Thank you for contacting me about cladding such as that used on Grenfell Tower.
We must never forget the seventy two people who lost their lives as a result of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It is impossible to comprehend what those affected by the fire have had to deal with. The Government must ensure that those affected continue to receive the support they need and deserve.
Following the final report of the Hackitt Review, a ban on flammable cladding in high rise buildings took effect in December 2018 as did a ban on desktop studies for external wall systems. I am encouraged that the new draft Building Safety Bill, which was published recently, will put in place enhanced regulations for building safety and ensure that residents have a greater say in safety regimes.
The Fire Safety Bill will clarify that the responsible person or duty holder for residential buildings must ensure fire risk is managed and reduced for certain parts of the building. These include cladding, balconies, windows and entrance doors to individual flats opening into common areas. I welcome the fact that this will provide fire and rescue services with the power to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account, further supporting residents.
Higher rise buildings are the least likely to safely evacuate in the event of a fire spreading through external cladding. Experts recommended that the focus of publicly funded remediation work be on high rise buildings 18 metres and above for this reason. I understand that there is some flexibility in the Building Safety Fund to cover buildings just under 18 metres that have similar fire safety strategies as those above 18 metres.
My ministerial colleagues had previously announced that they would meet the £400 million costs of remedial cladding work on social housing high rise buildings and £200 million for private high-rise buildings. At the Budget 2020, the Government set out an additional £1 billion to remove unsafe cladding from buildings over 18 metres high. This will help to speed up the work which is already well underway on the majority of these buildings with unsafe cladding. The prospectus for the Fire Safety Fund has been published and was open for registrations of interest until the end of July 2020: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remediation-of-non-acm-buildings
The Government stepped in to remove cladding in privately-owned buildings because of the failure of the private sector to act and take responsibility for the safety of their residents. The primary responsibility still rests with building owners. As a condition of funding, I understand the Government has stipulated that building owners must pursue warranty and insurance claims and any appropriate action against those responsible for putting unsafe cladding on the buildings, with the money to be repaid to the taxpayer.
The disaster at Grenfell Tower should never have happened: the police investigation and public inquiry will find out why it did, to ensure this can never happen again.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP