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Residential Buildings: Remediation

Volume 728: debated on Monday 20 February 2023

1. What recent progress he has made on cladding and non-cladding remediation for residential buildings. (903613)

5. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help ensure that residents are adequately protected from increases in insurance premiums caused by remedial works. (903617)

12. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help protect leaseholders in low-rise apartment blocks from increases in building insurance costs caused by cladding issues. (903626)

It is wonderful to see such a strong contingent from Lancashire in the Gallery. Skelmersdale and Ormskirk will be proud of their new MP, I am sure.

Developers are lining up to sign our contract to remediate approximately 1,500 buildings. Some 95% of those buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-style cladding have already been remediated or have work under way. The number of buildings that are being fixed by the building safety fund has doubled in the past year. The pilot for our new mid-rise scheme is making good progress ahead of its full opening in the coming months.

Even after the horrors of the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, the Government have failed abysmally to get to grips with the cladding scandal. While the Government dither and developers delay, the leaseholders of potentially dangerously clad apartments are stuck in limbo. Many, including people living in West Central in Slough constituency, and in other blocks, cannot sell or remortgage their apartments, and many face ever-rising service charges and other charges that they cannot now meet. Does the Secretary of State think it is fair for my Slough constituents to have to continue to suffer intolerably under such dire and demoralising conditions?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the plight of his constituents, but the action we have already taken will ensure not only that the ultimate owners of those buildings—whether that is the developers or the freeholders—are responsible for remediation, but that those leaseholders who are currently trapped and unable to move will be able to do so and to secure a mortgage on their property if required.

I declare an interest: I live in a block with cladding. There are many real concerns, and I commend the Secretary of State for some of the progress he has begun to make, but there is still a big issue with insurance premiums that are way too high for the risk involved. Will he update the House on what progress he has made with the insurance industry to get premiums down?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Not only have insurance premiums been too high, but some of the middle people involved have been gouging at the expense of leaseholders. We have made it clear that there are responsibilities on the Association of British Insurers and others to change their ways. The Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), is responsible for local government and engaged in work to make progress on that.

My constituent Joanne Davies faces a nightmare scenario. In a few weeks’ time, she will have to fork out £5,000 because of regulatory change in the light of Grenfell. She gets no support because she lives in a low-rise block. Will the Minister meet me to discuss her case?

I will absolutely make sure that I or another Minister meets the hon. Gentleman and takes up the case of his constituent, yes.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that issues like the cladding scandal being foisted on innocent leaseholders will continue until there is fundamental reform of the leasehold system? I know he has plans to do that. When does he think they might be put into effect?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We hope, in the forthcoming King’s Speech, to introduce legislation to fundamentally reform the system. Leaseholders, not just in this case but in so many other cases, are held to ransom by freeholders. We need to end this feudal form of tenure and ensure individuals have the right to enjoy their own property fully.