Building Safety

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:41 pm on 15th March 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 11:41 pm, 15th March 2018

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and I am very happy to answer all the points that he has made.

The hon. Gentleman rightly said—of course we all agree with this—that public safety is the No. 1 issue and is absolutely paramount in every way. He will know that ever since the tragedy, as well as through the police investigation and the work that is being done through the public inquiry, there have been lessons for public safety. He will remember that, right from the start, the expert panel was convened to provide the immediate emergency advice that was necessary, and that advice went out widely to the owners of both social and private sector buildings. The testing regime—the initial sample testing and then the large-scale testing—was set up, as was the independent review, which is now being carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt. I was quite deliberate in wanting to see an interim report so that we could act on some of the early lessons. I remind the hon. Gentleman that Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report included a number of recommendations, which we have accepted, and we have now started to implement every single one of them. She is now working on her final report, which is due, as planned, in the spring. Again, that reflects our sense of urgency.

Once the expert panel and the police are comfortable that information can be publicly shared, it is right that we are transparent as quickly as possible. That is necessary to create public trust and to ensure that no one comes under any undue stress. Throughout the whole process, we have correctly been led by the experts—the expert panel and all the industry advisers who have been put in place—as well as by the work that has been done by the police.

Let me give the hon. Gentleman a bit more information about that. As well as the independent expert panel, the Government have consulted the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Government’s chief scientific advisers, the police, of course, and the London Fire Brigade. As a result, the expert panel has concluded that, so far, the risk to public safety remains low, that there is no change to fire safety advice, and that a programme of additional testing has to be commissioned to determine the root cause of the failed test. Such additional testing is required; it is going on now. As I said, it must be thorough and done at pace, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that we should not rush it, meaning that we get either wrong or inappropriate results. It should be done properly. It should be led by the experts and only on their advice. That is exactly why I said in my statement that there is no evidence of a systemic problem—it is the advice of the experts so far. We are correctly taking their advice while we continue with further tests at pace.

The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that work was not being done at pace or urgently. I refute that. We have rightly worked as urgently as possible every step of the way, whether that is on today’s information or other information that has come to light since the fire. That includes work on the remediation of existing buildings with ACM cladding. So far, 301 buildings have been identified: 158 social buildings; 13 in the public sector; and 130 in the private sector. Almost 60% have begun the remediation work and, as the hon. Gentleman said, seven have completed that work. Public safety is paramount, so in every single case, interim steps were taken and measures were put in place immediately, with expert advice, often from the local fire brigade. Those measures remain in place. People can be comfortable that every measure is being taken to ensure that they remain safe.