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Building Safety Programme

Volume 677: debated on Monday 15 June 2020

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this question. I would like to acknowledge the commemorations taking place in her constituency to mark the tragic loss of life from Grenfell Tower three years ago. In the present pandemic, the residents and others there managed to pay tribute and to commemorate with respect and care. I congratulate them on their efforts and my hon. Friend on all her unstinting work.

Building safety is a priority for this Government and for me personally. The Government recently announced the biggest change in a generation on building safety, to be delivered through the upcoming building safety Bill, together with, now, £1.6 billion of support for remediation of unsafe cladding. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that residents are safe now and in the future.

I would like to start by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for lighting Parliament green last night for Grenfell.

I welcome the £1 billion additional funding for the remediation of non-ACM cladding, but, as we all know, it is not just a question of the money—it is about actually getting the work done. Will my right hon. Friend update me on what progress he expects within the next six months?

Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She is absolutely right to highlight the pace of implementation as being important. Registrations for the new building safety fund, which opened on 1 June, have now reached 458. I am pleased to say that the draft building safety Bill will be published soon for scrutiny, and remediation continues across the estate where it is needed, despite the covid-19 crisis. We are determined to do all we can to support residents.

In remembering all those who lost their lives at Grenfell and the families and friends who are left behind, it is shocking that three years after Grenfell there are still 2,000 high-rise residential blocks that have dangerous cladding on them. The £1 billion building safety fund is welcome, but it will only remediate 600 of those blocks; it will do nothing to touch lower-rise residential accommodation, dangerous insulation and other fire safety defects, leaving thousands of people worried about their safety and their financial circumstances. Will the Minister go back to the Chancellor and put it to him that we now need a great deal more cash—the Select Committee says probably up to £15 billion—to ensure that fire safety defects are removed from all residential buildings within the next two years, which means five years after the Grenfell disaster?

As I said in answer to the previous question, pace is crucial in this regard, which is why the Chancellor has made available in this financial year £1 billion to remediate those buildings that suffer from non-ACM cladding. That is on top of the £600 million that we have made available for ACM-clad buildings. The hon. Gentleman is right that it is going to be necessary for a great many buildings to be remediated. We would expect some of that funding to come forward from the building owners so that those who let or are leaseholders in the buildings do not fall liable for the funds. We believe that £1 billion, now, to get on with the job, will go a great deal along the way to make sure that buildings are made safe for their residents.

Three years on from the Grenfell disaster, when 72 people tragically lost their lives, 245 buildings are clad in dangerous ACM and at least 1,700 are clad in equally flammable material. If the remedial work continues at the same snail’s pace, it will take up to 39 years for the work to be completed, yet if someone wants a controversial billion-pound planning application approved, it seems that high-value chicken dinners get things done. Will the Minister advise the House as to what influence can be applied to quickly make all our high-rise buildings safe once and for all?

First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place; this is the first time since he took up his shadow position that we have sparred across the Dispatch Box—

It is the first time that the hon. Gentleman and I have sparred across the Dispatch Box—that is correct, so let us hold on to that.

The hon. Gentleman was rather ungenerous: we have made £1.6 billion available to remediate the buildings that need it. Remediation work has begun or been completed on 95% of all social-sector buildings that had unsafe ACM cladding on them, and remediation work has begun or been completed on 40% of such buildings in the private sector, while the other 60% have their plans in train. We want these buildings to be made safe as quickly as possible. That is why we have put the money on the table, why we will press for action to be taken and why the buildings will be made safe under this Government.