I warmly welcome the £5billion in support the Government has provided for fire safety works for blocks of flats.
However, as I said last month, those in buildings under 18m in height need and deserve more clarity and reassurances.
Unfortunately, such clarity has not yet been provided. Therefore, tonight I voted for the McPartland/Smith amendment to the Fire Safety Bill.
For many in Wimbledon, the dream of home ownership has gone from a dream to a nightmare because of these cladding and safety problems. It is our duty to protect and provide legal certainty to leaseholders who are facing these issues through no fault of their own.
Finally, you can read my speech during the debate on the Fire Safety Bill on 24th February 2021 below.
I am pleased to make a small, short contribution to this afternoon’s debate and, like so many others, wish my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) all the best.
For many in Wimbledon, the dream of home ownership —the aspiration to have a home—has gone from a dream to a nightmare because of these cladding and safety problems. I listened carefully to the Minister, and he is right: it is our duty to protect and provide legal certainty to leaseholders who are facing these issues through no fault of their own. As such, I warmly recognise and welcome the efforts of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Housing Minister, who have provided an extra £3.5 billion to make a total of £5 billion. I also recognise that this is for cladding, and that a number of other remedies will be required. On that basis, the principle must be that the defector must pay.
The Government have rightly said on a number of occasions that the costs must not fall on the leaseholder, and, in making the extra contribution to the fund, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he was taking a risk-based approach. The approach for people living in buildings under 18 metres is supposedly similar. We are told there is going to be new guidance that will ensure that risk-based approach will happen, so that many buildings under 18 metres will not necessarily be within the scope of remediation, and that no one will pay more than £50 even if they are. However, we have no details. We have no guarantees that the banks and the insurers will respect these new assessments, and provide mortgages and decrease insurance costs. We have no guarantee that when the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors produces this guidance it will take precedence, and that the EWS1 forms will be produced.
The Government have said that the details of these schemes will be available shortly. However, until they are available, there is no certainty for leaseholders in blocks under 18 metres, and, as has already been said, they may become liable for costs earlier than that. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) has already pointed out that this is not an unlimited ask of the Government; it is a specific ask, saying that those who caused the defects should pay.
I listened carefully to the Minister, and I will listen again, but I say to him that the Government could have provided some certainty today by agreeing to bring forward an amendment in the Building Safety Bill, or indeed an amendment that would have given a clear hint in this Bill. Until that happens, unfortunately, lease- holders in buildings under 18 metres will have no certainty, and they deserve it.