Tory MPs urged to rebel over costs of fire safety improvements

Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor
·2-min read

Conservative MPs are being urged to rebel and defeat the Government over who should foot the bill for key fire safety improvements following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The House of Commons will consider a proposal from peers to prevent remedial costs for work, such as the removal of unsafe cladding from blocks of flats, being passed to leaseholders and tenants.

The Government would be required to stump up the cash and then recoup it from developers, construction firms and cladding manufacturers, under the House of Lords plan.

But the Government wants to disagree with the amendment to the Fire Safety Bill, arguing the issue of remediation costs is “too complex to be dealt with in the manner” proposed by the Lords.

Ahead of a fresh Commons vote on Monday, Labour has written to 77 Conservative MPs in a bid to get them to support the amendment.

The Opposition argues backing the amendment would help thousands of people who are living in flats with dangerous cladding.

Shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire said: “Conservative ministers promised that residents would not be burdened with these costs, at least 17 times by my count.

“Yet the latest announcement heaps years of debt onto the victims of this scandal.

“Across the country, Conservatives’ constituents living in these flats will be rightly angry as their MPs are not speaking up for them.

“I’m calling on all MPs, whatever their political party, to speak up for their constituents and vote to protect leaseholders from these outrageous costs.”

Conservative MPs Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) and Royston Smith (Southampton Itchen) have been leading efforts in the Commons to protect leaseholders from extra costs.

After peers backed the latest amendment, Mr Smith urged ministers to compromise ahead of the Commons vote.

The Government has a working majority of 87 in the Commons, but it could be defeated if around 40 Conservative MPs back the amendment.

The Bill, which clarifies who is responsible for fire safety in blocks of flats, was drawn up in response to the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Last month the Government announced a new £3.5 billion package, with ministers insisting no leaseholders in high-rise blocks in England will face charges for the removal of unsafe cladding.

A ministerial spokesman from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’re spending over £5 billion to remove cladding so people’s homes are safe.

“The most dangerous cladding is already gone or going from almost all high-rise buildings, and it’s a shame that the Labour Party is misleading people on the progress that has been made.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in high-rise buildings will now pay nothing to fix dangerous cladding, and those in medium-rise buildings won’t pay more than £50 a month.

“And we’re going to tax developers to help pay for it.”