The property industry welcomed a new housing minister this week. Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West
, is set to replace Gavin Barwell who was appointed Chief of Staff to Theresa May after losing his seat in the recent election.
Sharma worked in banking 16 years before becoming an MP. He held positions on the Treasury Select Committee and the Science & Technology Select Committee as well as working as the private secretary to the Treasury and minister for Asia and the Pacific.
Astonishingly, Sharma will be the 15th different Housing Minister since 1997 and the 6th since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power. Despite successive governments regularly pointing out the high importance of housing, the position has been passed around like confetti for the last 20 years.
Here, we carry out an overview of who has held the position in the last two decades and where they are now. The Conservatives have managed six different incumbents in seven years, while the Labour Party managed nine in the thirteen years.
Hilary Armstrong (1997-1999)
– Now a Baroness in the House of Lords, Armstrong was the MP for North West Durham from 1987 to 2010 and a key member of the New Labour government, taking on the roles of Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury during her time in office.
Nick Raynsford (1999-2001)
– Armstrong was only in situ for two years, before being replaced by Nick Raynsford. A government minister from 1997 to 2005, he was the MP for Greenwich & Woolwich
from 1997 to 2015, before standing down due to his age.
He also served as MP for Greenwich from 1992 to 1997 (before the seat was redrawn as Greenwich & Woolwich) and was MP for Fulham for a year in the 1980s. During his time in the role, he was responsible for introducing the Decent Homes Standard, to improve quality of social housing.
Lord Falconer (2001-2002)
– The Labour peer and barrister has been a lord since 1997 and has also held a number of ministerial or shadow ministerial positions since 2001. He was most recently Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice.
He only had a very short stint as Housing Minister, with just under a year in the role.
Lord Rooker (2002-2003)
– Lord Falconer was succeeded by another peer – this time Lord Rooker – who himself held the role for just over a year.
Rooker, who has been sitting in the House of Lords since 2001, is a former chairman of the Food Standards Agency and was the Labour MP for Birmingham
Perry Barr from 1974 to 2001.
Keith Hill (2003-2005)
– Keith Hill took over the role from Lord Rooker in 2003. Hill, who held a number of ministerial positions from 1997 to 2007, was Labour MP for Streatham from 1992 until 2010, when he stood down for that year’s general election.
Since stepping down as an MP he has taken on a number of housing-based roles, including becoming the chair of Lambeth Living and the independent regulator for the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA).
Yvette Cooper (2005-2008)
– After the 2005 general election, the housing brief was handed over to Yvette Cooper, who has become one of the most high-profile Labour politicians in recent years. She’s been an MP since 1997, for Pontefract and Castleford and then Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford.
As Housing Minister, she introduced the controversial HIPS scheme and pushed for more affordable housing. In 2015, she failed in her attempts to become Labour leader, finishing in third place behind Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn, and is currently the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Caroline Flint (Jan 2008-Oct 2008)
– Another of Labour’s most high-profile female MPs, Flint had a very short stint as Housing Minister as the global financial crisis was raging and house prices began to plummet.
She has been the MP for Don Valley since 1997 and served key roles under Blair, Brown and Ed Miliband.
Margaret Beckett (Oct 2008-June 2009)
– A long-time MP, she has been elected by the people of Derby South since 1983 and has held a number of ministerial and shadow ministerial roles. She is currently the longest-serving female MP in the House of Commons, but her stint as Housing Minister was very short-lived.
John Healey (2009-2010)
– The last Labour Housing Minister before the Coalition government came to power in 2010, Healey has been the MP for Wentworth and Dearne since 1997.
He is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning.
Grant Shapps (2010-2012)
– A high-profile figure in the Coalition government, he has been the MP for Welwyn Hatfield since 2005 and has held a number of ministerial positions.
As Housing Minister, he repealed HIPs, attempted to tackle rough sleeping and controversially ended lifetime social tenancies, as well as championing an expansion of Right to Buy
Mark Prisk (2012-2013)
– MP for Hertford and Stortford since 2001, Prisk lasted just over a year as Housing Minister before being removed in a 2013 reshuffle, which saw him return to the backbenches.
Kris Hopkins (2013-2014)
- As part of the 2013 reshuffle, Kris Hopkins was promoted to the position of Housing Minister.
A former military man, he was the MP for Keighley from 2010 until losing his seat at the 2017 general election, when he was defeated by Labour MP John Grogan.
Brandon Lewis (2014-2016)
– Brandon Lewis was next up, lasting a full two years (a lifetime compared to some of his predecessors) before being replaced by Gavin Barwell as part of Theresa May’s first reshuffle.
MP for Great Yarmouth since 2010, Lewis is now the Minister of State for Immigration, having been promoted from the position of Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service.
Gavin Barwell (July 2016-June 2017)
– Barwell was handed the Housing Minister post by Theresa May. One of his most important contributions during his time in the role was overseeing the Housing White Paper, a 106-page document which set out the government’s proposals to fix the broken housing market.
As May’s new chief of staff, he may now be expected to push for some of the changes outlined in that document to go through.
Alok Sharma (Present)
– Sharma has yet to show his interest in housing publicly, with his most noticeable link to housing being his fight against a 750-home scheme within his constituency. He will be expected to take charge of implementing the policies outlined in the housing white paper which was released in February.
The merry-go-round of housing ministers in recent years – at a time when everyone acknowledges that Britain has a housing crisis – is certainly a tad worrying. It would be nice to see some longevity and stability in this position, rather than Housing Minister being seen as a stepping stone to more high-profile positions.
It would be positive, too, given the importance of housing, if the Housing Minister had a place in the Cabinet. This particular role needs to be strong and stable, now more than ever.
Who knows, someone might even manage to stay in the position for more than two years? History, though, suggests not.