Private Tower Blocks: Removal of Cladding

Part of Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – in the House of Commons at 7:47 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North 7:47 pm, 29th April 2019

I congratulate my hon. Friend Rushanara Ali on securing this really important debate. I remember the morning when I first saw the horrific scene of Grenfell on my television screen; I had been elected only a few days earlier. Those images—the horror of it—were very poignant to me and all of us here, I am sure.

The Government response has just not been good enough—not only the actions there and then, but what has since transpired. I was really horrified by what I saw then and what I have learned since. I do not want that lack of action and slow response to be replicated if such a thing happened again. If this had happened in the Minister’s backyard, or perhaps in a safe seat in south-east England, there might have been a very immediate response. I hope that the Minister will think about what will happen from now on to ensure that people living in high-rise buildings are safeguarded and looked after.

That is not what is happening in my constituency of Cardiff North, where I have a few high-rise buildings. The cladding on one of those buildings, Lydstep Flats, was tested shortly after Grenfell and was found to be in breach of fire and safety regulations. Of course, the cladding was immediately taken down, so that the residents could sleep comfortably in their beds at night. Since then, however, the mix of private and Cardiff Council ownership has meant that there has not been adequate funding to replace the cladding, and the residents are now suffering day in, day out. That has nothing to do with the aesthetics of how the building looks; it is about what it is like to live there. I have visited those flats. There is damp and mould. Many of the flats are horrific. People are living in squalid conditions, and are suffering from mental and physical problems as a result.

One constituent came to me—I have since helped her to move flat—suffering from respiratory and mental health problems. She is really very concerned. Two fantastic local Labour councillors, Dilwar Ali and Jennifer Burke-Davies, have done their utmost to fight for the council to replace the cladding. The council is working very hard to find the funds, and a surveyor is looking at what the cladding needs to be, but there is no central funding from UK Government. We know how cash-strapped councils are. I believe it is for the UK Government to ensure that councils have adequate funding to replace cladding, so that my constituents in Lydstep Flats can sleep soundly at night, are not in fear of their safety, and can be healthy, rather than fearful about their health.