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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn on securing this debate. I associate myself with all the powerful arguments that he has made on behalf of his and indeed all of our constituents this afternoon.
I represent hundreds of people affected by the cladding issues, including in the Islington Gates development in the Jewellery Quarter area of my constituency. The 144-unit development has already had remedial work carried out. Residents pay for a waking watch and lighting upgrades, and at the moment structural fire resilience work is being carried out, including around fire compartmentalisation. The work is estimated to come in at a total of £1.5 million—about £5,000 per leaseholder—and that is before they get to the cladding removal. They are trapped by the same problem that many of our constituents have. They have non-ACM cladding, but it is just as dangerous, if not more so, than the ACM cladding that qualifies for Government relief. The bill for the removal of ACM cladding looks as though it will come in at about £5 million to £6 million, so each leaseholder faces a bill of about £40,000 to £50,000.
On the point about insurance, the premium for the building in the previous year was £36,000, but when residents came to renew they found their insurer would not renew the building on its own, so the residents had to go through a broker and a huge amount of stress, trouble and difficulty to find a consortium of five insurers willing to share the risk of insuring the building, and the premium has now come in at £190,000, a fivefold increase. It seems residents have received no credit for the fact that they have carried out a huge amount of remedial work already. No matter what people trapped in such buildings do, the insurance companies are running scared.
The Government could take action, as they have in areas affected by flooding, for example. We already have the good example of the Flood Re scheme. The Government should stand behind our leasehold constituents and force the insurance companies to act. It is unconscionable that such buildings might in the end be uninsurable without Government action. Our constituents are hit with a multiple whammy, where tens of thousands of flat dwellers are uninsured, unable to sell or re-mortgage, and unable to find the money to put their unsafe buildings right, and that has a huge impact on people. I will quote from a constituent’s email:
“Estimates are very loose at the moment but it is likely I will have to pay in the region of...£80,000 to £100,000. I can’t sleep, function or work. I try to be normal with my son but I can’t. I have a constant gut wrenching dread coursing through my blood stream each and every second. I want to cry.”
Real people with real lives are affected by a national calamity. It is morally imperative that the Government finally step up to the plate and act.