Government accused of cladding ‘cover-up’ two years after Grenfell Tower fire

The Government has been accused of "a poor attempt at a cover-up" in an announcement about cladding tests following the Grentell Tower fire.

Two years on from the disaster which claimed 72 lives, people are still living in "potential death traps", Labour's shadow housing minister Sarah Jones said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has updated its guidance on high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, which the Government's own report says is popular as it is available in a "wide range of colours and finishes which makes them attractive as a way of bringing colour and different finishes to an external facade".

An expert panel concluded that "systems using any type of HPL panels" which are combined with combustible insulation are "very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire".

The Government's official advice is that building owners who identify these materials on residential buildings over 18m (60ft) in height should take "immediate measures to remediate their system".

However, one form of HCL cladding that was deemed to meet fire-safety standards was class B (FR) - or fire retardant - a material treated to resist fire spread if it was "properly installed".

In a written statement, thew housing secretary, James Brokenshire, highlighted the HCL cladding class which passed the test, rather than the ones which did not.

Mr Brokenshire confirmed "that this system met the relevant pass criteria and that the expert panel is satisfied that this specific system does not present a risk to public safety", but did not highlight the other types of cladding that were recommended for removal.

In response, Ms Jones said: "Today's statement is a poor attempt at a cover-up, highlighting the one combination of cladding and insulation which passed a fire test. Worst of all, ministers were made aware of a failed fire test featuring HPL nine months ago and failed to act."

She added: "The fact that ministers waited until two years after Grenfell to confirm to people that they have been living in potential death traps is a disgrace."

Lord Porter, the Local Government Association's building safety spokesman, said delays to the announcement leaves residents facing "another summer of uncertainty over the safety of their homes".

He said: "Although it is two years since we raised the need to look at HPL with government, five years since an HPL system combined with combustible insulation failed a fire test and 10 years since HPL panels helped spread the fire at Lakanal House where six people died, advice has only just been issued on the level of risk posed by HPL cladding.

"Government needs to give immediate consideration to funding the removal of HPL cladding systems from high-rise residential buildings. It cannot be right when the building owners of blocks with ACM cladding are receiving financial assistance that we do not extend the same help to those with HPL cladding. In addition, the Government needs to publish the results of all the other tests it has conducted so far to reassure residents and help building owners."

A MHCLG spokesman said public safety was the ministry's "utmost priority", and further test results would be published later in the summer.

He added: "We're very clear - no buildings in this country should have the combination of HPL cladding and combustible insulation. Building owners are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and they must ensure this is the case."

Press Association