Moved by Baroness Pinnock
At end insert “but do propose Amendment 4N in lieu—
4N: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—“Prohibition on passing remediation costs on to leaseholders and tenants pending operation of a statutory scheme(1) The owner of a building may not pass the costs of any remedial work attributable to the provisions of this Act on to leaseholders or tenants of that building.(2) This section has effect only until a statutory scheme is in operation which ensures that leaseholders and tenants of dwellings are not required to pay more than £50 per month during the course of the lease in respect of remedial work attributable to the provisions of this Act.(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to a cost that—(a) is permitted under a lease or tenancy agreement that was made before this Act is passed, and(b) does not exceed £500, whether as a one-off cost, or in total across a 12-month period.(4) Subsection (1) does not apply to a leaseholder who is also the owner or part owner of the freehold of the building.””
I thank all noble Lords for another excellent debate—the fourth in the series—and their contributions tonight.
Again, the tune from the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, the Minister, has not changed—it is the same old record: “This is not the right Bill”. Well, if it is not the right Bill, where is the Government’s Bill to address the horrendous problems that are going to be faced by leaseholders? Where is the Bill that will keep the Government’s pledge that leaseholders would not have to face the unaffordable consequences of fire safety defects? Where is it? Its absence tells us more than anything else about the Government’s commitment to help leaseholders.
To pledge, as the Minister has done, that the building safety Bill will pave the way, forgets the fact that bills are landing on doormats as we speak. Time is of the essence, and still the Government refuse to move. It is a thoroughly depressing moment when people can be thrown to the wolves in order to save the Treasury from paying what it ought to pay and extracting what it ought to extract from those who have caused the problem. The construction scandal—the cladding crisis—is the Government’s, and the Government’s alone.
I thank the Minister for his criticisms, once again, of the amendment I have proposed today. I just wish he would do something about it rather than saying that he cannot do this and cannot do that. What is he going to do?
I have taken heart from the impassioned speech by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. He is an expert in the housing field and has frequently shared his expertise in this House. The fact that he too cannot in all conscience vote for the Fire Safety Bill as it stands, unamended, gives me heart that we have got this in the right place from the point of view of those of us who want to protect people from exorbitant costs of putting right fire safety defects.
I will say one last word. Let us remind ourselves that leaseholders are those that have done everything right. They have saved up for their house, put down the deposit and budgeted for the expenses they anticipate. They have done everything right and nothing wrong, yet the Government—and, it seems, others in this House—are willing to make them pay the price. That is not acceptable, and the Liberal Democrat Benches will not stand by and let it happen if we can help it. It is a depressing moment, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has indicated that he is not prepared to vote for the amendment to try to get safeguards for leaseholders. He has thrown in the towel, and I find that disappointing and utterly depressing.
However, with those words, I am prepared to have one more go to try to protect leaseholders and, indeed, tenants from the awful, if unintended, consequences of this Fire Safety Bill. I wish to seek the opinion of the House and I beg to move.
Ayes 153, Noes 242.