[Ben Reeve Lewis welcomes the incoming housing minister and says goodbye to Shapps (or is it Green) …]
Often putting this piece together can be a scrappy affair, with various unrelated bits of news vying for my attention.
Last week was different, I had the whole Montague report to play with.
This week there are only 2 real housing news stories of note, the double criminalisation of squatting and the strange case of the outgoing Shapps with the incoming Prisk.
And god knows what awful spelling errors might get thrown up by my legendarily sticky keyboard when typing his name in the coming months.
Farewell to Shapps
Shapps is now in the cabinet. For a minute there, in the final straight I didn’t think he would make it, what with the last minute scandal and all.
For those of you that missed it, our erstwhile ex-housing minister of the past few years was revealed to have been running a dubious company called “HowToCorp” which sold allegedly plagiarised advertising software that breached Google’s code of practice.
Inside Housing reported how Shapps ran the company using the name Michael Green to separate his business interests from his political career.
24 Dash later revealed that HowToCorp, now run by his wife Belinda (That’s Shapps’s wife, not Michael Green’s wife) regularly refers to a Sebastian Fox, which is also said to be another one Mr Shapps’s political protection alias’s.
Labour MP Steve McCabe, in a letter to Permanent Secretary of the Department of Communities and Local Government, Sir Bob Kerslake, wanted to know about Mr Shapps register of interests:
“The Ministerial Code requires, at 7.3, that new Ministers must provide the Permanent Secretary with a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict, also covering relevant interests of a spouse or partner. Did Mr Shapps do this?”
Time will tell.
Two hats Shapps
I may be being naïve but if what you are doing is completely above board why would you create alias’s to run companies? I see these things all week but only in relation to fraudsters, dodgy landlords and letting agents trying to stay off the books and avoid prosecution.
I can’t think of any valid reason why a person would have 2 other identities in relation to their business interests.
Or maybe its just normal in business, I don’t know, maybe the story will keep developing, Shapps-Gate, or Fox-Gate, or…..wait for it…..Green-Gate, or even…..given his MPs Constituency “Garden-Gate” badda bing badda boom
Hello to Prisk
And so to Mr Prisk, Cornishman born and bred and now MP for Hertford and Stortford. Reported in Inside Housing Stewart Baseley of the House Builders Federation welcomed Mr Prisk saying he had inherited an ‘Unenviable In-Tray”
I did a bit of research on Mr. Prisk, trying to get a feel for how he would approach housing and found an article from 2010 in the Telegraph in which he fesses up to be a fan of Freiderick Von Hayak, economist, supporter of Pinochet and huge influence on Margaret Thatcher.
According to the Telegraph in November 1980 he;
“Had jumped on a train to Oxford University, pamphlet in hand, to hear Hayek speak on “The role of property in cultural evolution”
So I thought “Ah ha, he might have an interest in housing” this could be good and enthusiastically looked into Mr Hayak’s CV to find he thought conservatives were too conservative and that he preferred to be described as a ‘Whig’.
So we have a new housing minister whose big influence on housing is a man who is so obsessed with market forces that he even thought Thatcher was a lightweight. Doesn’t bode well does it?
Still. I always knew I wouldn’t be saying “Wow what a fantastic choice of housing minister” and lets see how he fares, he might surprise us all. I’m all for giving someone a chance, before I start sharpening my pencil.
The other big story of the week is the criminalisation of squatting, which came in last Saturday.
I’m not going to make the most obvious point that it was already a criminal offence, much has been written already about that little inconvenient truth.
What has interested me as I have read and commented my way around the internet’s news sites and chat forums is how few people outside of the legal side of the online community seems to grasp the point that it was already an offence, or that there are many disturbing questions that this new law ushers in.
Of course, Landlord websites have been cheering from the rooftops, whilst church-bells ring in the background and smiling, frock coated gentlemen wish a benign, red-cheeked Merry Christmas to all and sundry, whilst ruffling urchins hair in good cheer at the good news that those dirty, lazy bastards are finally going to get theirs!!!!
David Smith writing on Nearly Legal has the most definitive account and he also brought to our attention the news that a mere 2 days after the new law came in Brighton Police did a raid to arrest squatters as reported in the Sussex Police News.
I’m amazed. I can’t even get them to record a crime when a tenant is punched in the face by their letting agent (happened 2 weeks ago to one of my clients) and when they do turn up when I’m not there they routinely jump in with the landlord and break the law. The words ‘Landlord and tenant’ seem to be devoid of all meaning for the boys in blue but the words ‘Landlord and Squatter’ appear to be all you need for them to start breaking out the Kevlar.
What I liked in the Nearly Legal article is the comments of Chris who pointed up an interesting anomaly:
“I have a client that has occupied a flat for 10 years and is in the process of making a claim for the leasehold with the Land Registry. They are going to be criminals as of this weekend. However, shortly thereafter they could be the legal owners. The landlord is aware of the occupation but has done nothing.
In fun theory land they could be arrested and then have the current landlord arrested under this law if they obtain the title”.
These are the kinds of awkward legal questions that are going to be thrown up by this bizarre piece of legislation that landlords seem to be hoping will go away, in their eagerness to stop what is clearly a veritable tidal wave of squatters that obviously be-dog every waking hour of landlords up and down the country.
So there we have it. Quite an interesting week. Plenty for me to research, which is something I like doing.
n pinning down this week’s newsround I Googled one of Grants Shapps’s aliases, Sebastian Fox and yes the link takes you to HowToCorp but also to Twitter where a Sebastian Fox has a presence but I‘ll leave you to look that one up for yourself.
Ben Reeve Lewis