The government has failed to tackle the cladding crisis at every stage – it’s time to fix their broken promises
The risk of fire and looming bankruptcy will not wait while the government dithers and delays with inaction, writes Sarah Jones MP. | PA Images
Government must do the right thing for the victims and survivors of Grenfell and their families, as well as ensuring leaseholders are not left to foot the bill of fire safety remediation costs.
The Fire Safety Bill returns to the Commons today. It is the last opportunity for the government to do the right thing and support amendments that would protect the public from deadly fires and leaseholders from ruinous fire safety remediation costs.
Ministers promised to implement the recommendations from phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in full and without delay, but nearly four years after Grenfell, and over a year after they were published, they have still not been implemented.
Ministers promised over 17 times that leaseholders would not be left to foot the fire safety bill. Yet in Robert Jenrick’s statement earlier this month, he told thousands of people across the country they could be locked into decades of debt to fix fire safety problems which were not their fault.
The risk of fire and looming bankruptcy will not wait while the government dithers and delays with inaction or failed proposals that keep many leaseholders in debt. We don’t think leaseholders should have to wait years for the draft Building Safety Bill to be amended before they are protected from fire safety costs.
The failure of the government to act on this so far is due to a clear lack of will.
Throughout this process, Labour has been absolutely clear that we are open to working on a cross party basis to find a long overdue solution and there’s clearly support across the house for this.
We are calling for the Bill to put in place legally binding commitments to implement the long overdue Grenfell Inquiry recommendations
On the opposition day debate we recently held; MPs from across the House voted in support, but the government ordered Conservative MPs to abstain on the motion. However, the McPartland and Smith amendment, which aims to protect leaseholders from the costs of original-build fire safety defects, is supported by over 30 Conservative MPs and has the support of the Labour Party.
In the upcoming stage of the Bill, Labour’s amendments provide further protections for leaseholders, to make sure that the cost of fire safety problems from refurbishment jobs, like the cladding on the Grenfell tower, also cannot be passed on to leaseholders. They would also speed up the legislative process, which has already cost leaseholders millions of pounds.
We are also calling for the Bill to put in place legally binding commitments to implement the long overdue Grenfell Inquiry recommendations. Placing robust requirements on building owners or managers to share information with local Fire and Rescue Service about the design, and the materials of the external walls, to undertake regular inspections of individual flat entrance doors and lifts, and share evacuation and fire safety instructions with residents of the building.
Frankly, it’s shameful and a sign of how badly the government have managed this issue that nearly four years later this has not already been done.
It is up to the government to decide which amendments are voted on, accepted, amended, or rejected. It is possible that the government will choose to ignore Labour’s and the McPartland and Smith Amendments entirely. During Labour’s opposition day debate on cladding and leaseholders, the minister said the amendments on protections for leaseholders would only delay the process and that the Fire Safety Bill isn’t the right bill for it. This is an unacceptable excuse to avoid meaningful action.
The government has failed in their response to the cladding and fire safety crisis at every stage. Each of Labour’s amendments corresponds to a broken promise from the government.
The next stage of the Bill this week is another chance for the government to fix these broken promises.
The victims and survivors of Grenfell and their families, the campaigners, leaseholders and tenants trapped in unsafe and unsellable flats, deserve nothing less.
Sarah Jones is the Labour MP for Croydon Central and shadow minister for Policing and Fire.