Labour bid to amend fire safety bill after “shameful” failure to remove cladding

Andrew Kersley

Labour will try to amend the government’s fire safety bill this week, after it emerged that over 80% of private sector accommodation with Grenfell-style flammable cladding has not had the dangerous material removed.

The party will try to amend the legislation due before parliament on Monday and force the government to implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s phase one report, published in October 2019.

The move comes after the latest government figures released in August showed that Grenfell-style cladding had not been removed from over 80% of private sector buildings and nearly 50% of social sector buildings.

The report on the first stage of the inquiry into the Grenfell fire said the programme to withdraw the aluminium composite material – ‘ACM’ – cladding from buildings “should be pursued as vigorously as possible”.

Commenting on the government’s inaction since the fire killed 72 people in 2017, Labour frontbencher Sarah Jones said: “Over three years after Grenfell, it is shameful how little progress has been made.

“The government has continuously broken their promises, while tens of thousands of people across the country are stuck living in unsafe flats. The victims and survivors of Grenfell are still waiting for justice. This is completely unacceptable.”

While the government has claimed its fire safety bill would take it a “step further” to delivering on the inquiry’s recommendations, it does not include direct provisions for any of the measures called for in the report.

The shadow policing and fire minister added: “Every measure necessary should be put in place to prevent a fire like Grenfell from ever happening again. We urge the government to honour their promises and back the amendment and get the work done.”

The fire safety bill is intended to give greater clarity over the responsibility for fire safety in buildings containing more than one home. It passed its second reading in April and the remaining stages are scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Labour’s amendment would create a legal mandate for owners to share information on the design and materials of buildings with the local fire service and to undertake regular inspections of flat entrance doors and lifts.

The proposed changes to the government’s bill would also see owners of buildings required to make sure that all residents are informed of the premises’ evacuation and fire safety procedures.

Commenting on the removal of Grenfell-style cladding in the phase one report, chair of the inquiry Sir Martin Moore-Bick wrote that is is “essential that it be done as quickly as possible”.

He added: “Concern has been voiced publicly, most recently by the House of Commons communities and local government select committee, about the apparently slow rate of progress in carrying out the work.”

Survivors of the incident, the worst residential fire since World War Two, expressed disappointment in June 2019 over the lack of action to stop a similar tragedy from happening. They accused the government of merely “going through the motions”.

Labour put forward a five-point plan last year that included giving councils powers to impose tougher fines and take over residential blocks in order to make sure works get done to make buildings safe.

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