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Minister ignores NHF plea to halt testing

The local government minister ignored David Orr’s plea to halt testing of aluminium cladding in a brisk address to the Housing 2017 conference in Manchester today.

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Marcus Jones appeared at the conference this morning as a replacement for new housing minister Alok Sharma, who pulled out of his scheduled appearance at the eleventh hour.

Mr Jones said it is “vital” that samples of every building with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding are sent to the government for testing.

It came just hours after David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, had said the government should “shift its focus to making people safe” after all the 120 samples tested so far failed the combustibility test.

But Mr Jones said today that the failure rate “highlights the importance of the testing process”.

“It is vital that samples of every building with ACM cladding are sent to us to be tested. Please do make sure that this happens,” he told delegates.

Addressing Mr Sharma’s withdrawal, Mr Jones said the minister, who was appointed to replace Gavin Barwell only two weeks ago, was busy dealing with the fallout from the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

“As you will understand, I’m sure, dealing with that horrendous situation and trying to help the people affected is his priority at this time,” he said.

Mr Jones paid tribute to social landlords for their response to the fire, in which at least 80 people are known to have died, adding: “It is absolutely clear that we do need to address the anger that a tragedy we’ve seen on this scale was ever allowed to happen in 21st century Britain and the fear that it could happen again.”

In a speech which lasted for less than 10 minutes, Mr Jones also gave a brief overview of the government’s existing housing policy.

He left the stage immediately after concluding his remarks, refusing to take questions from the audience or chair of the session, BBC journalist Mark Easton.

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