“I welcome the fact that Ministers have finally woken up to the fact that it was deeply unfair to expect leaseholders to pay tens of thousands of pounds because of the failings caused by weak regulation, often outsourced enforcement and a race to the bottom in building safety practices.
“It was never justifiable to make people living in blocks below 18 metres pay for remedial work on dangerous cladding themselves. They have faced months of stress and anxiety after being told to take out huge loans to pay for repairs and being excluded from access to the Building Safety Fund.
“But Michael Gove has missed a key point. This is more than a cladding scandal, it’s a fire hazard scandal and he is failing to tackle that.
“Leaseholders whose homes are unsafe because of cladding now have some reassurance that they’re not being dumped with the costs. But the Minister was silent about the thousands of people living in blocks which are failing safety inspections because of issues like defective fire compartmentation, no fire doors and other non-cladding faults.
“Dozens of lives were put at risk when fire ripped through the flats in Pankhurst Avenue in 2019 – exacerbated by missing compartmentalisation in the roof space. Yet before today’s change of heart by the Government, those residents would not have been able to make a claim to the Building Safety Fund to make their homes safe.
“More than a thousand of my constituents in Brighton face fire risks unrelated to cladding. Combustible materials have been found in their homes, along with other serious problems like missing fire breaks.
“I’m in contact with residents from 13 blocks in my constituency, nearly all of whom live in blocks below 18 metres. In no case has remedial work yet started so they are living in unsafe homes, caught in the crossfire of tussles between housing providers and developers over who’s liable. They need urgent action and reassurance and today’s announcement does not provide it.
“Mr Gove’s intention to require developers to pay for problems they created is the right one, but telling them to come up with £4bn does not take us close to the £15bn which the Housing Select Committee estimates is needed to resolve the building safety crisis, even when previous funding is taken into account.
“Developers must also be required to defects in buildings housing council or housing association tenants. It’s completely unacceptable that these costs should fall on housing association or councils whose budgets are already stretched to breaking point.
“Finally, the Government should turn its back on the siren voices in its own party calling for deregulation across the UK economy. Putting profit before safety is what created this mess and the tragedy of Grenfell. The Tory party needs to learn this lesson.”
In answer to MPs’ questions, Mr Gove said that the Government will ensure that leaseholders facing fire safety issues other than cladding would be given statutory protection in order to make sure that protection is extended to all.
“This is welcome, but it urgently needs clarifying. The Minister’s failure to mention non-cladding issues in his original statement to MPs suggested that the focus would just be on cladding. The Government seems prepared to take on the developers to resolve the cladding issue. It also needs to force them to carry out other remedial work, not leave it to leaseholders to fight this battle themselves.”