Thank you to those who have emailed regarding the McPartland–Smith Amendment to the Fire Safety Bill.
As you are aware, the Fire Safety Bill is one of a number of Government Bills that are being introduced to update fire safety regulations in light of the recommendations of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.
I am concerned that the significant delay by the Government in legislating to improve building safety has left people at risk for too long. This includes buildings covered in unsafe cladding that have still not had it removed – leaving tenants, leaseholders and other residents in possible danger. Indeed, the pace of remediation has been widely criticised, as has the sufficiency of the Government’s funding assistance. I have spoken to residents in Luton South who are suffering from anxiety and stress from living in blocks with ACM and other types of cladding.
On 17 December 2020, the Government announced an extension to the deadline for applications to the Building Safety Fund – £1 billion funding to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on residential buildings 18 metres and over (in both the private and social housing sectors). Building owners, freeholders or other responsible entities who have already registered, can continue to apply for this funding until 30 June 2021. However, the funding is not available for work that was committed to or started before 11 March 2020, and the Public Accounts Committee has suggested that £1 billion will cover only about a third of the projected costs, and funding is not intended to cover works in.
On 10 February 2021, the Government announced plans for new taxes on housebuilders and developers to help pay the cost of making safe thousands of buildings with cladding and other fire safety defects. However, Sebastian O’Kelly, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, said these proposals fell short of being able to end a crisis that they estimate will end up costing at least £15 billion.
A number of amendments have been made to the Fire Safety Bill so far including an important amendment from Baroness Pinnock, which would amend the Bill so that freeholders cannot pass remediation costs on to leaseholders and tenants.
MPs have also put down amendments to this Bill to make changes to Baroness Pinnock’s amendment. One amendment aims to make the prohibition on leaseholders paying remedial costs retrospective (so that leaseholders who have already had to pay for safety remedial work since June 2017 can be reimbursed those costs from building owners).
Another amendment, known as the McPartland–Smith Amendment, supports the principle of Baroness Pinnock’s amendment of preventing leaseholders from being required to pay for fire remedial work and makes a number of adjustments to ensure that works to repair normal wear and tear are not included within this proposed new rule. I am committed to supporting leaseholders and have signed the McPartland-Smith Amendment.
I signed the amendments in the name of Keir Starmer MP, which seeks to protect leaseholders from unfair fire safety costs, regardless of when their lease was signed, whereas the McPartland-Smith amendment only applies to defects that predate the start of the lease. I also signed Flo Eshalomi’s MP amendment that would have prevented the costs from interim safety measures being passed onto leaseholders and tenants. You can read the proposed amendments here and watch my speech in the debate here.
The government did not accept these amendments and the Fire Safety Bill will now return to the House of Lords for further consideration.
I believe that everyone should have access to safe, affordable high-quality housing, and I will continue to campaign for this to become a reality.