Rachel Maclean expected to be confirmed as sixth housing minister in a year

Industry bodies have welcomed the creation of a new government department for energy and net zero, although they have expressed frustration at the removal of yet another housing minister.

Former Treasury aide Rachel Maclean is likely to replace outgoing housing minister Lucy Frazer, who has been promoted to culture secretary.

Maclean was named a new minister of state at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in yesterday’s reshuffle. If she is confirmed in the housing role, she will be the sixth person to hold the brief within the past year and the 15th since 2010.

rachel maclean

Rachel Maclean is expected to be confirmed as the 15th housing minister since 2010

National Federation of Builders chief executive Richard Beresford said the change would “restart a period of ministerial education” about the housing and planning system.

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) chief executive Victoria Hills added the rapid turnover of ministers risked “undermining the urgency” of the housing crisis.

Rishi Sunak has also broken up the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into three parts, with a new department for energy and net zero, a department for science, innovation and technology and a department for business and trade which has been merged with the existing trade department.

Royal Institute of British Architects president Simon Allford welcomed the creation of a department for energy, which he said could bring together the right people, skills and funding to introduce a national retrofit strategy with a clear timetable and targets.   

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UK Green Building Council director of communications Simon McWhirter added the move could enable the government to apply the findings of MP Chris Skidmore’s review into net zero policies.

But Labour shadow climate and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said “rearranging of deckchairs on the sinking Titanic of failed Conservative energy policy will not rescue the country”.

Graham Stuart will remain as climate and energy minister while George Freeman has been appointed as a science, innovation and technology minister, and Kemi Badenoch as business and trade secretary.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), said:

“It’s good to see the government recognise our and industry calls for net zero and energy to have their own departments. We hope they can work alongside the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to enable strategic outcomes.

However, after several productive meetings with Lucy Frazer MP during her time as housing minister, her promotion restarts a period of ministerial education about the housing and planning system. We look forward to working with whomever gets this vital role, but it may be time to create a specific department for housing, construction, and planning because six housing ministers in a calendar year and watered down planning reforms suggests the government isn’t taking the housing crisis seriously enough.”

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI, said:

“We look forward to working with the minister, as we did with her predecessors to continue building a stronger planning system for the future.

“The RTPI has worked tirelessly to help shape planning reform to benefit local communities and unlock economic, environmental and societal opportunities. The housing minister has been an important ally in achieving those goals.

“However, like many others, we are concerned that the high turnover of ministers in such a fundamentally important role, to deliver the homes the nation so desperately needs, risks undermining the urgency of the situation, and does not tally with the recognition by the government in its Levelling Up White Paper for a strong planning system.

“Now, more than ever, we need consistency in our leadership as we progress through the National Planning Policy Framework consultations and edge closer to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill receiving Royal Assent. We hope that Rachel Maclean MP brings strong leadership and consistency to the position and as ever, offer our assistance in helping to inform decision-making. 

“We believe that, by working together with the housing minister, we can continue to build a strong planning system for communities and businesses to thrive throughout the country, whilst delivering on the government’s ambitions for achieving net zero.”

RIBA President, Simon Allford said 

“We fully support the principle of the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Indeed, we have previously stated that the cross-departmental nature of energy efficiency has led to crucial policy elements being lost; but how it functions in reality is what really matters.  

Millions of energy inefficient homes in the UK are in urgent need of retrofit. We very much hope that this new department will bring together the right people, skills and funding to introduce a national retrofit strategy with a clear timetable and targets.   

The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer’s move will usher in the sixth housing minister in just one year. If the government are serious about delivering the high-quality homes that people need, they themselves must prioritise stability.    

The government must now work collaboratively with the built environment sector to ensure these changes make a positive difference to people’s lives. We will be engaging with the new secretaries of state and their departments immediately.” 

Simon McWhirter, UKGBC’s Director of Communications, Policy and Places said: 

“We welcome the government’s prioritisation of net zero, through the creation of a dedicated ministry, which has the potential to deliver the enormous economic prize of jobs, growth, and innovation so acutely needed in the UK today.   

Following Chris Skidmore MP’s Review into Net Zero and in anticipation of the updated Net Zero Strategy, all eyes are on the Government to put net zero at the heart of every decision. This new Department should act decisively to fill critical gaps in UK policy, particularly for upgrading homes, while championing climate policies across Government, such as on planning system reforms. Most importantly, the Department must develop and implement a comprehensive delivery plan to achieve net zero. No amount of change to Government machinery can deliver net zero without implementing the policies urgently needed.   

Our members look forward to working with the Energy Security and Net Zero Department to fulfil the Chancellor’s commitment to match energy saving with energy supply and to dramatically skill-up and scale-up the built environment sector for our decarbonised future.”

Paul Reeve, ECA Director of CSR said:

“We trust the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will rapidly engage not only with the Government’s own Net Zero Carbon commitments, but also the recent recommendations of the Skidmore review, which confirmed the huge economic and other benefits of actively pursuing Net Zero.

“The new Department must focus on boosting UK low carbon energy from renewables and nuclear, and the skills base that will ensure safe and reliable delivery.

“In the context of achieving energy resilience and Net Zero, it should also review the strategic potential for tidal energy to provide a major, storable renewable energy resource for the UK.”