Robert Jenrick also vowed to end the Vagrancy Act – the Victorian-era law that criminalises rough sleeping – earlier this year. “It is my opinion that the Vagrancy Act should be repealed. It is an antiquated piece of legislation whose time has been and gone,” he told parliament in February.
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Jenrick’s replacement will be the fourth housing secretary in four years since the housing department merged with communities and local government in 2018. Sajid Javid was the first to take on the role with a three-month role, followed by James Brokenshire who lasted a year before being replaced by Jenrick in 2019.
Gove comes into the role with the challenge of ending a decades-old housing crisis as well as continuing existing work to scrap the Vagrancy Act and ‘no fault evictions’. The latter allows landlords to evict tenants from private rented homes without giving a reason.
The new housing secretary will also be taxed with ending the building safety crisis, with hundreds of leaseholders heading to Westminster on Thursday to protest against the government’s handling of the removal of dangerous cladding and other fire defects.
Survivors and bereaved family members Grenfell United will be among those at the rally and they slammed the decision to appoint a new housing secretary, tweeting: “The revolving door continues with no progress, no change and no justice for our 72. With social housing in turmoil and thousands still living in unsafe homes, we urgently need change.”
A spokesperson for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign told The Big Issue they have extended an invitation to Gove to attend the rally.
“We recognise that the previous secretary of state was eventually able to persuade HM Treasury to provide further funding to help innocent leaseholders; however, it has been clear for some time that Mr Jenrick did not have the required authority or experience to take control of the building safety crisis that has engulfed the nation,” a spokesperson for the campaign said.
“We will not stop calling on the prime minister to get a grip of this crisis and ensure there is legislation to protect us – we offer to work constructively with Mr Gove, so that our lived experience gathered in the four years since the catastrophic events at Grenfell Tower, can be harnessed by Mr Gove and his team. We look forward to an open, two-way dialogue on how this crisis can be finally resolved.”
Jenrick is not the only minister to lose their job in Johnson’s latest reshuffle. Education secretary Gavin Williamson also paid the price for his handling of the Covid crisis in schools while justice secretary Robert Buckland also made away. Dominic Raab also made the move from the foreign office to become justice secretary, deputy prime minister and lord chancellor as changes continue on Wednesday.