Wednesday 10 February 2021 / 1:15 PM Thangam Debbonaire

Thangam Debbonaire responds to the Housing Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons on cladding

***Check against delivery***


Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, responding to the Housing Secretary’s statement to the House of Commons on cladding, said:


“Buying your first home is a dream come true, but for many it’s now a nightmare.

“As a result of Government choices, three and a half years after the Grenfell tragedy, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in unsafe homes.

Many more unable to move.


“Today’s announcement is a repeat of undelivered promises made a year ago. The Chancellor said last March: “all unsafe combustible cladding will be removed from every private and social residential building above 18 metres high.” This has not happened. Buildings haven’t been able to access the fund. 9 pounds out of 10 has not been paid out.


“At every stage, the Government under-estimated the problem. Delays caused it to grow. The Government still doesn’t know how many buildings are unsafe, where they are or what danger they pose.


“Until we have answers to these basic questions, the Government will continue to make mistakes. Offering piecemeal solutions that have to be updated when they don’t deliver.


“Can the Minister guarantee the funding will cover all buildings over 18m?


“What will the consequential be for the devolved administrations including Wales?


“We can’t have a repeat of the ‘first come first served’ free for all, where the most dangerous blocks risk being fixed last.


“Will the Government set up an independent taskforce, to prioritise buildings according to risk, get these funds out the door, and go after building owners who fail to get on with work?


“Government Ministers have now promised 17 times that leaseholders will not bear the cost of fixing a problem they didn’t cause.


“Many will be listening to the Housing Secretary’s remarks today. The Government has betrayed their promise that leaseholders wouldn’t pay for the building safety crisis.


“Three and a half years on from Grenfell, hundreds of thousands can’t sleep at night because their homes are unsafe. The Government has chosen to pile financial ruin on them. This is an injustice.


“What does the Housing Secretary say to Julie in Runcorn, who lives in a flat with dangerous HPL cladding? Her block is under 18m, so she has been unable to access any funding promised so far by the Government. She lives in the same development as buildings with the exact same cladding, but over 18m, who can access the fund.


“Why should the arbitrary height limit mean the difference between a safe home, and financial ruin?


“What are the terms of the loans? What will the interest rate be, and will leaseholders be required to pay the interest as well as the main cost?


“He says leaseholders won’t pay more than £50 per month – does that stay with the current owners when they move or stay with house for the new owners to pay? How long does it run for? Will it go up by inflation each year?


“What will the Government do if those homes remain unsellable?


“How will they ensure freeholders take up these loans? How will Government speed up remediation?


“The current stalemate cannot continue.


“There are others who don’t have cladding, but have been charged £100,000 per flat to fix other fire safety issues. What does the Housing Secretary say to them?


“The Government should focus on securing our economy and rebuilding from Covid. Not saddling homeowners with further debt. When they have further debt, that means less money for our economic recovery. It’s taking money away from local shops. Re-enforcing regional imbalances. And making young first-time buyers and pensioners pay money they can’t afford.


“The Government should pursue those responsible, to prevent leaseholders and taxpayers from carrying the can.


“The Minister has announced a levy and a tax. Those responsible for this crisis should bear the cost.


“So, how much does the Government anticipate their levy will raise?

“Will the Government pursue others in the industry, such as cladding manufacturers, who are also responsible for putting dangerous cladding on buildings?


“The Government has missed every target for removing dangerous ACM cladding. There are still 50,000 people are living in flats wrapped in this, the same cladding found on Grenfell Tower, and thousands more with other dangerous cladding.

“Will the Minister commit to remove all dangerous cladding by 2022?


“As he will know, at least one first time homeowner, Hayley, has already been made bankrupt before she was even asked to pay for remediation. She asked government to think about her former neighbours.


“When will leaseholders start receiving funding for round the clock fire patrols?


“How will the Housing Secretary protect leaseholders from sky-rocketing insurance?


“How will the Government get the market moving? Their last announcement fell to pieces and the housing market in affected homes is grinding to a halt.


“Government inaction and delay has caused the building safety crisis to spiral. People cannot continue to live in unsafe homes. Home-owners shouldn’t face bankruptcy to fix a problem they didn’t cause.


“Unfortunately these proposals will leave too many people still struggling and facing loans, instead of being given justice.”