Robert Jenrick gave a free advert to construction company Taylor Wimpey and people want to know why

Wednesday 13 May 2020 18:15
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Today's government briefing was given over to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who was tasked with answering the public's questions about why we're all allowed to buy houses now, but not visit our parents.

It's an issue which has been talked about all day – after all if you can visit a stranger's home for a property viewing, why can't you pop over to your family's for tea? (Answer: there are specific guidelines to follow for such viewings, apparently...)

He was also faced with explaining why the construction sector has been essentially re-opened, with workers being told to return (somehow without using public transport and while observing social distancing) to work as of today.

In order to justify this decision, which has been heavily criticised, he wheeled out some classic Tory talking points about how we need a "vibrant housing market" and how Britain "needs" to "get building again".

He said that part of the reason he wanted to get construction back up and running was for the "ambitious first homes programme", which offers a 30 per cent discount on new homes to key workers.

If this is beginning to sound a bit like a Conservative party broadcast to you, don't worry, you're not alone...

Jenrick continues saying that he's introducing new guidelines to support safe house building:

By allowing more flexible working hours on construction sites, where it's appropriate and with local consent.

This is where it gets odd though because after waffling about how long working hours will help workers observe social distancing, he appears to squeeze in an ad for a particular company...

There are countless examples of the industry behaving responsibly and proactively during this pandemic. I'd like to thank today Taylor Wimpey, who have now got construction safely underway on the majority of their sites and have started removing staff from the furlough scheme and getting back to work on full pay.

They are offering a discount of 5 per cent for NHS staff and care workers on new homes – a great way to recognise the contribution that our frontline heroes are making across the country. So thank you to them.

Yes, that's right. He singled out a single construction company to "thank" for following the rules and offering a discount which is a sixth of the size the one the government itself is offering. Taylor Wimpey recorded £4.3bn in revenue in 2019.

Admittedly we haven't watched every single briefing minute to minute, but we don't recall seeing another private company being lauded in such a way, despite many following social distancing guidelines and keeping employees on full pay before the furlough scheme was introduced, and of course offering discounts to key workers.

People were baffled.

So why Taylor Wimpey you ask?

People think they may know the answer:

Indeed, Taylor Wimpey has longstanding ties to the Conservative party. It famously appointed Tory MP Angela Knight as a non-executive director for a reported salary of £60,000. At last year's Tory party conference, a Taylor Wimpey executive featured as a speaker, and after Boris Johnson was elected prime minister, it gleefully "welcomed political stability".

Taylor Wimpey also massively benefited from the Conservative Help to Buy scheme, which has long been criticised, especially since it emerged that a third of the buyers who used the scheme would actually have been able to afford it on their own. According to Vice, the firm made £589m in profit in 2018, with around 39 percent of sales relying on Help to Buy.

Could any of this explain Jenrick's sudden desire to shout out the company? We couldn't possibly comment...

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