MP is hailed as 'best briefed construction minister since Nick Raynsford'

The industry has welcomed the appointment of the “best briefed” construction minister since Nick Raynsford, following years of complaints about unsuitable politicians covering the industry, writes Andrew Hankinson.

Mark Prisk, Tory MP for Hertford and Stortford, who is a qualified chartered surveyor, has taken responsibility for construction as the minister of state in the business and innovation department.

Stephen Ratcliffe, director of the UK Contractors Group, said: “At last we have a minister who will know what he’s talking about. He’s up and running on the issues, so he’s probably the best briefed minister for construction on day one since Nick Raynsford back in 1997.

“The major issue concerning everybody is public sector work flow. And as we’ve been talking to Mark it’s clear that he understands how important it is to the industry. Now we’re past the purdah period we can pick up with him where we left off.”

Under the Labour government, the industry often complained that the construction brief was handled by a junior politician at the under secretary level. Further frustration came from frequent reshuffles, meaning that since Nick Raynsford covered construction in 1997-2001 it has been passed through Brian Wilson, Nigel Griffiths, Alun Michael, Margaret Hodge, Stephen Timms, Baroness Vadera, Ian Pearson and lastly Ian Lucas.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group, said: “I’ve got a tremendous amount of time for Mark Prisk. First of all he knows the industry – he’s a chartered building surveyor – and one of his shadow responsibilities was construction, so he’s made it his business over the last few years to get to know the industry.

“Lucas was always very helpful and prepared to talk, but he was at the most junior level in the department. Mark being a minister of state is obviously preferable. And I think he will want to keep the construction adviser in place.”

Who’s who in the new government

Philip Hammond (con) Secretary of state for transport

The son of a civil engineer, Hammond is one of the richest MPs in the Tory party, having earned millions through his property company Castlemead.Rob Holden, chief executive of Crossrail, said: “Transport will be new to him. I expect he’ll spend some time getting briefings.”

Bob Neill (con) Parliamentary under secretary of state, working in the communities department

It is understood that Neill will look after planning. He studied law and was a barrister, before becoming an MP in 2006. Was the shadow planning minister before the election, and claims to campaign to “protect the green belt from over development”.

Grant Shapps (con) Minister for housing

Has covered the housing brief in opposition since 2007 and is well known to the industry, which has this week largely welcomed his appointment for that reason. Has said he wants to make the UK a “nation of housebuilders”, but concerns remain about his localist policy agenda, which is due to sweep away regional housing targets and replace them with financial incentives for local authorities to allow more development.
One housebuilder told Building: “You can’t doubt his sincerity. But he’s barking mad,of course.”

Ed Vaizey (con) Minister for culture

The son of a life peer, Vaizey will look after architecture. He studied history at Oxford, then practised as a barrister and managed a PR consultancy. As shadow minister he threatened to scrap the Architects’ Registration Board.This week he said he would focus on embedding good design across construction, in particular in housebuilding and played down talk of making Cabe self-funding.

Hugh Robertson (con) Minister for sport and the Olympics

Studied land management at Reading then became an army officer until 1995, after which he worked as a property investor at financial house Schroders.As an MP was made shadow Olympics minister. Margaret Ford, chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, said his property investment experience would help the legacy programme.