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Building Safety

Volume 827: debated on Thursday 2 February 2023


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 30 January.

“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 GOV.UK.

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.

The 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.”

My Lords, I know it is late, but I crave just one minute before I speak to the Statement specifically, given its topic. It was 18 years ago today that, in the only tower block fire we have ever had in Stevenage, two wonderful firefighters—Michael Miller and Jeff Wornham—were killed. I just wanted to remember them and send my thoughts and prayers to the families, friends and colleagues of those two heroes. I thank noble Lords for allowing me to do that.

I am sure that, across your Lordships’ House, we recognise that this Statement is a welcome, if belated, step in the right direction towards tackling the shocking failures in building safety standards that have led to the most appalling scandal, which has now dragged on for over five years. I pay tribute to the bravery and tenacity of the campaigning Grenfell survivors and the building safety campaign groups and individuals across the country that have worked tirelessly to bring the seriousness of the issues involved here to the attention of government and the public. I also pay tribute to Members of both Houses who have been their champions.

While it was refreshing, certainly in the light of current events, to hear the Secretary of State say categorically in the other place that

“I do believe this Government should have acted earlier to learn the lessons of the past”—[Official Report, Commons, 30/1/23; col. 52.]

even I can agree with him on that—the delays cannot have been helped by the revolving door which has seen no less than seven Secretaries of State responsible for local government in five years. He has even had two goes at it himself. The fact is that in five years we have seen people left in the most dreadful limbo on this issue. The stress, fear and harm that they have lived with on a daily basis is incalculable: not able to sleep for fear that their buildings are not safe; living in fear of the exorbitant costs of mediation measures; and not able to sell their properties or move away. For some, this has impacted on their physical and mental health. In the most serious cases, leaseholders have faced bankruptcy, their dreams of owning their home transformed into the stuff of nightmares.

When this Statement was given in the other place, it was notable just how many of those who spoke referred to specific examples in their own constituencies: so many stories of distress and despair, like that of Sophie in my home town. Sophie, having bought what was described as a luxury flat for £230,000, soon discovered that the remediation costs for her failing building were to cost her £210,000. This development, a refurbishment carried out under the permitted development regime, and after the deregulation and privatisation of the building control regime, did not meet basic fire safety standards. A waking watch had to be employed, at huge cost to Sophie and the other leaseholders.

Sophie set up a group called Herts Cladiators to campaign on this issue, and indeed presented her very clear evidence to the Select Committee in February last year. Her campaign has consumed years of her life; she powerfully describes the financial impact on those affected. She says that every penny they earn is spent on pre-mediation such as insurance premiums, waking watches and intrusive surveys. Sophie asked the Select Committee how the proposed measures would help in cases such as hers, where the developer has transferred assets and is now dissolved, parent companies have no assets and the building contractor has ceased trading. She was advised that litigation on the building control company would likely be unsuccessful, the structural warranty provider has gone bust and there is no way of tracing the manufacturer of insulation used because the developer ceased trading and the freehold has changed hands several times. Perhaps the Minister can answer Sophie’s questions, because it is difficult to see anything in the Statement which addresses them.

I am sure that so many of us will have heard stories like Sophie’s. I hope that the Statement that we are receiving today will give some comfort that she and other campaigners are at least being listened to. While it is a step in the right direction, it leaves so many more questions still to be answered. Perhaps the Minister can help.

There are questions of timing and accountability. If developers are to sign up for remediation costs, how quickly will the work be carried out? In spite of so many promises over the last five years, millions of people are still living in buildings with dangerous cladding, and only 7% of flats at risk of fire have been fixed. Will a date be set by which remediation works must be completed?

Is the contract with builders and developers sufficiently robust to ensure that it covers all the work necessary, and how do we ensure that it does not restrict the liability of housebuilders? How will the manufacturers of faulty products that have led to so many of these safety issues be held to account? When and how will the insurance sector be required to take its fair share of responsibility? Are those who knowingly built in ways that would endanger safety to be brought to justice? If the Secretary of State is recognising that permitted development and the deregulation of the building control regime played their part in this scandal, will a full and thorough review of those aspects be carried out?

The Statement refers to support for private leaseholders. Will the Secretary of State give consideration to social housing providers who have been affected by similar issues? This whole issue serves to highlight once again the absolute chaos in our housing market that has been caused by poor practice and dodgy dealing in the leasehold market—the subject of a long and powerful campaign by my noble friends Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lord Kennedy of Southwark. I note that the Secretary of State pledged in the other place to remove this anachronistic form of tenure once and for all in the King’s Speech. If the Minister has further information on how and when this will be done, we would certainly welcome that on our side of the Chamber. Surely, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill could be used to get some reform of this sector on the statute book now, rather than waiting until the next King’s Speech. After all, there can be no levelling up with the housing market in the crisis it currently endures.

We are five and a half years on from the tragedy of Grenfell. That the resolution of these issues has taken so long and left so many trapped in dangerous buildings is an absolute scandal. It is time for the warm words to stop and the action to start.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, rightly reminded us of the 18th anniversary of the Stevenage tower block fire and the tragic deaths of two firefighters. From these Benches we too send our condolences to their families and co-workers. I declare my interest as a vice-president of the All-Party Group on Fire Safety and Rescue.

There is much to be positive about and to welcome in this Statement, but it has taken far too long. It is nearly six years since the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire that cost 72 lives, among whom 40% of the disabled residents lost their lives. In that time, many thousands of leaseholders in high-rise blocks have had their lives completely on hold. Their insurance and service charges are skyrocketing, they are not able to move or sell and they are for ever living in fear of fire. So we welcome the elements of the Statement that are a step forward, in forcing the costs of remediation on to developers and building companies, with serious penalties for failure to do so—by removing the right to build. However, there are still big gaps in ensuring that all those blameless leaseholders and tenants are protected from the undue risk of fire and being penalised by freeholders and property agents.

Blocks that are under 11 metres tall are specifically excluded in the Building Safety Act. It was wrong to do so then, and it is wrong to do so now. The argument that the risk is smaller as the blocks are lower is valid except when you factor in the speed at which combustible cladding fires spread. I urge the Minister to continue talking to such leaseholders, to listen to their stories and then to help them. There is a further problem with blocks under 11 metres if there is only one staircase for people to escape down. That is a significant problem and will always impact on safe egress.

It is good to see some action being taken on skyrocketing service charges and insurance. More transparency on invoices is positive, but that fails to stop the charges being excessive. What do the Government plan to do about other egregious behaviour by letting agents? I know of one case in my area in which a tenant who has been without a shower for a year has been told that if she pushes it any further, she will receive an eviction notice. That behaviour is also absolutely unacceptable —it is from the letting agent and she cannot get hold of her landlord, even though she is entitled to under the law.

Some blocks are still paying for waking watch services, when there is a very high charge for a very limited and ineffective service. In fact, there was a fire before Christmas in a block of flats where there was a waking watch, but of course the waking watch was in the wrong place when the fire was discovered. There has been inadequate public funding to support social housing providers unwillingly caught up in this disaster whose ability to spend capital moneys is very curtailed. Where is the funding to help pay for the remediation that is needed?

My final issue relates to disabled residents. During the debate on the Statement in the other place on Monday, two MPs, Florence Eshalomi and Mike Amesbury, asked about PEEPs. I declare my interest as a disabled person. I have been caught in a hotel above floor 5 when a fire alarm went off. It is pretty scary if you are not quite sure what the arrangements are. Even if there is a PEEP, will people turn up? The Secretary of State said in reply to Florence Eshalomi:

“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”.

In reply to Mike Amesbury, he said that the Home Office was

“working hard and I hope to update the House shortly”.—[Official Report, Commons, 30/1/23; cols. 56-57.]

On Wednesday, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group heard from Lee Rowley, who explained that the Government are thinking of giving the Home Office the lead on this. The APPG is very clear that these issues and those about fire safety in education are cross-department. At the moment, it feels to us in the all-party group that every time there is an issue it is passed from one department to the other and then to the other. We urge the Government to have one Minister in overall charge of fire safety, who will undertake to work with any other Ministers who also have responsibility for fire safety.

I know that the Home Office is currently consulting on PEEPs, but the consultation is on an extremely watered-down version presented after we had finished on the Building Safety Bill. That means that it has not been as well discussed, and it was certainly not discussed with me and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. We had both tabled amendments for a stronger version of PEEPs to be introduced. Can the Minister say whether only the watered-down version is being considered, or will the responses from disabled groups about the dangers of a watered-down version be listened to?

My Lords, I add my condolences to those expressed to the families and friends of the firefighters from Hertfordshire. I had not realised that it was 18 years, but our thoughts are with them.

Following the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, we are determined as a Government to learn the lessons of the past. It is the past not just of this Government but of many Governments before us who did not look at and take as much note of building regulations as we should have done—all of us. This Government will learn lessons, but they are lessons not just for them. We must also make sure that this tragedy never happens again.

I want to start with Sophie, because it is important, and I have heard of many people like her from my own personal contacts. People talk about time and, yes, it has taken a long time for us to get here, but it was a very complex issue and I can assure the House that we have been working really hard. The Government are aware of the case of Sophie. They are taking action and working with her and others who are in the same position. That is important to say.

Ninety-five per cent of all high-rise buildings with unsafe, Grenfell-style ACM cladding have been remediated or have the remedial work very much under way. Importantly, 100% of buildings in the social rented sector that were affected have been remediated. We now have remediation funding routes for all affected buildings over 11 metres in England. However, we are not complacent, and we recognise that there is a lot more still to do.

Building owners have a legal responsibility to make sure that their buildings are safe. Where remediation work is required, they must take appropriate action without delay; that is what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State was saying in his Statement. It is unacceptable that, today, some are still deliberately holding up remediation works by refusing to sign legal agreements that would allow government funding—even government funding—to be used to make their building safe. That is why we have provided £8 million more of funding to local authorities to pursue building owners who are refusing progress remediation. We are also working closely with the regulators to make sure that building owners are held to account for their actions; where appropriate, we will take enforcement action.

We are confident that the developer remediation contract we published this week is entirely consistent with the letter and the spirit of the pledge that many of the major housebuilders signed last year. We work with potential signatories to make sure that the contract we are now asking them to sign is clear and is what the developers expected. However, it also codifies the pledge commitments to which the developers signed up earlier. We are making sure that developers are true to their word and sign that contract by 13 March. Leaseholders and residents in hundreds of buildings across the country expect no less than that. The contract makes it crystal clear that we expect developers to remediate their buildings as soon as possible. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, asked whether this is going to be done. We expect them to carry that out as soon as possible. In fact, some developers are already assessing and remediating buildings in advance of the contract being finalised, which is very welcome.

When the work has been carried out, the residents in those buildings also need to know that it has been completed to a required standard. We cannot have shoddy remediation. The contract therefore also requires the developer to obtain a qualifying assessment from an independent fire safety expert when the work is done. If that assessment shows that the work has been shoddy and the building remains dangerous in any way, the developer will have to fix it under the contract; the department will have powers to audit those assessments and act if the building has not been property remediated. Developers will remain on that hook for two years after the works have been completed, which means that any shoddy work can be spotted straight away and we will make them put it right. Developers may also be held to account to make sure that they are completing work properly and at pace. They will be required to report quarterly to the department on their progress. I think noble Lords can see that we are keeping an eye on this—we are not letting developers get away with anything.

As I said, we expect every developer who has these buildings to sign the contract by 13 March. Anybody who refuses to sign will face significant consequences. That is the important thing. You have to have a bit of carrot to begin with and then you have to have the stick. In the spring, we will bring forward legislation for a responsible actors scheme, which will require eligible developers to sign and comply with the contract. Any developer who does not sign the contract and comply with the terms will not be permitted to join and remain in the scheme. If that happens, the developer will be prohibited from commencing developments for which they have planning permission and from receiving building control sign-off on construction that is already under way. In other words, those developers will not be allowed to build houses in this country until they deal with the issues and fix the problems of the past.

To do that, and to make sure that it is happening, we have set up a Recovery Strategy Unit, which will make it very clear to all those developers that we expect them, as the people who have contributed and profited from these affected buildings, to take responsibility and fix them. The unit is already set up and spearheading this work. It will pursue companies and individuals who fail to do the right thing and, if necessary, take them through the courts.

A number of questions outside this area were asked. The noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, asked about decent homes in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill. They are in the Bill, and we have announced that we will be exploring proposals for new minimum standards in the social rented sector. We have also set an ambition for non-decent homes in all rental sectors to be reduced by 50% by 2030. We will target the biggest improvements in the lowest-performing areas, which I think is important. We talked a lot about pace, and noble Lords can see through the contract that pace will be part of what we will be ensuring that developers deliver on.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, asked about buildings insurance. This is another thing that has come up over and again. We are committed to acting on commissions and other payments and will be discussing this with those who represent land stewards, managing agents and freeholders and asking them to reconsider their charging mechanisms as a matter of priority. In the Statement, the Secretary of State said that he does not believe there should be any commissions on any of these insurances from the freeholder to the leaseholder. We will be taking that forward and looking at it in detail. The Financial Conduct Authority is currently undertaking its own review of high broker commissions, to be published in March this year. I have requested an update on any actions that will be undertaken following that review, and I will make sure that the House is updated on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also brought up the important issue of PEEPs. The Government have accepted in principle all the recommendations in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report. We recognise the importance of listening to the concerns of disabled residents and the community in order to come to the right outcomes as quickly as possible. This is across two departments. We are working very closely with the Home Office, which is the responsible department in this area, and we recognise the need to move quickly to ensure that disabled people are safe. I feel strongly about this. Disabled people deserve to feel safe in their homes, and so we are listening and working very closely with the Home Office. I hope that we can bring forward changes as soon as possible. I will keep the noble Baroness informed about how we go with that.

Another thing I feel strongly about is single staircases. Every building has to meet the safety and performance requirements in the building regulations and the Government have reiterated to building control bodies, local authorities and the industry that robust evidence must be presented on the appropriateness of the means of escape from a tall residential building to demonstrate how it meets the building regulations. However, we have now published a public consultation outlining our clear ambition to make provision for a second staircase in all new blocks of flats above 30 metres. We very much welcome views on this important topic to inform future changes to approved document B in the building regulations, so I say to the noble Baroness, with her contacts, that it is important that we hear more about how important those second staircases are, particularly to disabled people.

I am sorry that I have gone a little bit over in that, but I had a lot of questions to answer and I note that there are not a lot of other noble Lords here to ask questions. Oh! My noble friend is behind me.

My Lords, I join others in warmly welcoming the Statement made earlier this week. As has been said, it marks an important milestone on the road to justice for the thousands of leaseholders whose lives have been on hold, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said. I welcome what my noble friend has just said in updating us on the progress being made in making these blocks safer.

But, may I press my noble friend on two sentences in the Statement? The first is:

“Leaseholders should know that the law is on their side.”

The second is:

“When we were told that leaseholders must pay, we … protected”

them. However, there are two groups of leaseholders for whom, sadly, that is not the case, and who are not given protection under the Bill. The first is leaseholders who have enfranchised, following government encouragement, and become freeholders. When I raised this nearly a year ago in Committee, the words of my noble friend’s predecessor, my noble friend Lord Greenhalgh, gave me some assurance:

“They are effectively leaseholders that have enfranchised as opposed to freeholders.”—[Official Report, 28/2/22; col. GC 262.]

Sadly, after my amendment was rejected, they are effectively freeholders, and they do not have the protection extended to other leaseholders in the Bill.

The second category was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton: leaseholders in buildings under 11 metres, who are not covered by the Bill either, but they are confronted by the same problems as leaseholders in tall buildings. They are getting high service charges, they are living in buildings with defective cladding or other fire safety defects, and they are exposed to these costs. In both cases, I was promised consultation to remedy what I regard as a manifest injustice. Can my noble friend update me on the outcome of those consultations?

I thank my noble friend for reminding me that I have not spoken about buildings under 11 metres. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, would never forgive me if I did not answer that question. I will start, though, with enfranchised leaseholders, which I do remember in the context of the Bill. The Government have published a call for evidence on leaseholders in buildings over 11 metres or five storeys, which closed on 14 November last year. We are analysing those responses and considering the feedback prior to finalising the policy. However, enfranchised leaseholders living in buildings covered by the developer remediation contract will be protected from the cost of remedying life-critical fire safety defects arising from buildings’ design and/or construction. Furthermore, leaseholders in buildings over 11 metres are protected from the costs of remediating unsafe cladding, even where the developer has not signed the contract, which is important. Costs may be met through the building safety fund or the new medium-rise fund. I think we are doing what my noble friend wants, although it might be a bit slower than he would have preferred.

On buildings under 11 metres, which I know have been a concern for many noble Lords in these debates, the Government are committed to understanding the full scale and nature of historical building safety issues facing leaseholders in these buildings. As such, we welcome further information. The department set up a dedicated inbox for leaseholders and managing agents of these buildings to contact the department about their specific buildings. We will work with them on that. We stress that the responsibility for the costs of fixing historical building safety defects should still rest with the building owners. They should not pass these costs on to the leaseholders but seek to recover costs from those responsible for building the unsafe buildings in the first place.

I would like to emphasise that the risk to life from historical fire safety defects is much lower in buildings under 11 metres. That is no excuse, but it is rare for these buildings to require building safety-related remediation works. The Government’s assessment therefore remains that extending the protection to buildings under 11 metres is probably neither needed nor proportionate, but we will work with leaseholders and agents of these buildings if they have specific issues.

My Lords, as the Minister referred to local government, I just need to declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.