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High-rise Buildings: Cladding

Volume 640: debated on Monday 30 April 2018

7. What estimate he has made of the number of high-rise residential buildings that have had dangerous cladding removed and replaced. (905028)

Our first priority is the safety of residents. The remediation of buildings with aluminium composite material cladding is a complex process, and it is important that we get this right. Of the 158 social housing buildings, 104 have started remediation, and seven of those have finished the remediation work.

With his new authority, would the Secretary of State agree that it would give more certainty and speed up the process if he were to say that only non-combustible class A1 materials should be used for external construction, as is the case in the rest of Europe? I doubt that he would live in a building that was clad in combustible or partially combustible material, so why should my constituents do so?

I understand the reasons for the hon. Gentleman making those points. At the outset, I want to underline my commitment to giving priority to these issues. This has been an utter tragedy, and our priority has to be—as it was with my predecessor—to ensure that survivors and communities receive all the support that they need. He will be aware that the Hackitt review is looking at a range of issues, and I would not want to prejudge that review, but he makes an important point and I am sure that it will be examined.

The Secretary of State has referred to his father, who was respected for his work in the Local Government Commission and the Audit Commission, and as chief executive of the London Borough of Greenwich, where, when I was there, he helped to get cladding for the Nightingale Vale tower block, enabling people to spend £5 a week to be warm rather than £30 a week to be cold. When the Secretary of State is bedded in, will he look at the problem of tenant/leaseholders in private blocks, where freeholders and others who own the freehold such as developers seem to fail to understand that tenants cannot be expected to pay the cost of recladding their buildings?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about my father and his sense of focus and dedication as a public servant. My hon. Friend makes a point about the private sector and about landlords and those who own buildings seeking to pass on those costs. I would say clearly that the costs should not be passed on to leaseholders. They should be borne by the owners in the same way that local authorities and public sector buildings are maintaining that approach. I welcome the decision from one property developer, Barratt, to pay for remediation costs, and I hope that others will follow its lead.

On 17 June last year, the Prime Minister said:

“My Government will do whatever it takes to…keep our people safe.”

Plymouth Community Homes says that its request for funding to replace cladding has been turned down, and it is not alone. We have heard the same thing from local authorities up and down the country. Will the Secretary of State update the House today on how many funding applications to replace cladding have been approved by his Department, to demonstrate that it is doing all it takes?

As the hon. Lady will know, I am relatively new in post, but I will investigate the specific question that she has raised and respond to her. Obviously, our commitment remains to working with local councils on this important issue.