Private Tower Blocks: Removal of Cladding

Part of Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Labour, Bethnal Green and Bow 7:26 pm, 29th April 2019

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I secured this debate to highlight the grave danger facing thousands of people living in privately owned high-rise blocks in my constituency and up and down the country. I am referring, of course, to the presence of aluminium composite material—ACM—cladding on tower blocks that are owned by private companies, not council or housing associations. The danger is real and deeply worrying but can easily be alleviated if Ministers decide to take action. I hope that the Minister will today set out a firm plan of action with a clear set of deadlines to put the situation right.

It is unlikely that many of us would have been aware or known what ACM cladding was were it not for the terrible tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. On the terrible night of 14 June 2017, 72 people lost their lives, and many more were injured, lost their homes and suffered a trauma that they are likely to carry with them for the rest of their lives. It was a trauma shared by the whole nation, which watched this needless tragedy.

It is clear that ACM cladding contributed to the speed with which the fire spread up and down the building, and to the loss of life. This was an avoidable, man-made disaster. Shockingly, the nation then discovered that this kind of cladding and similar flammable cladding is present on hundreds of blocks and other buildings around the country. In the immediate aftermath, Ministers promised swift action to replace ACM and other flammable materials on high-rise blocks, but instead, we have seen unacceptably slow progress, and 22 months later, 345 high-rise buildings with ACM panels are yet to be made safe.