Tower Blocks: Cladding - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 22nd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:30 pm, 22nd January 2019

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat as a Statement the Answer given to an Urgent Question in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing. The Statement is as follows:

“There is nothing more important than making sure that people are safe in their homes. We remain determined to ensure that no community suffers again as the community did so tragically and appallingly at Grenfell Tower.

Within days of the tragedy, a comprehensive building safety programme was put in place to ensure that residents of high-rise blocks of flats are safe and feel safe, now and in the future. Our department has worked with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to identify high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding, and ensured that interim safety measures are in place until they are permanently remediated. These have included measures such as “waking watch”, which has been put in place in all high-rise buildings with ACM cladding, with the oversight of the National Fire Chiefs Council. As of 31 December 2018, interim measures have been in place in all 176 high-rise private residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding.

Permanent remediation must now, rightly, be our key focus. On 18 December we published our plan to implement the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which will create a stronger regulatory framework and fix these issues for the long term.

We have repeatedly called on private building owners not to pass costs on to leaseholders who find themselves in this position through no fault of their own. We have also warned private building owners that unless they remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding from their high-rise residential buildings now, local authorities have the power to complete the works and recover the costs from the owner. As a result of our interventions, we have secured commitments from the owners of 268 privately owned buildings, while 212 have either started, completed or have commitments in place to remediate. There remain 42 private residential buildings where the owners’ plans are unclear. On this we are maintaining pressure, and we rule out no solutions.

This is obviously a matter of great importance to many colleagues and indeed to many constituents, and that is reflected by the huge amount of activity that is taking place within the department, externally within the industry concerned and, critically, in this House, with an Adjournment Debate tomorrow and appearances by me at Oral Questions and in front of the Select Committee this coming Monday”.