The government will have “blood on its hands” if another death occurs as a result of a fire in a block with Grenfell-style cladding, ministers were told tonight.
In a debate tonight, Labour MP Rushanara Ali criticised the government for the “unacceptably slow progress” at making buildings with Grenfell-style cladding safe.
Responding, housing minister Kit Malthouse said “talks were continuing across government” about additional measures to speed up removal – but he was unable to say what they would involve.
The minister had been asked to respond directly to Inside Housing’s new campaign, End Our Cladding Scandal, which calls on the government to fund the removal of cladding from private blocks.
Of 176 affected private residential buildings, just 10 have had their cladding removed. Leaseholders face the prospect of crippling bills to fund the removal in 93.
Opening the debate, Ms Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, which has a large number of affected towers, said: “[Grenfell] was an avoidable man-made disaster. Shockingly, the nation then discovered this type of cladding, and similar flammable cladding, is present on hundreds of blocks around the country.
“In the immediate aftermath of Grenfell, ministers promised swift action to replace [aluminium composite material (ACM)] and other flammable material from high-rise blocks but instead what we have seen is unacceptably slow progress and 22 months later 345 high-rise buildings with ACM panels are yet to be made safe.”
Calling on the government to announce a national fund and set a deadline for the work to be carried out, she added: “I would go so far as saying if one more fatality occurs in a block with ACM cladding, then this government is absolutely liable and will have blood on its hands.”
She was followed by Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for neighbouring constituency Poplar and Limehouse, who specifically called on ministers to respond to the Inside Housing campaign.
He said: “I want to mention the Inside Housing campaign End Our Cladding Scandal. Last Friday Inside Housing launched a new campaign which calls on the government to take action and end the scandal of residents trapped in private blocks with dangerous cladding.
“The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform has backed the campaign, as have many individual MPs, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Fire Brigades Union and Grenfell United.
“I would be grateful if the minister could comment on the Inside Housing campaign.”
Responding, Mr Malthouse said: “The secretary of state has written to all relevant building owners setting out our strong expectation that leaseholders should be protected. He has asked them to find a solution urgently.
“I would like to assure the house that the secretary of state and I are continuing to press all owners of buildings with this ACM cladding to protect leaseholders from paying for this essential work.
“And further to this, we have been engaged across government to consider additional interventions to ensure progress can be made more swiftly.”
However, when asked by Ms Ali what interventions he was considering, Mr Malthouse said: “I’m not able to say what our measures will be but I am hopeful we will be able to do so in due course.”
Inside Housing’s End Our Cladding Scandal campaign calls for a public fund to be established, a clear timetable of no more than two years to be set out for the work, and reimbursement for leaseholders who have already spent thousands on the cost of interim measures.
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