Private Tower Blocks: Removal of Cladding

Part of Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 7:52 pm, 29th April 2019

I commend Rushanara Ali for securing this important debate. She has written to me on several occasions about this issue, and I congratulate her on her assiduous service to her constituents, as I do other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate.

I want to start by reassuring the House that I am well aware of the anxiety, fear and insecurity, as the hon. Lady put it, felt by many people living in blocks affected by this issue. Having met the UK Cladding Action Group, individuals and organisations from the Grenfell community and others, it is very clear to me that this event and its consequences have caused enormous distress—and there are also the practical issues that she rightly raised in relation to particular properties. I reassure her that much of my time, effort and commitment is spent trying to rectify this awful situation. Further to what Anna McMorrin alleged about a possibly partial response, I gently point out that Grenfell Tower was in my London Assembly constituency. I served that community and the wider community for eight years. The idea that there would be any lack of commitment from my point of view is, frankly, for the birds.

Before addressing funding, I want to update the House on the wider remediation work under way. In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we established the building safety programme. A key objective of the programme has been to identify and remediate buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. We have collected data on over 6,000 private sector high-rise buildings, and we have identified 267 with unsafe cladding systems. There are plans and commitments in place to remediate 82% of those buildings. That includes buildings on which remediation has started or been completed. That progress is the result of action we have taken to put pressure on building owners and developers to reach a resolution.

In the private sector, we have been very clear that freeholders should do all they can to protect leaseholders from additional costs, by either funding remediation themselves or looking at alternative routes, such as insurance claims, warranties or legal action. The Secretary of State has written to all relevant building owners, setting out our strong expectation that leaseholders will be protected. He has asked them to find an acceptable solution urgently.