On Monday 1 February, Sir David Amess spoke in the debate on protecting tenants and leaseholders from unsafe cladding. As Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety Rescue Group, Sir David is in regular communication with experts and specialists who strive to improve the safety of those living in unsafe buildings.
Sir David said:
Like all Members of Parliament, I have had residents raise these issues with me, and in Southend, they are particularly stressful for young couples starting out on home ownership. I say to the new Minister, who I welcome to his place: this is a complex problem that involves decisions by previous Governments of all persuasions, and a solution to it is far from easy. The whole history of freehold and leasehold has been long overdue for resolution, and I believe that the Government will tackle it. However, in the immediate term, I do agree that leaseholders should not be responsible for remedial work to identify unsafe properties with combustible materials on external walls that they bought in good faith. This includes not just unsafe cladding but a number of other deficiencies, such as unsafe insulation and combustible materials on balconies.
Leaseholders, however, should of course be expected to pay for any legitimate maintenance that is reasonable and fair. In most cases, a responsibility for paying for this remediation rests with the owner-developer. When there is a dispute or difficulty to identify the owner, I am asking the Government to make the necessary funding available, pending resolution. It is really unacceptable for people to continue to be expected to sleep safe in their beds at night while surrounded by combustible materials on the external walls of their homes—in many cases, living at some distance from the ground. However, I agree that UK taxpayers—many of whom do not even own a home and perhaps question why they should contribute—cannot ultimately be expected to pick up the costs of the remediation.
I very much support the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s target for completion of the remedial work by June 2022, and meanwhile seek the bringing together of the RICS, the Association of British Insurers, banks, building societies and representatives from the fire safety sector. The Prime Minister was challenged on this issue last Wednesday and he said that
“the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will be bringing forward a plan very shortly.”
I know that he will honour that. The All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety Rescue Group, which I chair, and the all-party parliamentary group on leasehold and commonhold reform, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), have worked closely together. On 25 February at 4 o’clock I will be chairing a joint meeting of the groups, attended by leading Members of Parliament, and parliamentarians will have the opportunity to question the Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, directly on this issue. I will also be supporting amendments tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) and for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) when the Bill is debated.