Government again rejects fire safety bill amendment protecting leaseholders

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The government has again voted down an amendment to the fire safety bill that would have prevented leaseholders from bearing cladding remediation costs by a margin of 69, with 322 MPs voting against and 253 in favour.

MPs considered amendments to the proposed legislation from the House of Lords this evening, one of which would have prohibited costs for repair work to rectify unsafe cladding being passed on to residents.

“Leaseholders should not have to fund the costs of fire safety remediation works when they are not to blame and they are the least able to pay,” Labour’s Sarah Jones told MPs in parliament this evening.

She described the move to oppose the amendment from the government as a “direct and deliberate betrayal of the promise, that ministers have made over 17 times, that leaseholders should not be left to foot the bill”.

The vote followed the government rejecting a similar amendment put to the Commons last month by 340 votes against to 225 in favour. The opposition party described the move from the government as “shameful” at the time.

Peers in the Lords subsequently voted 326 to 248 in favour of a motion proposed by the Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, to insert into the legislation a clause prohibiting remediation costs from being passed on to residents.

“The risk of fire and looming bankruptcy will not wait while the government delays with inaction and failed proposals to keep leaseholders out of debt,” the shadow minister for the policing and fire services warned.

“Today is another chance for the government to finally put the public safety first and bring forward legislation to protect leaseholders from the unfair, deeply unfair situation of paying for fire safety repairs that they are not responsible for.”

Several Conservatives also voiced support for the amendment. Royston Smith said: “Everyone knows what is happening and if they don’t they should open their emails and they should read the heartbreaking experiences of their constituents.”

Tory backbencher and MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland urged government ministers to accept the amendment or to table their own amendment to “work with us, work with leaseholders, to try and resolve this issue”.

“It’s not acceptable. It’s not fair. It’s not right. What we’re doing today is shameful,” he said. “The government has given up on those who should be responsible for paying and is just pushing the cost on to leaseholders. It’s morally unacceptable.”

Robert Neill said it is not right that leaseholders, who “bought in good faith upon reliance on surveys and regulations that appeared to suggest that their properties were in order”, be left out of pocket over the cladding scandal.

Labour wrote to 77 Tory MPs, representing around 100,000 people living in flats with flammable cladding and safety defects, asking them to back the amendment proposed by the Lords ahead of the debate this evening.

The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people, and the following inquiry exposed deficiencies in the building safety regime and the potential abuse of safety tests by companies supplying cladding and insulation across the UK.

According to Labour analysis of figures from the New Build Database, a national record of issues that affect homeowners, as many as 4.6 million properties home to 11 million residents could be affected by the cladding crisis.

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