Alun Michael expected to be given construction portfolio in new Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry
The construction industry was set for a fresh chapter this week as the newly elected Labour government made widespread changes in a ministerial reshuffle.
As Building went to press, Downing Street had not yet confirmed the construction portfolio, but it appears that Alun Michael has been given responsibility for the industry as part of his remit as minister of state for industry. The post is part of the new Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, the replacement for the DTI.
Michael would take over construction from Nigel Griffiths. This could signify a promotion for the representation of construction. In terms of seniority, Griffiths was a tier below, as a parliamentary undersecretary within the DTI.
However, it was unclear whether Michael’s parliamentary undersecretary, Barry Gardiner, would assume day-to-day running of the portfolio. Such a move would face criticism from the industry as Gardiner would not be focused solely on construction – he has a raft of other responsibilities that include GM foods, fuel poverty, coal health claims and liabilities, trawlermen’s pay and social enterprise.
In a second change, the new minister of state for housing, Yvette Cooper, will also be responsible for Building Regulations. In the previous government the position was split into two, between Keith Hill as housing minister and Phil Hope as regulations minister. Cooper was promoted from the position of parliamentary undersecretary to Hill and will report to David Miliband, the secretary of state for communities and local government.
At the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, David Lammy has been appointed minister for heritage, with a remit that includes architecture. Lammy was previously at the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
Phil Hope was appointed parliamentary undersecretary for skills within the Department for Education and Skills.
With the exception of Hope and Elliot Morley, minister of state at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, all the ministers with close ties to the construction industry have been moved.
Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, has written to congratulate Gardiner on his appointment at the DPEI.
“The most important thing is to deal with all the ministers that affect us because we are a diverse industry,” said Ankers. “It is all change, a new challenge for us and the industry has got to get know these new ministers.”
Nigel Griffiths has been appointed deputy leader of the House of Commons. Nick Raynsford, also a former construction minister and most recently local government minister, resigned after he was sidelined in favour of Miliband for the role of secretary of state.
Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth
Alun Michael is used to being under intense pressure. As rural affairs minister, he was charged with defending the government's Hunting Bill as it passed through the House of Commons last year. From North Wales, he attended Keele University before becoming a journalist for the South Wales Echo and then a youth worker with Cardiff council. He was elected to parliament in 1987 and after several junior appointments was appointed secretary of state for Wales in 1998. In the last government, he was minister of state in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North
Glaswegian Gardiner was first elected in 1997, and has held the Brent North seat since. He remained fairly unknown until 2004 when he was appointed as parliamentary undersecretary at the Northern Ireland Office.
Before entering politics, Gardiner was a company director and an occasional lecturer at the Academy of National Economy in Moscow. Gardiner was educated at St Andrews, Harvard and Cambridge universities.