Former construction minister expresses shock at abolition of DETR and says industry lobbied for DTI move.
Former construction minister Nick Raynsford said he was shocked at losing the construction portfolio in last week's Whitehall shake-up.

Speaking to Building, Raynsford said construction's move from the former DETR to the DTI in the wake of Labour's general election victory had come out of the blue, but that some trade associations had lobbied for it.

The construction brief has now been taken over by industry and energy minister Brian Wilson, leading to industry concerns that construction will lose its voice in Whitehall. Wilson tried to offer critics some reassurance last week by promising to continue the industry's safety drive.

Raynsford said: "I knew nothing about it. I found out on the Friday morning [the day after the election]. It came as a shock."

Raynsford, now minister for local government at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, said several trade associations, including those representing materials producers, had been campaigning for such a move.

He said: "Half the industry was lobbying to be moved to the DTI. It probably wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for that.

"If the industry doesn't like it, it's its own doing. The industry has shot itself in the foot."

Raynsford said the DTI would be an effective champion for construction but defended the performance of the DETR.

He said: "At the DETR, everything was holistic, together in one place. The DTI will say it [construction] is just another industry."

Raynsford's response to the shake-up comes as concern was raised over the future of the social housing sector in the wake of his departure. Raynsford's housing brief has been taken over by dome minister Lord Falconer.

Delegates at the Social Housing Conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, this week said Raynsford's expertise in the housing sector would be missed.

Simon Kimberley, chief executive at Birmingham housing association Optima, said Raynsford was a strong advocate of social housing.

He said: "He had an empathy over the issues in social housing. He understood what it took to deliver effective social housing. The new minister has got to understand the ins and outs of the sector as well."

Jeffrey Ruffles, development manager of the London housing association Circle 33, said: "Raynsford was a strong supporter of social housing over the years and his departure was a disappointment and concern."