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Building Safety

Volume 727: debated on Monday 30 January 2023

Members can see how many are standing to be called. As I said, we are likely to sit beyond midnight tonight, so I ask Members please to focus.

With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like to make a statement that allows me to update the House on the Government’s progress in making buildings safe. It is a basic requirement of any civilised society that people should feel safe in their own homes, but for too many people for far too long, that has not been the case. As I have said before, so I say again: this has been a collective failure. Those in government who made the rules did not make them clear enough. Those who built our homes did not build them well enough. Those who made the materials that contributed to the construction of those homes often made them unsafe; at times, knowingly so. Those who were to check the work undertaken did not always check thoroughly enough. Of course, those who own the buildings have sometimes managed them so poorly that people have been left unsafe, and too many of those owners have still shirked their obligations to make people safe.

The only party to the crisis who do not share in the responsibility are the blameless leaseholders and the tenants who live in those buildings. That is why it is right that this Parliament protected those leaseholders through the Building Safety Act 2022 and apportioned financial responsibility more fairly. We continue to work to ensure that those who bear the blame for the crisis also shoulder the burden of putting the situation right.

We have made significant progress. Those who put unsafe material on people’s homes must now pay, instead of the innocent residents living in them. Leaseholders need no longer fear financial ruin simply to make their homes safe, and the major mortgage lenders, thanks to their confidence in our new approach, will now lend on properties that are covered by the leaseholder protections in the Building Safety Act. Of course, they will also lend where the building is eligible for a Government or developer remediation scheme. Leaseholders are no longer hostages to their mortgage arrangements.

We have also reopened and turbocharged the building safety fund for new applications and are piloting our medium-rise fund, paid for from a levy on developers, to ensure that dangerous cladding will be removed. Leaseholders can rest assured that their buildings will be made safe. Where remediation is required and building owners are sitting on their hands—even when money is being provided by the Government—we will use powers under the Act to force the owners to fix their unsafe buildings. Members should be in no doubt that there will be significant consequences for those who fail to comply with their legal obligations.

Leaseholders should know that the law is on their side. Today, we make further progress on delivery. In April last year, I announced that the largest house builders had signed a pledge committing to fix all life-critical fire safety issues, internal and external, in buildings over 11 metres that they had a role in developing or refurbishing in England. Developers also committed to reimbursing the taxpayer where that work has already been done and subsidised by the taxpayer. In the summer, my Department published the draft contract that will bind developers to honour that pledge. Since then, my officials have been working through that contract line by line to ensure that it codifies the pledge in a way that is fair and transparent, committing developers to fixing buildings for which they are responsible as swiftly as possible and therefore keeping residents and leaseholders informed about that work. I am grateful to all the developers who work with us and to the Home Builders Federation and its chairman, Stewart Baseley, who have worked so hard in order to ensure that this contract can deliver. Today, we are publishing the final contract that I expect housing developers to sign. A copy of the contract has been deposited in the Library of each House and it is available on

Let me be clear: if you are one of the developers we invited to submit comments on the contract, I now expect you to sign it within the next six weeks—by 13 March. That includes every company who signed the original pledge as well as several companies who have regrettably not done so. Now is the time for all of them to make a binding commitment that will not only see them doing right by those whose homes they have blighted, but help them to maintain their credibility with those who may seek to contract with them or who may consider buying their homes in future. Those who fail to step up and make this commitment will suffer the consequences that this Parliament has so clearly spelled out.

Using powers provided by the Building Safety Act, I will lay regulations this spring to create a new responsible actors scheme. Those regulations will set out which developers, by signing the contract, will be eligible to be members. We expect those who built unsafe buildings to sign the contract. To join the scheme, they will have to sign and comply with the terms of the contract published today. Of course, we will invite developers to join the scheme in order to ensure that we do right by leaseholders.

Anyone who fails to sign the contract will be prohibited from carrying out future development and from receiving building control sign-offs for buildings under construction. A developer who fails to sign this contract will have to find another line of work. I say to all developers who have built unsafe buildings over 11 metres, “I am putting you on notice. You will be asked to step up.”

I will consult in due course on how we expand the responsible actors scheme to make sure that we capture all those who built unsafe buildings and should now fix them. Altogether, I expect developer remediation to be worth more than £2 billion of investment in safety and to protect people in hundreds of buildings. I am grateful to those in the development community who have got on with assessing and remediating their buildings without waiting for the final form of contract; I welcome their constructive engagement.

All developers should recognise that in signing the contract, they are taking a big step towards restoring confidence in the construction sector and providing much-needed certainty to all concerned. Those who sign will confirm that they are responsible companies. I know from the positive discussions that I have had that many are now keen to sign; I particularly thank all those developers who have today confirmed that they will sign. Accepting their new responsibilities will allow developers to plan ahead in the knowledge that they now understand the full extent of their legal obligations.

When these buildings are safe and a full reckoning has been made, we can then look to the future with a new clarity and confidence in our construction sector, but until that point, my determination will be to ensure that buildings are fixed, to do what we must all do to achieve that, and not to waver. My Department has a recovery strategy unit, which is relentlessly targeting those who have consistently failed to do the right thing. As well as targeting developers, it has also begun legal action against recalcitrant freeholders. It has active investigations under way into the conduct of various companies, including contractors and construction product manufacturers that bear responsibility for this crisis.

Let me again be clear to freeholders, from this Dispatch Box: if you are holding back work to make buildings safe, even where the Government have made sufficient money directly available to you through the building safety fund, you must fix your buildings or we will take action, including through the courts. To those freeholders who are trying to bully leaseholders into paying service charges that the Building Safety Act has already proscribed, let me spell out the law. Invoices issued before the Act came into force must be scrapped. New bills must comply with the law, including our new leaseholder protections.

While buildings await remediation, I know that many leaseholders continue to suffer spiralling insurance bills. Last year, I asked the Financial Conduct Authority to investigate the market. The serious issues that it uncovered concerned me greatly. It is simply unacceptable for managing agents, landlords and freeholders to profit from commissions secured out of the pockets of innocent leaseholders as bills spiral, so I can confirm today that I will take action to ban property managing agents, landlords and freeholders from receiving commissions and other such payments from insurers and brokers, replacing them with more transparent fees.

I will not permit people to hide charges in obscure invoices; I will require service charges to be issued to leaseholders transparently with clearly labelled statements. I will not allow building owners and landlords to charge their leaseholders to pay for their own legal bills, even to pay for settlements when leaseholders win their cases. Together, these steps will ensure that leaseholder insurance costs are fairer and more transparent, and they will empower leaseholders to challenge dodgy bills. I am also pleased to see that the FCA has committed to investigate broker practices and to consult on further regulatory changes to protect and empower leaseholders.

Leaseholders also now need insurance premiums to be reduced significantly—and urgently—so I expect the FCA to report on what further actions it will take to ensure that there is a fairer and more competitive market by the summer, and to continue its monitoring of this sector. I welcome work from within the insurance industry on launching a UK-wide scheme to reduce the most severe premiums for leaseholders and buildings with fire safety issues, but I must stress the urgency of this work: leaseholders need support now.

As we right the wrongs of the past, we must ensure that we can say with confidence that the future will be better. We want a culture of high standards that will transform not only the attitudes of people working in the construction sector but, ultimately, our whole built environment. Working together, we can put standards and safety first, and that means listening to the tenants and leaseholders who have suffered so much. Their experience is what matters, and their views must be at the heart of our approach. When everyone’s interest is aligned with the interests of tenants and leaseholders, everyone will benefit in the long run.

Government must play their part through clear regulation, but also through leadership that holds current wrongdoers to account. The new building safety regulator that we have established will oversee a culture of higher standards, and over the coming year my ministerial team and I will present an ambitious programme of secondary legislation to set the regulator on firmer foundations. Building owners and managers should already be preparing for the first requirement, due to come into force soon—the requirement to register higher-risk buildings with the regulator.

In the last year, we have made significant progress. When we were told that there was an impasse, we managed collectively in the House to break through. When we were told that leaseholders must pay, we ensured that they were protected; we were told that developers would never pay, but billions of pounds are now being pledged by developers to help those in their buildings. That demonstrates what can be achieved when people accept responsibility in a spirit of good will and collective endeavour. While there is much more to do, today is a major step forward, and I commend this statement to the House.

I welcome the statement and some of the measures announced in it, but the fact is that, five and a half years after the appalling Grenfell fire, millions of people are still trapped in buildings with dangerous cladding, in flats that are unsellable, and facing eye-watering bills. I believe that the Secretary of State is absolutely sincere in his desire to solve this problem, but he announced a year ago that he was putting developers on notice, saying that

“we are coming for you.”—[Official Report, 10 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 284.]

Well, that is a long notice period, and for all the zeal, the reality is that the developers did not stump up the cash that he demanded, and only 7% of flats at risk of fire have been fixed. He says that leaseholders are no longer hostages of their mortgages, but if he spent five minutes reading the contents of my inbox, he would gain a very different perspective on what is the reality on the ground.

This has been another year of lives on hold, huge anxiety and countless amounts of human misery, and people are losing hope. The Secretary of State is now giving those same developers another six-week deadline to sign a contract or face penalties, but the date that matters to leaseholders is not the date by which a new contract is signed; it is the date by which the cladding will be removed or replaced. Am I right in understanding that there is no deadline for that? Am I also right to understand that the Secretary of State is not today announcing any new action against product manufacturers and building owners? If we all acknowledge their role in this, and the fact that in many instances they continue to profit from homes that are unsafe, this is not just an unhelpful omission but an immoral one. The Secretary of State said today that his Department was pursuing them through the courts, and I welcome that, but can he tell us how many of those cases have been successful? Can he also tell us—given that other Members will have inboxes like mine, full of stories of people who are still struggling and still suffering—how we can refer cases to this unit within his Department, so that the onus of taking action does not rest on the victims of this appalling scandal, but we and the Government use our collective might to do the same?

While I am asking the Secretary of State about omissions from the scheme, can he tell us why foreign developers are off the hook? Within the last few hours it has been reported that two major house builders have indicated that they will sign the contract, but it is also reported that they are only doing so after he watered it down to limit their liability, restrict the work that is covered, and prevent the Government from revisiting the contract at a later date. A quick read of the contract on appears to confirm that he has retreated from his previous position and returned to the provisions agreed with his predecessors last summer, which, he said on retaking office, simply were not good enough.

Inside Housing quotes a senior house building industry source as saying:

“Our view is the contract is now just committing us to things we’re already doing.”

Persimmon has since confirmed that it believes that the contract simply reflects its existing commitments. Did the Secretary of State receive legal advice on the implications of the changes? In the spirit of greater transparency, will he commit to publish that today? We welcome action to help leaseholders challenge dodgy bills, but has he stopped to consider for a moment why on earth they should have to do so? Why on earth do we continue to tolerate those sorts of industry practices? Most of all, why on earth do we continue to tolerate leasehold—an arcane, feudal form of tenure that has no place in a modern country? If the sorry saga that millions of people have been forced to live with over the last five and a half years has done anything, it has lifted the lid on the reality facing millions of leaseholders in this country. No ifs or buts—leasehold ought to be abolished.

I was encouraged to hear the Secretary of State agree with that sentiment yesterday, just as I was when the Government first committed to it in 2017. If he legislates to ban leaseholds on new builds and to phase out existing leasehold in favour of commonhold tenure, he will have the Opposition’s full support. Will he commit to not just introducing that legislation in the final Session of this Parliament, but to passing it? The right to a decent, safe and secure home is non-negotiable. Too many people have been denied that for too long. No more excuses: it is time to get on with the job.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her constructive approach today. She has consistently taken such an approach to resolving the building safety crisis. She recognises that responsibility for the crisis must, as I have mentioned, be shouldered collectively by Government and actors—from developers through to freeholders, insurance companies and construction product manufacturers.

The contract that we are publishing is the result of detailed negotiations with developers. Developers made a number of points that seemed fair and to reflect their responsibilities. We also robustly rejected a number of points that they made during the contract negotiation, so as to ensure that we receive payment from them as quickly as possibly for the work required. There is now a clear six-week deadline to sign the contract. The fact that two major developers have already agreed to sign is welcome, as is the fact that some have already undertaken this work, as I mentioned in my statement. It was not necessary for every developer to sign the contract for that work to begin. I welcome that it has begun and that work has been completed or is being undertaken on the overwhelming majority of buildings over the height of 18 metres with aluminium composite material cladding.

The hon. Lady asked about the work to deal with freeholders and, in particular, construction product manufacturers. Again, work will be undertaken by the recovery strategy unit, which has already secured change from freeholders and is pursing construction product manufacturers. Colonel Graham Cundy is the leader of the RSU. He has a distinguished service career and a commitment to ensuring that there is no hiding place for those responsible for the building crisis. He and his team are united in how they operate. If any Member of this House would like Colonel Cundy and the recovery strategy unit to work with them and their constituents, they need only contact me and I will ensure that we have action this day.

Foreign developers and those who operate opaque structures that enable individuals to profit and to evade their responsibility, which the hon. Lady referred to, are precisely and squarely within the remit of the RSU. I would be delighted for Graham and his team to brief Opposition Front Benchers and others on our approach. Some of the work undertaken requires a degree of commercial confidentiality, but I would be delighted to share that work.

Finally, the hon. Lady asked if we will maintain our commitment to abolish the feudal system of leasehold. We absolutely will. We will bring forward legislation shortly. But I gently say that the urgency with which she makes the case for change was not an urgency exhibited by the last Labour Government. In 1995—[Hon. Members: “You can’t blame us for this!”] I think we can, actually. In 1995, this brilliant document entitled “An end to feudalism” was published by the Labour party, then during all their years in power, the Labour Government did nothing to end feudalism. We need a Conservative Government to do that, and that is what we will do.

I am a leaseholder without any problems. In 2002, 20 years ago, Parliament and the Labour Government passed leasehold and commonhold reform, but the commonhold bit did not work.

I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said and I hope that the House will manage to pass the Law Commission’s proposals on the reform of leasehold and commonhold and that we will be able to make progress. Incidentally, that would make the value of leasehold properties higher and the revenue would in part go to the Treasury, so his colleagues in government should be helping him to get this legislation brought to Parliament, not hindering it.

I also welcome what my right hon. Friend has announced on commissions. Can he find a way of ensuring that leaseholders who pay for buildings insurance become a party to the insurance policy, so that when things go wrong they can appeal to the insurance ombudsman and not be cut out because they are only paying and do not own the bricks?

Those responsible for the defects all had insurers, including the developers, architects, surveyors, component manufacturers, building control and, as my right hon. Friend has said, the Government in setting standards. I suggest that he re-engage with the insurance industry, because if people can take over the claims from those who have had losses—including the leaseholders and, for that matter, some of the landlords—and have a class action, the insurers will have to contribute significantly more than they are at the moment. There is much more progress to be made, so will he and his colleagues ensure that they carry on listening to the leaseholders and their representatives, and hopefully, in time, to the representatives of commonholders too?

Order. Please can I ask everyone to focus on asking single questions? Otherwise, it will be well after 1 o’clock before we get on to the Adjournment debate tonight.

Leaseholders have no better champion in this House than the Father of the House, and we absolutely will proceed along the lines that the Law Commission has outlined. I know that colleagues in His Majesty’s Treasury will appreciate the benefits that will accrue to the whole national economy through reform. The points that my hon. Friend makes about the insurance sector are well made, totally understood and will be acted on.

I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement. He has rightly said the quiet part out loud—namely, that faulty and ambiguous Government guidance is to blame, alongside those who exploited a broken system. But his statement was light on the support that will be given to those who are carrying out remediation works. He knows that I have a constituency interest in this regard, with Bell Building Projects carrying out work. What help will be given to companies carrying out remediation works in relation to insurance? He rightly says that insurance companies are throttling the market, so can he say a bit more about what he is doing to assist those who are carrying out the remediation work? Will he give us an assurance that they will be paid on time by Homes England, for example, and that their issues will be timeously dealt with? Will he meet me to discuss some of the issues that this company has been faced in the recent past?

I am grateful to the hon. Member. The statement refers specifically to action in England, but we have been working with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to see what can be done to make buildings safe in those jurisdictions. On his point about remediation work, a number of companies in the private sector across the United Kingdom are contributing to this work and I have already raised with the chairman and chief executive of Homes England the importance of ensuring that they are paid for their work in a timely fashion. I will investigate further to make sure that progress is being made, particularly in the areas of insurance that the hon. Member mentions.

What actions will the Government take to make it more likely that people will set up new construction companies and grow smaller companies, since we clearly need more capacity and more competition to get high-quality work done?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and many of the provisions in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill are designed explicitly to aid the entry of new small and medium-sized enterprises into the construction sector. Many of those provisions follow on from the excellent work of my hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon), who as a champion of self and custom builders has done more than anyone else in this House to help to ensure diversification in housing supply.

I welcome the progress made so far. In a couple of weeks’ time, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee will be looking further at the omissions that probably still exist in the system, including how the Secretary of State will actually get the money out of the product providers, on which he has not given details.

Today’s big omission is social housing. Help for leaseholders is very welcome, but social housing providers, housing associations and councils are challenged with disrepair problems and the need to make their homes more energy-efficient, on top of which they now have the building safety work. Apart from on ACM cladding, there is no help at all for social housing providers. Why can the Secretary of State not remedy this unfairness?

The Chairman of the Select Committee makes an important point. I am grateful for his support for the progress we have made. I am well aware of the pressures on the social housing sector and of the need to work collectively to ensure it can discharge its obligations. I hope to say more about how we can do so in the weeks ahead.

I declare an interest as a leaseholder.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress he has made. If he does reform the freehold and leasehold systems, what provision will he make so that people with short leases are able to take over their freehold without having to pay huge charges for extending their lease, which is the current situation?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point, and we need to make sure there is a fair valuation so that, as the Father of the House rightly said, those on short-term leases do not have to pay over the odds to acquire freehold or commonhold status if the value of the property increases.

Flammable cladding and fire safety issues are not the only building safety concerns that affect the residents of blocks, particularly those built since the post-2010 bonfire of red tape. What is the Secretary of State doing to protect leaseholders and residents in blocks that have non-fire-related safety issues?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. One of the things I announced last week was new support, initially for Greater Manchester and the west midlands, to make safe a variety of safety issues in social housing in particular. We all have the horrific death of Awaab Ishak in our mind and on our conscience. More work is required on building safety, and I gently say that I do not believe there is a material difference in our post-2010 approach to this important issue, but I do believe this Government should have acted earlier to learn the lessons of the past.

This issue has been a Kafkaesque nightmare for so many of our constituents. It has exposed the sharp practices of freeholders and management companies. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge the work done by many of us Conservative Back Benchers in voting against the Government on many occasions and, particularly, the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland), who unfortunately is not here today, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith), who has just walked into the Chamber?

Although I never endorse voting against this Government under any circumstances, I nevertheless reflect on the heroism and principle of my right hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith), who have been genuine friends of those in need.

Everybody agrees that leaseholders should not carry the can for these dangerous buildings, but the problem is in the delivery. I have been contacted by many constituents, including those on Planetree Path in Walthamstow, who cannot turn to their developer because it has gone bust, and whose freeholders claim to be too small to be liable. In the absence of anybody to hold to account, these residents have already had to scrape together £10,000 to pay for the surveys and reviews required before a single change can be contemplated to make safe the buildings in which they live. Can the Secretary of State confirm that those residents will be able to reclaim those costs from the building safety fund? How will that happen so the Government can make good on their pledge that leaseholders will not pay the costs?

I very much doubt the freeholders’ appeals to poverty in this case. If the hon. Lady lets me know precisely who the freeholders are, the RSU can make sure we find the truth.

It is vitally important that we make these buildings safe, and that leaseholders should be paid, but it is also vitally important that, when this remediation work is carried out, the mental health of those still living in the buildings is taken into account. Twenty months ago, after the management of St Francis Tower gained access to the building safety fund, a giant shrink wrap was put on the building. A number of my constituents have been literally living in darkness. I would not allow animals to live in those conditions, and it should not be legal. Has any thought been given to a code of practice with teeth that sets benchmarks for what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when it comes to this sort of work? The block management of St Francis Tower have badly let down the residents, and I believe they have acted in an immoral way.

My hon. Friend has been a very effective advocate for those residents and for people in the Cardinal Lofts building. He is absolutely right; sometimes it is necessary to decant people from buildings that are unsafe, and there should be an obligation on those who are doing that to ensure that people are in appropriate accommodation. More will follow in order to ensure that we give teeth to that provision.

The Secretary of State is aware that thousands of residents in my constituency are affected and are in buildings with issues such as these. There is a great deal of frustration, and I met some of them again last week to hear their concerns. He spoke about tough action against those who have not signed up to the contract or the pledge. He will be aware that there is a similar developers’ pledge in Wales, to which 11 companies have signed up. However, a number have not done so, including Laing O’Rourke. Has it signed up to the pledge in England? If it has not, what is his message to that company? Will he also take action against companies that fail to sign up to the pledges in other parts of the United Kingdom?

I will work with all the devolved Administrations to ensure that we work together on this. I do not know whether Laing O’Rourke has yet signed, but if it does not, it will face consequences. I look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman and of course the Welsh Government.

The Secretary of State said that those who built these buildings did not always build them safely, “at times knowingly”. What sanctions will be faced by those who knowingly took shortcuts on safety, endangering and blighting residents’ lives, and who will bring them? As for the companies that he says must either sign or get out and find another business, what happens when they simply go out of business and pop up under another name?

The hon. Gentleman makes some very good points. We have found that one particular company— I will not name it at the Dispatch Box at this time but I am more than happy to name it in private conversation—has tried to do just that and shift responsibility, and it was directly involved in construction at Grenfell. As a result, we have said that it cannot have access to Government funds through Help to Buy or any other schemes. The whole question of what further action may be taken against companies that knowingly put people’s lives at risk will be a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, following on from the conclusion of the Grenfell inquiry. I know that people have had to wait a long time for justice. I do sympathise with them, but, obviously, I cannot interfere with the independent operation of the justice system.

The Secretary of State will know from my correspondence with him about buildings in Drayton Park and in other parts of my constituency the deep stress and concern that many leaseholders and tenants have had. They have had to pay increased insurance costs and they have had their lives put on hold, as many other colleagues’ constituents have. I think they deserve compensation for the increased payments they have had to make. They also need to know exactly when this work will begin. They have been waiting years for it. I want to be able to go back to them and say that it is going to start—I would like to give them a date.

That is entirely understandable, and once construction companies have signed this contract—and indeed this applies to social landlords too, once they commit to remediation—they should be in touch with the tenants and leaseholders to let them know when that work will be carried out. Again, I want to make sure that everyone is operating as they should. I would be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman if he could let me know, building by building, scheme by scheme, where people are still in doubt about this, and we will do everything possible to give them the information they deserve.

Far too many leaseholders are still living in properties that have not been remediated, including in my constituency at Cartier House, the Gateway, and the Drive, Saxton Gardens, which was turned down for building safety funding even though the cladding has recently failed a fire test. As a result, five and a half years after Grenfell, a waking watch has been put in place. This is not good enough, is it? When are they going to get sorted out?

No, it is not. There are a number of other constituencies and local authorities where either a waking watch has been installed or people have had to be decanted from the building, as was the case in Ipswich and in South Yorkshire. We are seeking to move as quickly as possible in order to ensure that that work advances. As I mentioned, the overwhelming majority of the buildings over 18 metres that have ACM now have work in place or being carried out. However, I will follow up on the individual cases that the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to mention.

The statement today is a welcome, if belated, step in the right direction. We all agree across the House, I think, that leasehold is no longer a fit-for-purpose form of property ownership. Can the Secretary of State give us some timelines of when he might be bringing property ownership into the 21st century?

The Secretary of State said nothing about leaseholders in smaller buildings, nothing about leaseholders who have bought their freeholds, and, above all, nothing about social housing. This is a time when social landlords are selling their vacant stock and not developing new programmes. When will he make some announcement on this? At the moment, the only solution is for the Government to step into the shoes of social landlords. Why should social tenants have to pay for these mistakes?

I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman’s passion and commitment on this issue. I trespassed on the House’s patience by speaking for more than 10 minutes, so there were a number of issues that I did not cover. I hope to be able to do so in greater detail at departmental questions and through correspondence. The nub of the matter is that this Government have acted, and are acting, to ensure that social housing tenants get a better deal. The announcement I made last week, while it is only £30 million, is earnest in its intent to ensure that tenants in social homes get money from central Government in order to ensure that they are safe.

My constituents welcome the Secretary of State’s grasp of their problems, but his changes have required some arrangements that were previously in place to be reworked. In the case of Barrier Point in my constituency, the insurers have responded to the delay by increasing the insurance charges for the coming financial year sixfold, as set out in my letter to him dated 13 January. Will the changes that he has announced offer any assistance and relief to them?

They should do. Again, the right hon. Gentleman homes in on something that is very important, as have a number of other colleagues. Developers are stepping up to the plate and accepting their responsibilities, with one or two exceptions, and those developers have to alter their behaviour. It is also the case that lenders, for the most part, have changed their behaviour in order to help people who are trapped by their mortgages—but we have to monitor that behaviour. There are others—and the insurers as well as construction product manufacturers are squarely in our gun sights—who do need to do more. I believe that what we have announced today will help, but there does need to be additional Financial Conduct Authority and Government co-ordinated action. If the right hon. Gentleman has not yet received a response to his letter, I hope to lay out in my response exactly what we will do.

My constituents will welcome this statement, but they will not break out in celebrations just yet. We want to see some action. Two big developments in my constituency, which had unsafe cladding identified three years ago, applied to the building safety fund. Since then they have been given vague promises by the developer but no action from the building safety fund. Can the Secretary of State confirm that those developments will now be taken out of the building safety fund and given to their developers, who will be told to do the remediation by a certain date, so that this lack of clarity over who is responsible for getting on with it is ended, and people can at last sleep well at night?

I welcome the overdue progress on developer responsibility; that gives some hope to my constituents. I want to draw the Secretary of State’s attention to an area that is often forgotten: safety for disabled residents. We know that the death rate for disabled residents in high-rise buildings is quite high. This delay has had a catastrophic effect. In December, a constituent emailed me to say that his young relative, who was in a wheelchair, had died when a fire broke out in her flat because she had no way to escape. Avoidable tragedies such as that will keep happening until we make the change. How can this be acceptable?

The hon. Lady is completely correct. There are some inherited structural problems with high-rise buildings in this country, which make life more difficult for residents living with disabilities. For example, we tend to have one staircase only, whereas other countries tend to have two. Critically, one recommendation from the inquiry—the need for personal emergency evacuation plans—is one that the Government have not yet met. I have been working with my colleagues in the Home Office to make sure that we do, but I understand her exasperation. We need to move more quickly to give disabled people the certainty that they will be safe.

May I point out to the Secretary of State, who chastised the previous Labour Government for not abolishing leasehold, that most of the industrial-scale scandals we are now familiar with developed over the past decade? I think we are all agreed, are we not, that leasehold’s time is up, so can he give us a date by which all our constituents will be free of that feudal practice?

That will depend on how quickly this House can agree the passage of the Bill. Given the generous words from the Opposition Front Bench, if we introduce it in the Queen’s Speech, then I hope it will be law as quickly as possible. One thing we all recognise is that when a system of property ownership has grown up over centuries, unpicking it all requires delicate work, but that work has been done by the Law Commission and others. I hope that our friends in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, who are the unsung heroes and heroines of legislation, will hear the determined chorus of unity across the House asking for the legislation to be developed as quickly as possible.

I thank the Secretary of State for his ongoing commitment on these issues. He may be aware that in my constituency there is the ARC—the Abercorn residential complex—a building complex with 474 individual leaseholders. They know that their building has non-ACM cladding that needs to be remediated and that the Northern Ireland Executive received money through Barnett funds in March 2020, but the Northern Ireland Department for Communities has yet to develop a scheme that can advance those essential remediation works. There has been a request to Whitehall, so will he engage with my colleagues and me to ensure that the Northern Ireland Executive are given the support they need to deliver the remediation?

Absolutely. I will ask Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary of my Department, to be in touch with the Northern Ireland Executive this week to do just that.

On what date can we expect a positive response on personal emergency evacuation plans and the next and final stage of leasehold reform, to put it in the history books?

On PEEPs, I am reliant on the good offices of my friends in the Home Office. They are working hard and I hope to update the House shortly. On leasehold, the plan is for a Bill to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech and then rapid progress through this House; I do not know whether in the other place there might be one or two people who are pro-feudalism, but I hope they will recognise that this House will be speaking with a united voice.

Dane House in Sydenham is a four-storey block of 26 flats with cladding on the third floor. Due to fire safety concerns, the building insurance is more than £23,000. Given today’s statement, will the original developers, Crest Nicholson, now be obliged to remove the cladding? The Secretary of State has talked about tackling insurance, but will he give a commitment that my constituents will no longer face such astronomical bills?

We will do everything we can, and I hope Crest Nicholson will hear clearly exactly the eloquent plea the hon. Lady makes.

In my borough we have the largest number of cladded blocks and we have had numerous fires, which have terrified residents. Last March, more than 100 firefighters were at the scene of one fire on Whitechapel High Street, in Houblon Apartments in the Relay Building. The building is owned by a mixture of private companies and social housing providers, and residents could not make head or tail of where the owners of the private companies were. There is a major issue with freeholders who are registered offshore so that our constituents cannot track them down. After years of asking for this, I ask again: can the Secretary of State commit to providing the legal support, or to the Government’s going directly after those who are not doing the work they are supposed to, rather than our constituents’ having to fight legal battles on top of living in dangerous cladded properties?

That is exactly what our establishment of the recovery strategy unit is designed to do. I hope the hon. Lady will be in touch directly with Colonel Cundy.

I thank the Secretary of State’s ministerial and staff team for the support they have given to residents in Wicker Riverside. However, he will be aware of another case in my constituency, that of Mandale House, where the managing agency, Y&Y Management, which has directors in common with the landlords, is not only denying leaseholders their rights, but challenging the legal status of the legislation we have passed to protect them, presumably believing that the leaseholders will not have the resources to challenge them in court. Can the Secretary of State explain how today’s announcement will help leaseholders in Mandale House, and will he assure me that his Department will provide all the support they need to make Y&Y Management fulfil its responsibilities?

We absolutely will—it is with their concerns in mind that I made the statement today. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words about the Department’s engagement. May I thank, in particular, the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), who has made personal visits to many of those who are most directly affected and is ensuring that, within the Department, every lever is being pulled to help them on an individual basis?

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. Could he explain to the House how this action will help residents living in blocks that are just under the threshold for intervention? We have many such blocks in Reading and Woodley. In addition, could he update the House on what measures the Department will take to tackle wooden cladding, insufficient partitions walls, and weak or unsafe fire doors?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to stress that it is not just cladding and buildings over 18 metres; there are other fire safety issues. It will be the responsibility of developers or, where appropriate, freeholders, to address those under the waterfall system that we have put in place through the Building Safety Act 2022.

I thank the Secretary of State very much for his statement. Building safety is vital for all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson), may I request a timescale for communications between the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, which has responsibility for this? One thing to consider in all this is that we in Northern Ireland deserve the same safety as residents here on the United Kingdom mainland.

I could not agree more. I will ask Sue Gray, the second permanent secretary at my Department, to be in touch with the Department for Communities this week. I will write to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) with an update on the progress that we expect to make.

May I apologise to the House for referring to the Queen’s Speech, when I should, of course, have referred to the King’s Speech?

Thank you very much. I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for responding to multiple questions.