Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry

Part of Humanitarian Situation in Mosul – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 12th July 2017.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Shadow Secretary of State for Housing 1:54 pm, 12th July 2017

The short answer is yes; the longer answer is that I pay tribute to Camden Council for taking the tough decision that it had to make in those circumstances. My fear is that other housing associations, councils and landlords of high-rise blocks around the country will hold back or perhaps cut corners because they know they cannot afford to do the works required—either to remove and replace cladding, or to make the inside safe and fully fire-safety compliant—and that they will do so only because they cannot get a straight answer from this Government on a clear commitment to up-front funding where it is needed to make sure that this essential work is done. The situation leaves hundreds of thousands of residents in tower blocks around the country still uncertain as to whether their block is safe.

I hope that Ministers will stay to hear the debate because a number of colleagues from around the country will set out concerns about the testing system, including the problem that landlords and residents are confused. The testing system does not meet the needs of those residents or landlords. We know from the Lakanal House fire that cladding is not the whole problem—nor, I suspect, was it in Grenfell—yet only one component of one type of cladding had been tested until very recently. We are therefore talking about no tests on cladding systems, on insulation materials, on the interaction between cladding and insulation, on installation, and on the fire breaks between floors. I can tell the First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State that housing associations across the country, such as Bradford-based Incommunities, cannot get their type of cladding tested, so they cannot reassure their residents that their tower blocks are safe. Councils such as Salford have stopped stripping off cladding from their high-rise flats because they have no guidance from Government on what to replace it with.