Fire Safety and Cladding — [Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:51 pm on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 2:51 pm, 6th March 2018

Someone living in a high-rise flat in Hammersmith or Shepherd’s Bush looks at Grenfell Tower every day; a year before the Grenfell Tower fire, they will also have seen the very serious tower block fire at Shepherd’s Court on Shepherd’s Bush Green.

There has been a response from the local authority and from public landlords to what has happened. Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group told me today that it has spent almost £1 million so far on remedial works post-Grenfell. It will not charge its leaseholders for those works, but ultimately the money for them will come from its tenants. The Government should be responsible for funding this work, but they are showing a lack of leadership and of responsibility in this regard.

Let me be specific and give the example of two blocks, both of which were built in the last 10 years. One is owned by Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group and is called Kelway House. After initially failing the Buildings Research Establishment test, it passed it. However, residents do not know whether those tests are robust or not and they are still concerned about them.

The second block is Cranston Court in White City, which is owned by Notting Hill Housing, and it failed those tests. Notting Hill Housing is removing the cladding on Cranston Court and it has acted responsibly in doing so. It is putting up temporary cladding, so that it can remove fire wardens, but it does not know what to do next. It has now resolved that it will put up non-combustible solid aluminium panels. However, that is because there is no guidance; it is taking what it hopes is the safest option.

There are some simple remedies. However, like my hon. Friend Mr Reed, who secured this debate, I do not know why we allow combustible or limited combustibility cladding and insulation to be used any more. It is not used in other European countries, as has been said. That is why I am glad to see that public landlords have taken the advice not to use such cladding and instead are using mineral wool or other forms of cladding or insulation that are available.

However, I am afraid that these issues have to be addressed, and addressed now, by the Government. As we have seen in the trade press recently, the idea that “desktop studies” will be extended, and will become the norm rather than just being used occasionally, is horrifying.

Also, regarding the conflicts of interest at the BRE and the inadequacy of Approved Document B, some of us have known about them for many years and we have all known about them since Grenfell. As I understand it, although the Hackitt review is good as far as it goes, it does not look as if the final report—let alone the interim one—will give us clear guidance on these issues. It will say that the culture is wrong, but what it will not do is tell landlords—responsible landlords—what they should do. Has that review of Approved Document B got under way and, if it has, when is it due to report and when can we actually tell our landlords what should happen?

I commend the all-party group on fire safety and rescue for the work that it has done on this issue. I have attended a number of seminars on it. However, the Government have to act on it. It cannot be left to the industry alone or to us alone. We must have a solution.