By Lauren Codling and Rithika Siddhartha
PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has unveiled Britain’s most diverse government yet following a two-day reshuffle that began on Monday (8).
Sajid Javid is the most senior Asian in the cabinet and will keep his current post, but with a renamed department, as the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government.
On Tuesday (9), May named several members from a BAME background to government roles.
Among them are Alok Sharma, as the minister of state for employment; Suella Fernandes, as the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department of Exiting the European Union; Nusrat Ghani as assistant government whip and parliamentary undersecretary of state at the department for transport; Shailesh Vara as parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Northern Ireland office and Rishi Sunak as the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the ministry of housing, communities and local government.
It was also confirmed on Monday that MP Rehman Chishti was appointed by May as the Conservative Party’s vice chair for communities.
In a statement on Tuesday (9), May said the reshuffle brought “fresh talent into government, boosting delivery in key policy areas like housing, health and social care, and ensuring the government looks more like the country it serves”.
She added: “It also allows a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole UK.”
Among other ethnic minority MPs appointed were Nadhim Zahawi who is the undersecretary of state at department for education and Sam Gyimah who has become the new universities and science minister, replacing Jo Johnson who has now been made transport minister.
“This government is about building a country fit for the future – one that truly works for everyone with a stronger economy and a fairer society,” May said.
Javid, who was previously known as the secretary of state for communities and local government from 2016, told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (9) that he was “delighted” with his new post.
He told Eastern Eye the new post was allowing him to face one of the most “important” challenges facing the UK concerning the building of homes across the country, particularly for young people.
The banker turned politician who represents Bromsgrove in Worcestershire since 2010, said the lack of affordable housing is the “biggest barrier in terms of social mobility in the UK”.
“You go down any high street and you see any young person, their faces pressed up against estate agent windows, dreaming of owning or renting a decent home and they look at the prices and they feel they are completely out of reach,” Javid said. “The prices today are the highest they’ve ever been and that is why it is such an important issue that we as a government, working with the industry, are doing everything we can to build the homes that this country needs.”
Javid explained despite a series of problems and complex issues, the government would be “[pushing] hard” to resolve the situation.
He outlined three main areas the government would be working on – making sure local councils are releasing enough land in the right places, that homes are delivered quickly once the land is released and doing more to diversify the market.
“I think there is more room for factory built homes,” Javid said. “A lot of European countries, for instance, have factory built home that are very high quality and can be put up more quickly.
“Also, I want to see many more SMEs – smaller builders and smaller constructions out there in the market so we are doing a lot more to support them. For example, with the home building fund when we make a number of loans that help these companies build more and more quickly.”
To a question on rehousing survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, Javid said although housing has been a priority, so too is making sure that there are enough homes to rehouse all of those who need it.
The secretary of state said: “In the months that have passed since the tragedy, there are hundreds of homes, including some brand-new homes that are in development and have been acquired by the council. We just want to make sure there are enough houses available. We are determined to make sure there are enough homes to rehome all the families, including the families who have decided to sub divide.”
Javid added he wanted to ensure the individuals were not forced into any housing decision they did not feel comfortable with.
“These people have gone through a terrible tragedy and they aren’t just a statistic on a piece of paper,” he said. “We aren’t going to force them into a decision.
“Their wishes must be considered and that is the approach we have taken.”
In other changes to the cabinet, Justine Greening resigned from her role as education secretary on Monday after being offered the job of work and pensions secretary.
Former Labour minister Alan Milburn said Greening’s resignation was “a loss as far as social mobility is concerned”, as she had “actually [been] getting on and doing something”.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is also reported to have refused to leave his post and change departments. He now has added the appointment of social care to his title.
Junior trade minister Mark Garnier was dismissed, tweeting that he was “very sad to have lost my job” but would support the government from the backbenches of the House of Commons.
Last year, Garnier was subject to an internal investigation after reportedly asking his then secretary to buy sex toys. He was later cleared of misconduct.
Also let go from their political positions were Philip Dunne as health minister; John Hayes as transport minister and Robert Goodwill as education minister.
However, the prime minister has kept most of her senior ministers including Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, Amber Rudd as home secretary, Philip Hammond as chancellor and David Davis as Brexit secretary.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon keeps his job as minister of state for the commonwealth and the UN at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Brandon Lewis was appointed as Conservative Party chairman making him responsible for the day-to-day running of the party and its campaigns. He replaces Patrick McLoughlin.
David Lidington, previously justice secretary, has been appointed as Cabinet Office minister, a largely behind-the-scenes role supporting the prime minister and responsible for making sure the government runs smoothly. He replaces Damian Green.
Esther McVey was named as work and pensions minister and Matthew Hancock is the minister for digital, culture, media and sport.
In response to the reshuffle, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The government’s big plan for the new year is to dodge the real issues and reshuffle the pack in a pointless and lacklustre PR exercise.
“It’s simply not good enough. You can’t make up for nearly eight years of failure by changing the name of a department.”