Housing

Fire Safety Bill: Tory MPs told to stop tenants paying for cladding removal

Tory MPs are under pressure to ensure tenants don’t need to pay for the removal of flammable cladding in a vote on the Fire Safety Bill.

Grenfell Tower in west London burns with the city in the background.

72 people died during the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. Credit: Wikimedia Commons (Natalie Oxford)

Conservative MPs are under pressure to ensure tenants don’t need to pay for the removal of flammable cladding and other unsafe fire safety measures on their homes in light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

A vote on the Fire Safety Bill will take place on Monday afternoon, with a new amendment to prevent the costs of work such as the removal of unsafe cladding from blocks of flats being passed to leaseholders.

The proposed legislation was drawn up following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, which saw 72 people die following a fire in a tower block in west London, and clarifies who is responsible for fire safety in blocks of flats.

The bill initially put the responsibility for removing cladding on tenants, but a plan put forward by peers in the House of Lords would force the Government to pay the initial costs before recouping these from developers, construction firms and cladding manufacturers.

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Labour has now written to 77 Tory MPs, who between them represent more than 100,000 residents living in buildings with dangerous cladding, to back the plans.

Shadow fire service minister, Sarah Jones, said: “Safety should be the Government’s top priority, but almost four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in dangerous homes that they can’t sell.

“Residents are calling out for the Government to do the right thing, protect leaseholders in law, and let the innocent residents move on with their lives.”

The Government banned flammable cladding on buildings over 18 metres tall but, almost four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, an estimated 400,000 people are still living in tall buildings fitted with flammable cladding with many more in buildings below the 18-metre threshold.

When the Fire Safety Bill was previously in the House of Commons, 38 Conservative MPs signed an amendment to protect leaseholders from costs, but in the end, none voted to do so.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced funding for the remediation of dangerous cladding last month which did not cover buildings below 18m. Neither cladding nor fire safety were mentioned once in the Government’s Spring Budget.

Opposition parties have now called for a new National Cladding Taskforce to get a grip of the crisis. The group would be given strong powers to establish the full extent of dangerous materials on buildings, prioritise them according to risk and ensure there is enforcement against those who refuse to undertake works.

Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Conservative ministers promised that residents would not be burdened with these costs, at least 17 times by my count. Yet the latest announcement heaps years of debt onto the victims of this scandal.

“Across the country, Conservatives’ constituents living in these flats will be rightly angry as their MPs are not speaking up for them. I’m calling on all MPs, whatever their political party, to speak up for their constituents and vote to protect leaseholders from these outrageous costs.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Our approach to fire safety is based on longstanding independent expert advice and evidence – which shows higher buildings have a higher risk and this is recognised globally.

“We’ve rightly focussed on buildings over 18m with unsafe cladding and we’re spending billions of pounds to make people’s homes safer.

“We support the intention to protect leaseholders from remediation costs but disagree that the Fire Safety Bill is the right vehicle to address this issue.”

The Conservative Party was approached for comment.

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