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Leaseholders: Residential Building Remediation

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

10. What recent progress he has made on supporting leaseholders with (a) cladding and (b) non-cladding remediation to residential buildings. (906518)

16. What recent progress he has made on supporting leaseholders with (a) cladding and (b) non-cladding remediation to residential buildings. (906524)

The Government expect those who have caused defects to step up to solve them. As the House is aware, 50 developers have now signed contracts to resolve cladding and non-cladding defects in more than 1,100 buildings. For other properties, the Government are making extensive taxpayer subsidy available to support cladding remediation, along with other mechanisms to pursue those who are responsible.

Help for people living in under-11 metre buildings that have fire safety defects does not go far enough, because of the huge amount of money involved. One of my constituents has described her experience as a “never-ending nightmare”. Will the Minister bring that nightmare to an end for constituents such as mine who are forced to pay to fix the mistakes of others?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising a specific question about under-11 metre properties. Every property, be it over or under 11 metres, needs a fire risk assessment, and I encourage her constituent to ensure that a fire risk appraisal of external walls is undertaken against that property. If the FRAEW indicates that extensive work is necessary, I would be happy to receive a copy of it and look into it personally in order to deal with this.

I have written to the Minister about a constituent of mine who is a leaseholder living in an under-11 metre property and so is not protected by the Building Safety Act 2022. The cladding costs alone will be well over £100,000 and any non-cladding costs will be substantial. That is completely unaffordable for my constituent and it will bankrupt him. So when will the Minister provide a full update, which was promised to me back on 18 August?

As I say, if the hon. Lady wishes to raise the case of this individual building once again with me or talk to me separately outside, I will be happy to enable that. For every under-11 metre building we are made aware of as requiring additional remediation, we are going through and checking things, and compiling audits, where necessary, to get to the bottom of it. The Government strongly believe that under-11 metre buildings do not need extensive remediation, and we will be happy to talk more about any buildings where these issues have been raised.

Does the necessity for the Government to take that sort of action show the danger that leaseholders are under from the abuse of freeholders’ power? May I, through him, gently remind the Secretary of State of an assurance he gave me when talking about leasehold? He said:

“We need to end this feudal form of tenure and ensure individuals have the right to enjoy their own property fully.”—[Official Report, 20 February 2023; Vol. 728, c. 3.]

Is that still intended to be in the King’s Speech?

My right hon. Friend knows that I am not able to anticipate what will be in the King’s Speech. We are clear that, particularly with regard to remediation, some freeholders have stepped up and should be credited for doing so, but others have absolutely not done so. The Secretary of State and I will not hesitate to call out that activity where it occurs.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the action he and the Secretary of State are taking against developers that refuse to remediate tall buildings. What action will he now propose to take against developers that deliberately do not carry out this work and leave leaseholders with their lives in peril and potentially not able to sell or even insure their properties?

As my hon. Friend is aware, we are ensuring that developers uphold the promises they have made, through the developer contract and through the responsible actors scheme, which makes sure that if they fail to do so they could, in extremis, be banned from building in this country again. If there is any indication what he describes is occurring, we will be happy to take action and I will be happy to receive any information from him or others in the House.

More than six years on from the Grenfell disaster, where 72 people lost their lives, Sam, a disabled resident in a Galliard Homes building, is one of the hundreds of thousands of people still trapped in buildings that have not been remediated. Is this the new “do nothing” approach from the Department to building safety that was highlighted in The Guardian today, an approach that forced the resignation of a senior civil servant from the Department?

I think that question is somewhat beneath the hon. Gentleman, but let me state clearly what the Government are doing. They have recognised that there is an issue and have legislated to resolve that. They are working extremely hard to ensure that developers are held to account for that, and over the past few months, they have had success in ensuring that that process takes place. Where developers are no longer around, they are also stepping up and making sure that the cladding defects are covered. Hundreds of buildings have concluded their remediation over recent months, which demonstrates the progress that is being made.