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Revealed: A quarter of Truss’s new cabinet are landlords

Private school alumni and property interests dominate the new prime minister’s top team

Ruby Lott-Lavigna Martin Williams
6 September 2022, 10.05pm
Liz Truss arrives in Downing Street as the UK's new Prime Minister.
Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News

Liz Truss's new housing secretary has received money from a property lobbyist and her cabinet includes at least six landlords who each receive thousands of pounds in rent a year, analysis by openDemocracy has found.

Simon Clarke, who was appointed to lead the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on Tuesday evening, took £2,500 last year from Marc Pennick, the director of property lobbying firm Fifth Capital.

Pennick also has links to Peter Bingle, the former head of PR group Bell Pottinger and founder of developer lobbyist Terrapin Communications.

Clarke – the MP for Middlesbrough South – also voted against upping fines for landlords who illegally charge tenants, and against restricting landlords’ powers in 2018 as part of the Tenant Fees Bill.

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The six landlords – who make up 27% of the cabinet – include Jacob Rees-Mogg, the incoming business secretary, who earns rental income from a property in London as well as a farmhouse, land, and other buildings in Somerset. Suella Braverman, the new home secretary, has been receiving at least £10,000 a year in rent from a property in London since July 2019.

Meanwhile Nadhim Zahawi, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Jake Berry and Alister Jack are all commercial or residential landlords earning income from rent. Landlords who sit in the Commons are only required to declare their rent if it reaches £10,000 a year, but do not have to disclose the total figure, meaning it could be far higher.

The people who are creating the laws will create the laws to suit themselves, not the people whose services they're actually providing

Ben Reeve-Lewis, co-founder of Safer Renting

As Truss names her new team, housing campaigners fear legislation on renters’ rights could be kicked into the long grass.

Ben Reeve-Lewis, co-founder of tenants' rights group Safer Renting, told openDemocracy the appointments were “concerning”.

“At a time when the Renter's Reform Bill is being constructed as the biggest shake-up to renters' rights in 33 years, is it appropriate to have government officials with a vested interest in the rights of landlords being influential in the creation of new legislation to improve the rights of tenants?” he said. “It just seems absolutely nuts to me.”

In 2020, openDemocracy revealed that the Conservative party had received over £11m in donations from property developers and construction businesses, from more than 120 individuals and companies.

“What I'm concerned about is that you've got people who have corporate interests, determining legislation that affects renters,” said Reeve-Lewis. “The people who are creating the laws will create the laws to suit themselves, not the people whose services they're actually providing.”

The reshuffle comes as the country faces a crippling cost of living crisis, where rents are rising by record levels, and Truss faces pressure to fix rocketing energy bills.

The new cabinet collectively received at least £132,629 in additional income last year, on top of each MP's individual salary of £81,932 and the extra ministerial salaries of those who previously held cabinet positions. The cash came from second jobs, newspaper articles and book royalties, as well as the landlords’ rental income, which again means the true figure could be far higher.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Truss’s cabinet were privately educated, with 15 of the 22 ministers attending schools including the £46,000-a-year Eton College.

Editor's note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Ben Wallace was among the ministers who had declared that they were landlords. This was an error. We apologise for any confusion.

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