Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the remediation of unsafe cladding on high-rise residential buildings and the impact on leaseholders. I have been supporting constituents with these issues for several years now and my Labour colleagues and I have repeatedly urged the Government to move further and faster to address building safety concerns.
I remain concerned, however, that Ministers have been too slow to act. Four years after the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, hundreds of thousands of people are still living in high-rise blocks with flammable cladding.
Meanwhile, leaseholders are facing exorbitant costs for service charges, insurance premiums and waking watches due to issues for which they bear no fault. Many have experienced problems in selling their homes and re-mortgaging.
During the passage of the Fire Safety Bill (now Act), I supported Opposition amendments to try and force the Government to honour its promise that remediation costs will not be passed onto leaseholders. The Government disappointingly rejected such amendments on five separate occasions.
Despite promises by Ministers that the Building Safety Bill would include provisions to safeguard leaseholders, the Bill as it stands does not resolve the issue of leaseholders facing huge costs for historic fire safety defects, contradicting previous Government commitments.
While the Building Safety Bill makes important changes to building regulation and safety, urgent action is still needed to protect people who remain trapped in unsafe homes facing huge bills to fix historic failures. We need legal protections to ensure that millions of pounds of cladding remediation costs are not passed on to innocent homeowners and tenants.
I am pleased the Opposition is supporting the new McPartland-Smith amendments to the Building Safety Bill, which is expected to report to the House of Commons soon. When it does, I, and the Opposition frontbench team, will work cross-party to get a cast iron guarantee in law that protects leaseholders from unfair and unjust costs.
More widely, I support the establishment of a Building Works Agency, a team of experts who will go block by block, assessing risk, commissioning and funding necessary works, and signing off buildings as safe, so that people can go on with their lives. I believe that any such agency should have the legal powers to pursue those responsible.