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Peer Demands Timeline For Post-Grenfell Safety Works

(Alamy)

4 min read

A Conservative former Cabinet minister has said he could try to change the government’s flagship leasehold bill in an effort to improve reporting for buildings that need safety work completing in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Lord George Young of Cookham, who served as a Chief Whip under David Cameron in the Commons, and was also a whip in the House of Lords, expressed frustration that seven years after the 2017 Grenfell tower tragedy, in which 72 people were killed, many blocks are still awaiting work to improve safety. The incident prompted an overhaul of building safety across the country, much of which could be retrospectively applied to existing towerblocks over a certain height. 

Lord Young's intervention comes ahead of the second phase of the inquiry into the fire. The inquiry began in 2020, and it is expected that it will finally be reported on at some point this summer, although it has now been confirmed that this won't be before the seventh anniversary of the fire on 14 June as many families had hoped. Publication of the second phase of the inquiry’s report is likely to push the issue of building safety back up the political agenda ahead of the general election. 

He has now challenged the government to have “a firm date by which all the necessary remediation post-Grenfell will have been done” as well as produce “progress reports”. 

While the government does produce a number of statistics on building remediation, Lord Young was critical that much of it was “pretty vague”, outlining either a "pathway towards remediation" stating that plans have been submitted. 

"That doesn't really give you any idea of the progress,” he told PoliticsHome. 

Instead he would like to see a detailed "roadmap" outlining how buildings will be brought up to fire safety standards, including specific dates and milestones. 

When the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill had its report stage in the House of Lords, Lord Young suggested a new clause, that if accepted, would have meant the government would have to produce a report on the progress of remediation, and what steps ministers have taken to accelerate remediation work. The clause would also have meant that the government had to consider whether they should create a body to ensure that all affected buildings are remediated by June 2027.

It was not pushed to a vote, as is usual at report stage. Peers vote on amendments to legislation at the later committee stage of proceedings and Lord Young maintains that he is “interested in pursuing” the principle of the amendment further at report stage, with support from peers across the parties. 

It is expected that the phase 2 report from the Grenfell inquiry could be considerably larger than the phase 1 report, which ran to four volumes and hundreds of pages overall. One Grenfell survivor has said it must receive "the attention it deserves" from the government and Labour.

There is concern that it could be subsumed by a political summer recess and general election campaigns later this year. One parliamentary source predicted that the timing of the report's publication – which could happen in the weeks preceding the general election – would likely force both main parties to come forward with a significant reply, given that Labour is widely expected to be elected into Government. 

Questions have also been raised over the government’s progress on implementing personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPS), one of the recommendations from the first phase of the inquiry, which addressed the events of the night of the blaze. 

Edward Daffarn, a member of Grenfell United told PoliticsHome that there is “little hope of swift government action” given their previous experiences. 

“Sadly, we are nearly 5 years on from the phase 1 report, and the final 4 outstanding recommendations which sit with the Government regarding personal emergency evacuation plans are all still incomplete,” he said.  

“Given phase 2 is expected to be an even larger document, we have little hope of swift government action, as they prove to us time and again that building and resident safety isn't a priority.”

A government spokesperson said: “We remain absolutely committed to delivering justice for the bereaved, survivors and the wider community and driving the change needed to ensure that such a horrific tragedy can never happen again.  

“Of the 15 recommendations directed at Government in Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, we have completed 11 and work continues on the remaining four.”

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