Monday 22nd February 2021

(4 days, 15 hours ago)

Lords Chamber

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Home Office

Statement

The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday 10 February.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I want to make a statement on housing and building safety. Beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government want to build back better—better homes, better infrastructure and better communities. The foundation of those ambitions, and the mission of my department, is safety and fairness. We have all been moved by the stories we have heard and the people we have met—home owners placed in difficult and sometimes impossible situations through no fault of their own. I appreciate the frustration, the worry and the despair that at times they feel. I share their anger at the errors, the omissions, the false promises and even the outright dishonesty, which were built up over many decades but which this Government are determined to tackle.

That is why today I am announcing an unprecedented intervention—a clear plan to remove unsafe cladding, to provide certainty to leaseholders, to make the industry pay for its faults of the past, to create a world-class building safety regime and to inject confidence and certainty back into this part of the housing market. First, we will finish the job we have started on remediating unsafe cladding. After the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, the expert advice that this Government received identified aluminium composite cladding, or ACM—the material on the tower—as by far the most unsafe form of cladding. It should never have been used, and our independent expert advisory panel recommended that it should be the focus of our remediation work.

Thanks to a considerable effort, including during the pandemic, almost 95% of all high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding identified by the beginning of last year have been remediated, or workers are on site now doing the job. That rises to 100% in social housing. Guided by expert advice, the work to remove other types of cladding that are also unsafe—albeit less so than ACM—where they pose a genuine risk to life is also under way.

It has always been our expectation—our demand—that building owners and developers should step up to meet the cost of this work. Where they have not, or where they no longer exist, the Government have stepped in, providing £1.6 billion to remediate unsafe cladding. However, it is clear that without further government intervention many building owners will simply seek to pass these potentially very significant costs on to leaseholders, as this is often the legal position in the leases that they signed. That would risk punishing those who have worked hard and bought their own home, but who have, through no fault of their own, found themselves caught in an invidious situation. Importantly, it would also risk slowing down the critical works to make these homes safer.

I am therefore making an exceptional intervention today on behalf of the Government and providing certainty that leaseholders in high-rise residential buildings will face no cost for cladding remediation works. We will make further funding available to pay for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in high-rise residential buildings of 18 metres and above, or above six storeys, in England. We continue to take a safety-led approach, and this funding will focus on the higher-rise buildings, where the independent expert advisory panel tells us time and again the overwhelming majority of the safety risk lies, in line with the existing building safety fund and the anticipated scope of the new building safety regulator that we are establishing and will shortly be legislating for. This will ensure that we end the cladding scandal in a way that is fair and generous to leaseholders.

Secondly, for lower and medium-rise blocks of flats, the risks are significantly lower and the remediation of cladding is less likely to be needed; in many cases, it will not be needed at all, but where it is, costs can still be significant for leaseholders. That is why I am announcing today that the Government will develop a long-term scheme to protect leaseholders in this situation with financial support for cladding remediation on buildings of between four and six storeys. Under a long-term low-interest scheme, no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding, many far less.

Taken together, this means the Government are providing more than £5 billion, including a further £3.5 billion announced today, plus the significant cost of the very generous financing scheme, which will run for many years to come, to ensure that all leaseholders in medium and high-rise blocks face no costs or very low costs if cladding remediation is needed. Where it is needed, costs can still be significant for leaseholders, which is why we want to take these important steps. We want to ensure that the Government develop this long-term scheme, which will protect leaseholders with financial support. Taken together, this means that the Government are helping leaseholders to move forwards with greater certainty and more confidence about the future.

Thirdly, while the problem is not one of leaseholders’ making, it also cannot be right that the costs of addressing these issues fall solely on taxpayers, many of whom are not themselves home owners and can only dream of getting on the housing ladder. The Government have always expected the industry to contribute towards these costs, and some have done so. Today, I am announcing that we will introduce a gateway 2 developer levy, which will be implemented through the forthcoming Building Safety Bill. The proposed levy will be targeted and will apply only when developers seek permission to develop certain high-rise buildings in England, helping to ensure that the industry takes collective responsibility for historical building safety defects. In introducing the levy, we will continue to ensure that the homes our country needs get built and that our small and medium-sized builders are protected.

In addition, a new tax will be introduced for the UK residential property development sector in 2022. This will raise at least £2 billion over a decade to help to pay for cladding remediation costs. The tax will ensure that the largest property developers make a fair contribution to the remediation programme in relation to the money they make from residential property, reflecting the benefit that they will derive from restoring confidence to the UK housing market. The Government will consult on the policy design in due course.

Fourthly, I know there are many people across the country who are concerned about the safety of their home. In the actions we have taken and those we take today, we have already very clearly prioritised public safety. However, it is also important that we put the risk of a fire, and in particular the risk of a fatal fire, in context—it is low. Last year, the number of people who died in fires in blocks of flats over 11 metres was 10—an all-time low—and fire-related fatalities in dwellings in England have fallen by 29% over the past decade. By way of comparison, more than 1,700 fatalities were reported on our roads in 2019.

Of course, any death is one too many, and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower lingers with us and demands action. That is why it is right that we address safety issues where they exist and are a threat to life, but we must do so proportionately, guided at all times by expert advice. That is the approach that we are taking through the Building Safety Bill, the new building safety regulator, the Fire Safety Bill and the new national regulator for construction products, which I announced in January. I am determined that we will have a world-class building safety regime.

We need everyone to follow this sensible, proportionate approach so that this part of the housing market can move forward and home owners are not disproportionately impacted. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has consulted on new guidance for valuers on when an EWS1 form should be required. The Government endorse its work to ensure that assessors have a stronger basis on which to make good, proportionate judgments about valuation risk. Lenders have welcomed the progress on that guidance, which will help to ensure that more than half a million leaseholders in blocks of flats over 11 metres will not need a separate EWS1 assessment to get a mortgage. That builds on the interventions we have already made to create and train many more assessors, and we are doing more so that they can access professional indemnity insurance to get on with the job.

Today, in addition to providing certainty to leaseholders, we are providing confidence to lenders. Following discussions that my right honourable friend the Chancellor and I have had with lenders, we expect all the major banks and building societies to strongly support today’s intervention, which will provide greater certainty to the market and help to restore the effective lending, purchasing and selling of properties as soon as possible.

Taken together, this exceptional intervention amounts to the largest-ever government investment in building safety. We believe in home ownership, and today we firmly support the hundreds of thousands of home owners who need our help now. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I declare my relevant interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association, chair of Heart of Medway Housing Association and a non-executive director of MHS Homes Ltd.

Three and a half years on from the Grenfell tragedy, in which 72 people lost their lives, decisions made by the Government have left thousands of people trapped in unsafe homes and many more unable to move. The Government’s announcement has come far too late for many and is, sadly, a repeat of undelivered promises. It backtracks on a key promise that no leaseholders should have to pay for the cost of this scandal, which is not of their making. On 11 March 2020, nearly a year ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that

“all unsafe combustible cladding will be removed from every private and social residential building above 18 metres high.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/20; col. 291.]

But that has not happened.

The funds set up have been dogged with problems. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell the House how much of the money available has been spent so far. I believe there has been a major underestimation of this scandal—this problem—by the Government. Can the Minister tell the House how many buildings are unsafe, where they are and what danger they pose? Until the Government have credible answers to these basic questions, there will continue to be mistakes and the offering of piecemeal solutions that must be updated when they do not deliver. Can the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, update the House and guarantee that the funding provided will cover all buildings over 18 metres high?

Will the Government set up an independent task force to prioritise buildings according to risk, with powers to get the funds out of the door and the ability to go after building owners when they fail to get the work done? That has been a consistent problem that we have raised again and again. Ministers have now promised 17 times—yes, 17 times—that leaseholders will not bear the cost of fixing a problem they did not cause; these were the promises made to the innocent victims of this scandal. But the Government have betrayed their promise that leaseholders will not pay for the building safety crisis. Three and a half years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster, hundreds of thousands of people cannot sleep at night because their homes are unsafe. On top of that, the Government have decided to pile financial misery on them. This is wrong; it is an injustice, and it is unacceptable.

Can the Minister tell the House why this arbitrary 18-metre height limit means the difference between a safe home and, potentially, financial ruin? What are the terms of the loan? What will the interest be? Will leaseholders be required to pay the interest as well as the main costs? On the point that the leaseholder will not pay more than £50 a month, if they sell the property, does the loan have to be paid at that point? Does it go with the former owner, or does it stay with the current owner? We need to know where we stand. How long will the scheme run for? Will it go up by the rate of inflation each year? What will the Government do if these homes remain unsaleable? How will they ensure that freeholders take up the loans? How will the Government speed up remediation, given that the current stalemate cannot continue?

Other properties do not have dangerous cladding, but these people have been charged thousands of pounds per flat to fix other safety issues. The Government should focus on securing our economy and rebuilding after Covid, not saddling homeowners with further debt. The Government should pursue those responsible for payment and prevent leaseholders and taxpayers carrying the can. The Government have announced a levy and a tax, which I welcome, but those responsible should bear the cost. How much do the Government anticipate the levy will raise? Will they pursue others, such as the cladding manufacturers, responsible for putting the dangerous cladding on in the first place? The Government have missed every target for removing ACM cladding and 50,000 people are still living in flats wrapped in it. This is the same cladding that was found on Grenfell Tower, and thousands more have other dangerous cladding on their buildings. When will this all be removed?

What about the skyrocketing insurance costs that innocent victims are being forced to pay? Can the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, tell the House what he expects, on average, a leaseholder to pay? People cannot continue to live in unsafe, unsellable homes. Homeowners should not be faced with financial ruin—bankruptcy, even—to fix a problem they did not cause. Unfortunately, these proposals, instead of providing justice, will still leave too many people struggling and facing loans. This is a very poor Statement from the Government—they will have to come back to the table and do what they promised in the first place: ensure that no victim of this scandal will have to bear the cost of fixing a problem they were not responsible for.

Baroness Pinnock Portrait Baroness Pinnock (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for the repeat of this important Statement on the Government’s response to the cladding crisis. I remind the House of my interests, recorded in the register, as a member of Kirklees Council and a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

I was pleased when I read the heading of the Statement, “Building Safety”, and the opening paragraph, which refers to the mission of the Secretary of State being that of “safety and fairness”. Unfortunately, the Statement then fails to live up to those laudable words. The first issue I have with it is that throughout, there is reference only to “unsafe cladding”. In fact, what has become clear, as the vast scale of the problem that the Grenfell tragedy exposed, is that the building safety failings go far beyond “unsafe cladding”. As flammable cladding is removed, in some buildings further significant construction failings are revealed: flammable insulation has been used; firebreaks have not been built into the structure as a way of slowing the spread of a fire; balconies are not made of fire-retardant material; and spandrel panels are also seen as a potential safety concern.

How do I know this? In January 2020 the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued guidance note 23, relating to the seven building components under review, requiring building owners and managers to take urgent action on these. The question for the Minister, therefore, is: will the additional government funding pay for all the defects revealed when the unsafe cladding is removed? If, for instance, it becomes evident that there is an absence of firebreaks, will the funding cover the costs of installing them? If not, the leaseholders will still be faced with large bills to pay for failings in the construction.

The next fundamental question that I hope the Minister can answer is: why has 18 metres been chosen as the bar above which cladding removal is funded by the Government and below which the leaseholders and tenants are required to pay? Is the 18-metre figure an historic one that needs to be reassessed? Serious fires can occur in blocks of varying heights: for instance, the fire in a block called The Cube, in Bolton, was very serious—although fortunately, there was no loss of life—but the building was lower than 18 metres.

That leads me to the question of fairness. As noble Lords will recall, this is the mission of the department in respect of building safety. Can the Minister explain how it is fair for leaseholders in blocks below 18 metres high to have to pay for remediation? I recognise that low-interest loans are available and that the currently anticipated maximum payment is £50 per month. This will, no doubt, be added to the service charge and will be one of the costs that potential buyers will consider. It will make these flats less attractive to buyers and they will almost certainly command a lower value. How is it fair to require leaseholders to pay for building remediation which is not in any way of their making?

One of the roles of government is to ensure that safety regulations are appropriate to the task and that there is an inspection regime. The Government have failed to do this, so they are partly culpable, must bear the cost and recoup it from those who share culpability.

Then there is the question of building regulations. It is alleged that some of the buildings affected by this scandal failed to comply with building regulations at the time of construction. Can the Minister confirm this and provide some estimate of the numbers involved? Where breaches of regulation are involved, will the Government require full remediation costs to be met by the developer? This is what happens with the manufacturers of cars and white goods, for example. Surely it should also apply in these instances. Does the Minister agree?

Next, I turn to the total funding package. The additional funding provided by the Government is a start, but this £5 billion needs to be put into context. During the debate on the Fire Safety Bill, the Minister confirmed that the total cost of remediation was likely to be in the region of £16 billion. Does that imply that £10 billion or more will be paid for by leaseholders through the loan scheme? Perhaps the Minister will let us know whether this is what the Government have calculated.

It is proposed to recoup some of these costs from developers by raising £200 million per annum via a tax on the sector. The cost of the minority of the remediation to be recouped from developers is pathetically small. During the last four years, the five largest developers made profits of around £16 billion, which rather puts the proposed figure into context. Will the Government reconsider the level of this tax to make it fairer?

Finally, I hope that the Government do not need to be reminded of the terrible, personal cost of the cladding scandal. For instance, Laurel and Jonathan in Manchester are seriously considering bankruptcy as the only way out of their predicament. Hayley in Leeds has already been forced into bankruptcy. In an Inside Housing survey last year, 23% of respondents said that they had considered suicide. Such is the stress of living in an unsafe home and being forced to pay huge increases in insurance and service charges. For leaseholders and tenants, this building safety crisis is not in any way of their making, yet they are expected to pay the price while those who created it are not being similarly expected to pay in any significant way. Can the Minister explain how this adheres to the department’s mission of fairness? Will he press for a review of the current proposals as more information comes to light?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, around £3.5 billion in direct, additional grant has been committed. This is a significant amount of money which dwarfs the £1.6 billion previously promised. More than £5 billion has been committed to support the ending of the cladding crisis. The plans go a long way towards ensuring that affordability is not an issue for any leaseholders in medium-rise properties. It also ensures that, where there is no warranty outstanding or insurance available to protect the leaseholder, the taxpayer—through the Government’s additional grant—will step up and provide the funding necessary to ensure that the cladding system is removed.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about progress. Despite Covid, we saw 50% more starts in 2020 than in any other year. Workers were on site and, by the end of the year, 95% of high-rise buildings with the same sort of cladding as at Grenfell had either started or completed remediation. We know exactly where these buildings are. The vast majority of the remaining cladding will have been removed from them by the end of this calendar year.

The main thrust of the questions was around the scope of the fund. It is important to recognise that height is a huge factor when it comes to safety and the risk to life. The higher the building, the more risk there is to the residents. People who live in buildings between 18 and 30 metres high are four times more likely to have a fire involving a fatality or the need for hospital treatment. In buildings above 30 metres, this rises to 35 times more likely. We know that height is a factor. Eighteen metres is the cut-off point for the definition of a high-rise building. This has been part of building regulations for a considerable number of years. The definition that we are using for scope is above six storeys, so The Cube would fall within the remit of a building where an application could be made to the building safety fund to remove its cladding. The threshold is six or more storeys or a height greater than 18 metres.

The long-term safety advice makes it clear that the external cladding system acts as accelerant, helping the fire to spread. This is why the government money is focused on the removal of external cladding systems. Internal compartmentation, firebreaks and fire doors are designed to stop the spread of fire. It is right that taxpayers’ money should focus on the material that accelerates the spread of fire.

The £3.5 billion and the finance scheme will together help hundreds of thousands of leaseholders. For those in medium-rise properties, it will cover a significant part of their costs. For those in high-rise buildings, there will be no cost. To date, 13,000 leaseholders in ACM buildings have been supported by the government grant scheme. Between 70,000 and 90,000 leaseholders in buildings with non-ACM cladding systems will not bear any cost. A further 150,000 leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres high will also be helped.

It is important, however, that building owners step up to the plate to support remediation where the government grant is not available. We do not expect this cost to fall entirely on leaseholders. With the ACM fund, more than 50% of owners did the right thing and ensured that the cost did not fall on leaseholders. We expect to see that with the non-ACM buildings as well. Here, warranty schemes can often still be drawn on and protect leaseholders.

It is worth looking at the cladding manufacturers. I will take that point away because, as well as the developers, they are culpable for the situation that we find ourselves in—a point that has been made by both the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. That is something that we can look at in due course.

This is a five-point plan looking at significant sums of money to support the removal of the external cladding systems. It is those systems that have accelerated the spread of fire and their removal makes it far more unlikely that Grenfell will ever happen again. We know that the future building safety regime will be focused on ensuring that the new buildings will be of far greater quality and then provide the greater confidence that is required in the housing market to ensure that it begins to function properly in future years.

Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Barker) (LD)
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We now come to the 20 minutes allocated to Back-Bench questions. Questions and answers must be brief.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, in welcoming the extra support for leaseholders, I commend my noble friend on the role that I know he personally played in shifting the Government’s position. On the developer levy, which I called for last year, can he explain why it is going to be levied on future developments—which, as he has just explained, will not have the same problems, and where indeed the developers may be new to the market—rather than on those developers that are responsible for the defects and that did very well on the proceeds?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for recognising that this announcement includes a developer levy, which he was lobbying for. It will be on future buildings, but at the same time we recognise the role that a number of developers have played in creating the cladding crisis. That is why the Secretary of State also announced that a new tax would be introduced for the UK residential property development sector that will ensure that the largest property developers also make a fair contribution to the remediation programme. We think that these measures taken together will ensure that the industry does more to contribute to the remediation of historical cladding defects and will play its part in dealing with this crisis.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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To

“make the industry pay for its faults of the past”,

how will the Government recoup the full cost from those resistant to undertaking remedial work before they close their companies? Are those who deliberately concealed evidence of the flammability of ACM panels to be subject to corporate manslaughter investigations?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we will continue to push very hard to ensure that developers make their contribution. As I pointed out, historically we have seen developers and building owners step forward and pay for the remediation and removal of unsafe cladding that is on their buildings, and we will continue to push developers to do the right thing. However, the levy and the new tax are set to raise significant sums of money. The tax itself is estimated to raise £2 billion over 10 years.

Lord Bishop of Newcastle Portrait The Lord Bishop of Newcastle [V]
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My Lords, many leaseholders in high-rise and medium-rise buildings are currently receiving insurance premium quotes for many times the previous annual cost. Much of the additional premium is a consequence not of cladding directly but of wider concerns regarding fire risk in their building, so removing and replacing deficient cladding will not in itself return premiums to a level of normality. Can the Minister tell us of any plans to make the representatives of leaseholders and the insurance industry agree a joint approach to alleviating this unacceptable burden?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I can say that we are meeting with representatives of the insurance industry and of the cladding groups to work on precisely that—a solution to make sure that there is a proportionate, common-sense approach to building insurance. I underline that increasing the pace of remediation is likely to see a return to more sensible policies regarding the setting of building insurance.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the National Housing Federation. Can the Minister explain why this very welcome new funding will not be made available to remediate the homes of people living in social housing? Housing associations do not have profits to draw on and local councils cannot simply deplete their reserves, so to make homes safe they will have to divert rental income that would have been spent on the upkeep of tenants’ homes, investment in their communities or building much-needed new affordable homes. Does the Minister accept that the only way to resolve this problem once and for all is for the Government to provide up-front funding for the remediation of homes of all tenures and then claw back as much as possible from those responsible for creating these inadequate buildings in the first place?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I point out that the priority of this Government is to protect leaseholders from facing the costs of the removal of unsafe cladding, whether they are in social sector buildings or in private buildings. Where registered social landlords feel that they need to impose costs on leaseholders, access to grant funding is available as well as the new financing scheme. That protects the leaseholders in those properties, which is the priority of this Government.

Lord Shipley Portrait Lord Shipley (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the House that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Those in a flat 19 metres high will have unsafe cladding replaced at no cost, and that is welcome. Those in a flat 17 metres high will have to pay up to £50 a month for an unknown period. Why do the Government think that is fair?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I pointed out that height is a marker for risk. Those buildings greater than 18 metres are four times more likely to result in a fire-related fatality or someone needing to go to hospital for treatment. Above 30 metres, that rises to 35 times more likely. So the focus needs to be on removing the material that accelerates the spread of fire in buildings that in and of themselves, through height and being of residential use, are at greater risk of causing fatalities.

Lord Best Portrait Lord Best (CB) [V]
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My Lords, following the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, I understand that housing associations can apply for support from the extra £3.5 billion of additional funding for the rectification of these appalling building defects in high-rise blocks, but that help will be available only for flats sold to leaseholders for defects in housing association flats that are retained for letting. All the costs will fall on the housing association itself, requiring the diversion of funds intended for other purposes, particularly building new homes. Can the Minister give an estimate of how many new, desperately-needed social rented homes will be lost because of this?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I am not in a position to give an estimate of that kind, but I recognise that social landlords have significant resources that they can put into making sure that their buildings are safe, and many are proceeding to do precisely that. I do not think we can easily estimate the impact on new build, but we can say that the funds support those leaseholders who would face costs without access to grant funding or the financing scheme.

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton (Con) [V]
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The Government have secured a welcome agreement on EWS1 forms that will benefit thousands of home owners. Many other home owners, however, still need to secure such a form before they can move on with their lives. Can my noble friend outline what steps the Government are taking to make securing such forms easier?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising this significant issue. We are looking at how we can increase the supply of the professionals needed to carry out those EWS1 assessments, and we have provided £700,000 worth of funding to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and that is looking to upskill around 2,000 building surveyors to be in a position to do that after about a month’s training. As well as increasing the supply, we are working closely with RICS and other parties to narrow the scope of when EWS1 is required. You should not need to have an assessment of an external wall system in buildings under 11 metres. There is less latitude in buildings above 18 metres, and a number of buildings between 11 metres and 18 metres will also not require an EWS1. It is only in the event that they are covered with some kind of external cladding system to a great degree—let us say, more than 25%.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) [V]
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Why do the Government not require every local authority to publish the addresses of all buildings falling under cladding fire risk categories? Is the FOI response from the DCLG of 12 March last year refusing such information still valid where it spuriously states that

“disclosing it would be likely to endanger the safety of individuals”

and

“could enable someone to identify particular buildings”,

usable by “those with malicious intent”? That could apply to any inflammable building, a chalet or indeed any temporary building.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, it is sensible to be very careful about the dissemination of information about the precise locations of buildings with flammable material. We need to recognise that there are potentially people out there with malicious intent. It is right and proper that we keep information that would enable people to identify those buildings confidential as far as possible.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) [V]
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My Lords, much of the effectiveness of this legislation will depend on the power and vigour of the building safety regulator. Will that be a named individual or a committee? If it is a named individual, will he or she have the same powers as an ombudsman and receive complaints from individuals and community groups who have often complained and warned but never had access to a decision-maker?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I share the noble Lord’s scepticism about the value of committeeism. I am pleased to announce that the leader of the new building safety regulator, the chief inspector of buildings, has been announced. I am delighted that Peter Baker, the acting chief inspector, has been confirmed as taking up the reins and ensuring that this new regime works. He will be accountable to ensure that that happens.

Baroness Altmann Portrait Baroness Altmann (Con)
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My Lords, I welcome the gateway 2 developer levy and the new tax on residential building developers. I echo the calls for my noble friend to look carefully at recouping costs of remediation work from developers of past projects and not just those in the future, especially those who failed to comply with building regulations or cut corners at the time of construction, and the manufacturers of the cladding materials including ACM.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for making the point. It would be fair to say that the new tax on developers, details of which will be announced shortly, will include a number of the major developers historically responsible for high rises. She makes an important point that we should also consider the role of cladding manufacturers in this crisis. It is fair to say that, while developers have made good solid profits in recent years, the cladding manufactures have had healthy profit margins too. It is important that they are made to contribute to the resolution of the cladding crisis.

Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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The Minister did not answer the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. Post-Grenfell surveys have revealed other fire-related defects such as flawed fire separation. The leaseholders in these properties suffer the same problems of the inability to sell, high remediation costs and rocketing or no insurance. Yet the Government seem to be leaving it to leaseholders, building owners or somebody unspecified to pursue action against those who made the errors and omissions in the past. This is not good enough. What will the Government do to help these non-cladding victims?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I did refer to the fact that other building safety issues, beyond the external cladding system, were breaks on whether a fire continues to spread—they are not accelerants. The scope of our intervention is designed to deal with the biggest contributor to the life safety risk. We would look to building owners to step up where possible and help with the remediation of faulty building works. We have focused the additional grant funding on precisely that which is going to protect and save lives.

Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Portrait Lord Taylor of Goss Moor (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is certainly welcome that the Government have taken action on properties over 18 metres, but the great majority of tenants are in properties under that height. I refer to my declared interests, primarily that I am a former chair of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing providers. It has huge numbers of tenants who have bought shared ownership properties, who are not well off and are currently in enormous difficulties. This is because, despite what has been said by the Government and RICS about EWS1 inspections and the flexibility around them, lenders are continuing to insist on EWS1 inspections in practice. These home owners are not well off, and inspections everywhere are getting valuations of £0, serious delays and uncertainty. Will the Minister speak to lenders about resolving this issue? Would he also accept that a bill of £50 a month is unaffordable for those in shared ownership, given that the reason they are in these properties in the first place is that they are not able to afford a home otherwise?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, we have spoken to lenders and there were positive statements by Barclays and the chief executive of Nationwide in the announcements. They welcomed this and recognised that the additional £3.5 billion helps to provide certainty, admittedly in high rises. The financing scheme remains open to all, both social sector and private sector leaseholders, to ensure that they would not have to pay more than £50 a month towards the remediation of unsafe cladding. In the round, the announcements we have made will give confidence to the market to be more sensible on valuation in future, I hope.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con) [V]
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My Lords, this Statement is welcome as an important contribution to the absolute priority of safety in our housing stock and building back better. Will my noble friend consider expanding the remit of the building safety regulator to whom he has just referred to take into consideration the need to continue to upgrade the least efficient social housing stock, reduce carbon emissions and bills, tackle fuel poverty and save the budget to help 600,000 households reduce carbon emissions by subsidising the costs of energy efficiency? All these have an impact on safety.

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for raising the issue of how we can ensure that we achieve our zero-carbon commitment. The building safety regulator has oversight of building control bodies and monitors their performance. We hope that oversight will improve the efficacy of building regulations across the board. I point out that climate change mitigation and adaptation are intrinsic components of building regulations and will remain so.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, some people need a different kind of safety guarantee. Will the Minister condemn recent death threats, including a petrol can left next to a property belonging to a Romany Gypsy mother of two going through cancer treatment and in the process of applying for planning permission for new housing?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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I will join the noble Baroness in condemning all such abhorrent incidences of hate crime. Hate crimes like that are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated under any circumstances. My department has been informed that both the local authority and local police are dealing with the incident. As the police are investigating the specific matter she raised, it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further at this point. I am sure that she will understand that, as I would not want to prejudice their work.

Sitting suspended.