his professional background. Instead, he has been given the remit for housing, and a review of his previous comments on the subject are a cause for concern.
Raab has been unequivocal in his defence of the Green Belt, stating it as one of his key priorities within his constituency. It is also pertinent to note that Raab, in conjunction with Surrey CPRE, questioned the Governments methodology for assessing housing need. This will no doubt be informed by his views on immigration – Raab is one of 30 MPs who called for Theresa May to impose a 5-year ban on low-skill immigrants – and his desire for a greater spread of housing outside of the South East.
Moreover, in the lead up to the 2017 election Raab stated that one of his key principles was to increase local democracy, one of the manors he wished to do this was to give Council’s more power in Local Plan process, with less significance given to the inspectorate and a central assessment of housing need. It will be interesting to see how this stance compliments Sajid Javid, who has not been afraid to impose the stick on Council’s who are not implementing a local plan in line with housing need.
Ultimately, Raab’s appointment has to be seen as controversial, as he is the second Housing Minister in a row with no housing or Local Government experience. As an industry we must also wonder how much benefit can come from another Green Belt MP being the national champion of housebuilding. Although, we may only be in this position for a few months…