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Fire Safety: Buildings under 18 Metres

Volume 692: debated on Monday 19 April 2021

What support he plans to provide to (a) leaseholders and (b) tenants living in buildings under 18 metres of height with flammable cladding. (914294)

What steps he is taking to support leaseholders living in buildings under 18 metres in height with (a) dangerous cladding and (b) other fire safety defects. (914299)

Buildings below 18 metres in height will not carry the same inherent risk as a building above 18 metres. However, some will need remediation. To give residents in lower-rise buildings peace of mind, we are establishing a generous scheme to ensure that, where required, cladding can be remediated on buildings between 11 metres and 18 metres. Leaseholders will be asked to pay no more than £50 a month, protecting them against these unaffordable costs. We will work at pace to develop the details of the scheme and communicate them to the House as quickly as possible.

No one needs reminding that we are nearly at the four-year anniversary of the Grenfell disaster, yet many of my constituents remain trapped in dangerous homes and, because of this Government’s arbitrary decision to only help those in buildings above 18 metres, they feel hopeless and invisible. Does the Secretary of State agree that no leaseholder should have to pay for fire safety problems that are simply not their fault, and that people should not be required to pay even £50 or less a month, regardless of whether their building is 7 metres, 18 metres or even lower?

The hon. Lady is right; great progress has been made over the last four years to ensure that the remediation of high-rise properties is undertaken, because that is where we have been guided by official advice. I can tell the House that remediation has either been completed or is under way in 95% of aluminium composite material-clad buildings. We are clear that buildings below 18 metres also need help, which is why we have tabled this generous package of support where otherwise there would be no support. It is also clear that developers and building owners are stepping up to the plate and remediating the buildings for which they are responsible, and are providing funds so to do.

Many leaseholders have spent their third lockdown stuck in buildings with serious safety defects and are unsure when the works will be completed. The Minister talks about providing a generous scheme for blocks of 18 metres or less. Can he explain to the House how generous that programme is, how much is being committed and when our constituents can expect the works to be completed—both for blocks under 18 metres and blocks over 18 metres that require remedial works—so that people do not have to continue to live in potential death traps?

With respect to buildings over 18 metres, the hon. Lady will know that we set aside funds of £1 billion using the building safety fund in order to deal with properties with non-ACM dangerous cladding material. Some 106 buildings have already begun that work and we estimate that a further 338 will begin the work by September, which was the date that we set for work using BSF funds to be undertaken. With respect to buildings below 18 metres, we want to ensure that we are prioritising affordability and accelerating remediation where it is required. It is a complex set of challenges, but we are determined to meet them and to get this right, which is why we will bring forward further information as soon as we are able to do so.

Can the Minister explain why three quarters of cladding systems on new medium-rise buildings have used combustible insulation materials despite a proposed Government ban on them? That is 51 out of 66 residential blocks of 11 to 18 metres in height built in 2019 and 2020 that are now liable for the imposition of unwanted Government loans. There is the nightmare of EWS1 forms, inflated insurance premium costs, service charges and much, much more. At what stage are the ministerial team going to get a grip of this chaos?

The hon. Gentleman knows full well the work that the Government have undertaken to ensure that we address this complicated issue, which involves buildings, building owners, warranty providers, insurers and leaseholders themselves. We have brought forward a very generous set of schemes. More than £5.1 billion of public money has already been allocated to remediate taller high-rise buildings. We have proposed a generous scheme to support people living in leasehold properties between 11 and 18 metres. We will announce further details of that scheme shortly so that the people living in them can have peace of mind that they have a way out too.