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Leaseholders and Cladding

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 2:30 pm, 12th February 2020

My right hon. Friend makes an overwhelmingly powerful case for treating all unsafe cladding as unsafe and needing to be replaced.

The Minister has a tough job, because negotiations with the Treasury are difficult and there are complications. Was building control at fault originally? Can freeholders claim on insurance or building warranties? Can they sue the architects or developers for defects in the original design or construction, assuming there is still someone to sue? Perhaps, but that will take years, and it is not an answer.

I say readily, however, that if a claim is successful and the Government have paid to remove the cladding, the money ought to go back to the Government. I also have no problem with the Government taking equity in the freehold of buildings if they have coughed up for the removal of cladding. What more can the Government do about buildings that have not yet been identified as unsafe but where mortgage companies are asking for a certificate? The EWS1 form has not solved all the problems, so it would be good to hear from the Minister what more can be done.

I will bring my remarks to a close, because many hon. Members want to speak. I see no case for Ministers to move away from the principle they established at the start of the crisis: that leaseholders should not have to pay. I see no case for treating one group of leaseholders differently from another. I see no way for all the dangerous cladding to be replaced other than for the Government to step in and extend the coverage of their fund to all types of blocks that the fire service has identified as unsafe. That is what is needed and it is needed urgently.

All leaseholders on whose behalf we speak today, whose lives are in turmoil, will be watching very carefully to see how the Minister responds. They are not going anywhere—indeed they cannot, because they are trapped in their homes. All they are asking for is to be able to put this nightmare behind them, to go back to living in a safe home and to get on with their lives. Every single hon. Member in this Chamber has a responsibility to ensure that that is what happens, and happens soon.