Debates between James Brokenshire and John Healey

There have been 17 exchanges between James Brokenshire and John Healey

1 Mon 22nd July 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
7 interactions (642 words)
2 Mon 17th June 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (470 words)
3 Mon 10th June 2019 Grenfell: Government Response
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,727 words)
4 Thu 9th May 2019 Buildings with ACM Cladding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,227 words)
5 Mon 8th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (373 words)
6 Mon 4th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (388 words)
7 Mon 28th January 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (478 words)
8 Mon 10th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
6 interactions (546 words)
9 Mon 5th November 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (486 words)
10 Mon 23rd July 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (323 words)
11 Mon 18th June 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (556 words)
12 Mon 11th June 2018 Grenfell Tower
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,454 words)
13 Mon 21st May 2018 Tower Block Cladding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (1,190 words)
14 Thu 17th May 2018 Building Regulations and Fire Safety
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (2,089 words)
15 Wed 16th May 2018 Grenfell Tower
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (819 words)
16 Tue 15th May 2018 Housing and Homes
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (796 words)
17 Mon 30th April 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (543 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 22nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:42 p.m.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) for his private Member’s Bill setting out the steps that are needed to bring the leasehold market into an appropriate space. He will have heard what I said about bringing ground rents down to zero. We have given that commitment, and the right thing is that we move forward with our proposed legislation. I am sure that, with his ingenuity, he will be able to scrutinise it and, no doubt, come up with further proposals to ensure that legislation is effective.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:43 p.m.

This session may be the swan song of the Secretary of State and his team. We certainly hope not, and we wish them all well in the Tory turmoil to come.

Break in Debate

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard

Indeed.

The CMA’s inquiry is certainly welcome, but it is action by Ministers that homebuyers ripped off in the leasehold system need most. The Secretary of State’s predecessor said in 2017 that the Government would stop new leasehold houses, but nearly 3,500 were sold last year. The Secretary of State himself said a year ago that he would end the use of Help to Buy for new leasehold houses, but he had to admit to me afterwards that that will not happen until 2021.

As the Secretary of State reflects on his time in this job, will he concede that any Government action has been too slow and too weak and has totally overlooked the needs of current leaseholders locked into unfair contracts?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:44 p.m.

No, I do not accept that. I direct the right hon. Gentleman to the action that has been taken and the fall that has been seen: the proportion of new build leasehold houses has fallen from 11% in quarter 4 of 2017 to 2% in quarter 4 of 2018, which was the lowest quarter so far for leasehold houses in the Help to Buy equity loan scheme. The right hon. Gentleman issues a challenge on the existing Help to Buy scheme; he will have noted that I have asked Homes England to look into how we can renegotiate some of those contracts, because I was clear that there should be no new Government funding for schemes that promote leasehold, and that remains a firm commitment. Equally, we are taking action on the scheme now to confront some of the abuses that there are.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Hansard
22 Jul 2019, 2:46 p.m.

Well, lots of warm words and fresh reviews, but no action. There have been 19 Government announcements on leaseholds in the 15 months that the right hon. Gentleman has been Secretary of State, but there is still no sign of change for current leaseholders, or of the legislation to make it happen. Is not the hard truth that Conservatives cannot help leaseholders because they will not stand up to the vested interests in the property market? Do not homeowners who are looking for justice and radical, common-sense changes have to look to Labour to set a simple formula for people to buy their own freehold; to crack down on unfair fees and give homeowners the right to challenge high costs or poor performance from management companies; and to put an end, finally, to the broken leasehold system?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman has not been looking at the practical steps we have taken and, indeed, the performance that we have seen. Perhaps that is because of the turmoil in his own party—there has been plenty on the Opposition Benches. I direct the House to the steps that have been taken, the commitments that have been made and the effect that all that is now having. We are championing the cause of leaseholders and confronting some of the really unfair practices. We are seeing the effect that that is having as a result of the steps we have taken, rather than the hyperbole from the Opposition and the continuing turmoil that we see among them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 17th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

About £9 billion is being spent on the affordable homes programme, and half of that is going to London. I hope that the hon. Lady will join me in encouraging the Mayor of London to focus on the delivery of housing of all types for all people, and to ensure that there is that bright prospect in London as well as the rest of the country.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:37 p.m.

After nine years of Conservative government, why are nearly 900,000 fewer people under 45 able to own their own home?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:38 p.m.

It is interesting that the right hon. Gentleman should make that point. He may recall saying in the past that falling home ownership was not “such a bad thing”. I should have thought that he would support the increase in delivery that I have mentioned, and, indeed, the fact that the number of first-time buyers is at an 11-year high.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Is not the truth that the Government have been failing young people on housing for nine years? One in five of those on the Help to Buy scheme are not even first-time buyers, the average age of those on the right to buy scheme is over 50, and not a single one of the new starter homes that were pledged in 2014 has yet been built. Where is the new hope, and where are the new housing plans, from the wannabe Tory leaders?

Is it not clear, after nine years of Conservative government, eight Housing Ministers and four Secretaries of State, that the Conservatives still have no plan to fix the housing crisis, and is it not clear that the only hope for young people with regular incomes is a Labour Government with radical plans for discounted First Buy homes, first dibs for local people on new homes, and a programme for the building of a million new affordable homes both to rent and to buy?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 Jun 2019, 2:39 p.m.

I wondered, given the right hon. Gentleman’s peroration, whether he was building up to Christmas, but I can say to him that a Labour Government are absolutely not that gift, because if we look at Labour’s record in office we see house building fall to levels not seen since the 1920s. I would underline to him the work this Government have done: last year there were 222,000 new dwellings; only in one year in the last 31 have we seen a higher number. So it is a bit rich of the right hon. Gentleman to make those points when, for example, Labour has opposed and voted against our stamp duty cut for first time buyers, which is absolutely about making the difference for young buyers. The Labour party opposed that measure, which underlines that it is the Conservative party that has the ideas, the innovation and the energy, whereas the Labour party, frankly, offers none of that at all.

Grenfell: Government Response

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 10th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 4:36 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the Government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire. I am also writing to the Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), to provide a formal report on progress, a copy of which will be placed in the Library.

First, I will take a brief moment to thank all those who responded to yesterday’s serious fire in Barking, east London. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham provided emergency accommodation for those residents who needed it, and we will continue to work with the council to ensure that residents receive the support they need at this most difficult time.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, I have asked the Building Research Establishment to investigate the fire, working with the London fire brigade. I have also asked the independent expert panel on wider fire safety issues to provide urgent advice to the Government. We will take account of the findings of the investigation and of the panel’s advice in our further work on reviewing the fire safety guidance. The local authority and the building owners are reviewing fire safety for the rest of the development. I remain in close contact with the London fire brigade, and I will be visiting the community later today.

As we mark two years since the devastating events of 14 June, I know the whole House will join me in remembrance and solidarity with the people of north Kensington. I want them to know that this House is behind them in honouring the loved ones they lost, in helping those left behind to heal and rebuild their lives and in our determination to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.

The unprecedented disaster has been met with an unprecedented response across the Government, our public services, local government and the voluntary sector. I am hugely thankful to everyone involved, especially our emergency services and the public and voluntary sectors. In total, we have spent over £46 million of national Government funds and committed a further £55 million to help meet rehousing costs, to reimburse the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for the Grenfell site management costs, to deliver new health and wellbeing services and to deliver improvements to the Lancaster West estate.

Over £27.8 million of the nearly £29 million raised through the generosity of the British public has also now been distributed, thanks to the Charity Commission. Those affected are also getting vital support from the NHS, with a further £50 million committed over the next five years to address long-term physical and mental health needs. To date, nearly 8,000 health screenings have been completed, including for more than 900 children, with more than 2,700 individuals, including more than 600 children, receiving or having received treatment for trauma.

We are determined to make sure those affected remain at the heart of the response to this tragedy, which is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) continues to meet families regularly, in his role as the Grenfell victims Minister. It is why the Prime Minister recently appointed two new panel members for phase 2 of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry, to make sure it has the necessary diversity of skills and experience. And it is why the community will be pivotal to decisions about the long-term future of the site, as the Government take ownership of this, to ensure that sensitivities are respected and that they are fully engaged in additional environmental checks, after concerns were raised. Testing has started, to assess any health risk, and we will ensure that all appropriate action is taken.

Clearly, one of our biggest priorities has been rehousing the 201 households who lost their homes, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea acquiring more than 300 homes to meet their needs and provide choice. I am pleased that all 201 households have accepted permanent or temporary homes, with 184 households in permanent accommodation and 14 in good-quality temporary homes. That represents significant progress since last year, but I am concerned that three households remain in emergency accommodation, including one in a hotel. I asked the independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, which was set up to ensure that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea better supported residents and rebuilds trust, to look into this, and I have been assured that the council is taking an appropriate and sensitive approach, given the complex needs of those households, to find the right long-term solution for each of them.

A new home is undoubtedly an important step on the road to recovery, and it is vital that this is reinforced by long-term support, such as the recovery services co-designed by the council, in partnership with the community and local health partners. It is essential that we build on this collaboration, with the council listening and the community being heard. That is fundamental to laying the foundations for a new and stronger partnership between residents and those who serve them.

Central to this relationship, and indeed to so much of the work flowing from the fire, is the need to rebuild trust. Above all, that means ensuring that people are safe and feel safe in their homes. With that in mind, right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that we launched a consultation last week on proposals to implement meaningful reform to our building and fire safety regulatory systems, following the independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt, to provide a clear focus on responsibility and accountability and to give residents a stronger voice to achieve the enduring change that is needed.

Alongside that, the Government also launched a call for evidence on the fire safety order to determine what changes may be required to strengthen it. This follows the recent launch of a new fund to expedite the remediation of buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material cladding in the private sector and protect leaseholders, adding up to a £600 million commitment from the Government to make the buildings of both the private and social sectors safe.

This builds on other significant measures we have undertaken, such as a ban on combustible cladding, a review of the building regulations fire safety guidance—or Approved Document B—and tests on non-ACM materials, to not only keep people safe now, but to fundamentally transform the way we build in the future, through legislation, yes, but, more crucially, through a change in culture. But I know that we must continue to challenge on what more needs to be done.

People living in buildings like Grenfell Tower need to trust that there can be no repeat of what happened that night—to trust that the state understands their lives and is working for them. That is why the social housing Green Paper, published last year, and the new deal it sets out for people living in social housing matter so much. My thanks go to the many residents who have engaged with us on this for their invaluable contribution. We are assessing the consultation responses and finalising our response. The deal it proposes aims to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords, to address stigma and to ensure that homes are safe and decent. In addition to our drive, backed by billions, to boost the supply of social housing, the deal promises to renew our commitment to people in social housing, ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live, has the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life.

Ultimately, that is our hope for the bereaved and survivors and for the strong, proud people of north Kensington, who have shown us the power of community. They and we will never, ever forget those who died in the most horrific circumstances. I know that the pain of loss continues as they wait for answers and to see justice done, as the police investigation and public inquiry continue their important work, but they should know that they are not alone: the Government, this House and, indeed, our whole country will always have a stake in the future of Grenfell, and I have every faith that this remarkable community, working in partnership, will move forward, rebuild and emerge even stronger. I commend this statement to the House.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 4:47 p.m.

I thank the Secretary of State for the advance copy of his statement. At the start of this, the week of the second anniversary of that truly terrible Grenfell Tower fire, above all else we remember the 72 men, women and children who lost their lives, and we rededicate ourselves to doing everything needed to ensure that such a fire can never happen again.

The Grenfell survivors and families who are with us today will draw little comfort or confidence from the Secretary of State’s update statement. He made no new announcement and offered no new action. Earlier, he and I both spoke at the two-year Grenfell memorial event, with you, Mr Speaker, in Speaker’s House. Those survivors from Grenfell United who are still campaigning for change told us today:

“We shouldn’t be here; we should be at home, rebuilding our lives”.

They said that in two years:

“Little has changed and justice still seems so far off”.

There has been over these two long years some progress, which we welcome and for which individual Members and Ministers, including the Secretary of State, deserve some credit, but a national disaster on the scale of Grenfell Tower requires a national response on the same scale from the Government. That has not happened.

Ministers have been frozen like rabbits in the headlights. Their action has been too slow and too weak on every front. There has been the failure to rehouse survivors, despite the promise that every victim of the fire would have a new permanent home within one year. There has been a failure to give justice to the Grenfell community: despite the first phase of the public inquiry first having been due to report at Easter last year, it has still not been published. There has been a failure to re-clad other dangerous high-rise blocks: despite 176 private blocks having been confirmed to have the same Grenfell-style ACM cladding, nine out of 10 have still not had it removed and replaced, and more than 70 of the block owners do not even have a plan to do the work. There also has been a failure to identify unsafe non-ACM cladding, despite the Government’s testing contract having set a completion deadline of November 2018. There has been a failure to overhaul building safety legislation, despite the final report of the Hackitt review having been published in May 2018.

Yesterday, there was the fire at Barking, where early reports point to serious problems: as at Grenfell, the De Pass Gardens residents raised safety concerns and were ignored; wood cladding was untreated for fire safety because the developer was not required to treat it; and the local council did not have the necessary powers to act to deal with this private development.

Will the Secretary of State now take up the five-point plan that Labour has published today to force the pace? If he does, he will have our full backing for such action. Will he name and shame the owners of blocks with dangerous cladding? Will he set a December deadline for the block owners to get work done? Will he update the sanctions available to councils under the Housing Act 2004 to include fines, followed by the takeover of blocks that still have dangerous cladding? Will he widen the Government’s testing regime to run full tests on all suspect non-ACM cladding? Will he bring in the long overdue overhaul of building safety legislation?

Finally, will the Secretary of State accept that only such tough action—only such far-reaching changes—will provide the proper legacy for those who perished at Grenfell Tower and that only such action and such changes will allow us all finally to say, with confidence, this can never happen again in our country?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Jun 2019, 4:50 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his contribution and for the important points he has made to the House this afternoon. Indeed, Mr Speaker, may I also thank you for allowing your State Rooms to be used this lunchtime to enable survivors, the bereaved and others to come together to share their very powerful and important experiences and to underline to us very clearly why this matters so much and why we must be resolute in the actions that we take?

The right hon. Gentleman also highlighted the work of so many who have campaigned on this matter. We note today the role of Grenfell United, and I appreciate and recognise the huge contribution that it has made. He is right to say that, no, its representatives should not be here. I commend them for the challenge and the very effective way in which they have underlined the needs of their community. I will certainly continue to work with them and bring about the change that I think is needed.

The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of important points. On rehousing, we remain deeply concerned about the three individuals—the three households—who are still in emergency accommodation. I can underline the fact that each household has a property reserved for it. Sensitivity is needed in undertaking this work, but we will continue to support and to challenge until all residents have a long-term home in place, because that is what matters to all of us, which is why the taskforce continues to challenge and to support us to ensure that that happens.

The right hon. Gentleman highlighted the issue of the remediation of ACM cladding as well. He will know well the frustration that I have had with the private sector, which has not done the job that it should have done. Some responsibility can be placed very firmly there, which is why we have provided an additional £200 million for the very purpose of speeding up the process so that blocks are remediated and made safe. Progress is certainly being made. If we look at the remediation in the social sector, we can see that good progress has been made there. At the end of April, remediation had started or been completed on 87% of the 158 social-sector buildings, with plans in place for the remainder. We are obviously seeing some progress in relation to the private sector.

The right hon. Gentleman highlighted the issue of local authorities and their need to see that enforcement is in place. I agree with him. That is why we are backing local authorities to take enforcement action where building owners are refusing to remediate high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding. This will include financial support, where that is necessary, for the local authority to carry out emergency remedial works. Where emergency financial support is made available, the relevant local authority will recover the costs from the building owner. Of course, we want to see this work completed as rapidly as possible, and I understand his desire to see some form of hard stop—some sort of certainty in relation to this. I say to him that some of the required work is extensive and complicated, and, indeed, that other issues, or other areas of work, may be highlighted in respect of individual buildings, but it is right that we continue to press on and take action.

Let me underline the actions that we have taken. We launched a consultation last week on proposals to implement meaningful reform to our building safety and fire regulatory systems following the independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt, with the intent to bring forward legislation later this year, in the next Session. We want to get this reform on to the statute book and make it happen. We have taken steps with the ban on combustible cladding. We have taken steps to see that action is advanced and that buildings are made safe, and, indeed, we have taken steps with the remediation programme that is in place. Yes, there is absolutely more work to be done, and I do not shrink from that. I do not shrink from the challenge presented by the right hon. Gentleman or others across the House. I assure him and the community of our resolute determination to make that change so that people can feel—and are—safe, and to provide that lasting legacy to all those who died in the fire.

Buildings with ACM Cladding

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Thursday 9th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 May 2019, 12:03 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the remediation of private sector residential buildings with aluminium composite material cladding.

In the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, the Government acted urgently to address the serious fire and public safety risks exposed by the tragedy. Throughout, the safety of residents has remained our priority. We have from the outset sought expert advice, which together with our own testing programme has highlighted the unparalleled fire risk posed by ACM cladding of the type believed to be present on Grenfell Tower. The Government are clear that the type of ACM cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower, and present on hundreds of other high-rise buildings, is not safe. This type of ACM is exceptional owing to the high risk it poses as an accelerant of fire. It did not comply with building regulations and should never have been put up.

For many years, building regulations have included a requirement that exterior walls be constructed to resist the spread of fire. Since the Grenfell tragedy, we have taken action to put that beyond doubt. We have amended the law to explicitly ban combustible materials from use in the exterior walls of all high-rise residential buildings, as well as in hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools, and student accommodation over 18 metres. That ban applies to all new buildings in these categories and to those buildings when major works to the exterior walls take place. The long-standing requirement that exterior walls should adequately resist the spread of fire continues to apply to all other high-rise buildings, including commercial buildings, being developed or undergoing major works to exterior walls.

With the support of local authorities and fire and rescue services, we have identified a total of 433 high-rise residential and other buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. All these buildings have been assessed by fire and rescue services and interim safety measures are in place where necessary, and these measures are kept under review by fire and rescue services, but we recognise that residents will have true peace of mind only when unsafe cladding has been removed and replaced with safe materials. In those buildings owned by local authorities and housing associations, we are making strong progress. We have made £400 million available to pay for the remediation of ACM cladding, and remediation has started or been completed in 87% of social sector buildings, with plans and commitments in place to remediate all remaining buildings.

We have also seen some progress in the private sector. Some building owners have acted swiftly and responsibly to put plans in place for full remediation of the cladding on their buildings and committed to protecting leaseholders from bearing the costs. This progress has been supported by the work of a remediation taskforce chaired by Ministers. In addition, where necessary, the Government are supporting local authorities to use their enforcement powers to ensure that building owners take the required action.

That said, too many building owners have failed to take responsibility. Many building owners have been too slow to co-operate to enable the prompt identification of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding and have since dragged their feet in planning for remediation. The result is that, almost two years on from the Grenfell tragedy, an unacceptable number of residents are still living in buildings that, while benefitting from additional safety measures in the interim, will not be remediated fully within an acceptable timescale.

Moreover, many leaseholders face unfair, and often substantial, costs. The Government believe this to be completely unacceptable. Leaseholders find themselves in this position through no fault of their own, and this is not morally defensible. The Housing Minister, my officials and I have all met residents affected by these issues and heard their personal concerns. We all appreciate their anguish and we pay tribute to their resilience and strength. I also want to acknowledge the continued work of Grenfell United, the UK Cladding Action Group and others. Many people told us they lived in constant fear—fear for the safety of their home; fear of the possibility of having to find tens of thousands of pounds for remediation; fear that they could no longer sell their properties and may have to forfeit them if costs are not met.

Where building owners have failed to step up, it is now imperative that the Government act. We must ensure the long-term safety of the people living in these buildings. The Government are therefore announcing today a new fund to unblock progress in remediating private sector high-rise residential buildings. First and foremost, this fund is about public safety. It will allow remediation to happen quickly, restore peace of mind and allow residents living in these blocks to get on with their lives. It will also protect leaseholders from bearing the cost. Building owners or those responsible for fire safety should prioritise getting on with the work necessary to make their buildings permanently safe. The new fund, which is estimated at £200 million, will cover the full cost of remediating the unsafe ACM cladding systems in privately owned high-rise residential buildings. This funding is being provided entirely for the benefit of the leaseholders in the buildings.

Important reforms of leasehold and implementing the Hackitt review’s recommendations on the safety of high-rise residential buildings are already in train. I will update the House on implementation in the coming weeks. When the new system is in place, it will help to prevent leaseholders from being confronted with unaffordable one-off charges.

Several developers and freeholders have already agreed to fund the costs of remediation and not to pass them on to leaseholders. Many of them have already agreed to maintain their commitment. The owners or developers who have made those commitments include Taylor Wimpey, Legal & General, Mace Group, Lendlease, Barratt Developments and Aberdeen Standard Investments. I commend them for the responsible and moral position that they have taken.

The fund does not absolve industry from taking responsibility for the failures that led to the ACM being wrongly put on buildings. As a condition of funding, we will stipulate that building owners must pursue warranty and insurance claims and any appropriate action against those responsible for putting unsafe cladding on the buildings, with moneys to be repaid to the Government.

We will write to all potential fund applicants by the end of next week to start engaging them in preparation for formal applications. We will also make funding conditional on the building owner or responsible person agreeing a contract to start remediation works within a set period. We will provide further details on the application process; I urge those who intend to apply to start developing ACM remediation proposals and costings so that applications can be made and processed promptly.

Everyone has a right to feel safe in their home. We want to see building owners acting to ensure that unsafe ACM is replaced without delay. That is why we are taking this exceptional step today. I commend this statement to the House.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 May 2019, 12:15 p.m.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. His announcement is welcome and needed; most important, it should start to relieve the worry of the thousands of people who live day and night in a high-rise block that they know is unsafe. But why on earth have they had to wait for nearly two years? For two years they have had their lives on hold. How long will the thousands more who live in tower blocks with suspect non-ACM cladding have to wait for Government action?

Like the Secretary of State, I pay tribute to those who, with Labour, have campaigned hard for the Government to act: Grenfell United, the UK Cladding Action Group, the Manchester Cladiators, Inside Housing and hon. Members on both sides of the House. But after the solemn pledges made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers in the aftermath of the terrible Grenfell Tower fire, who would have thought that nearly two years later there would still be Grenfell residents in hotels and temporary accommodation, not permanent homes; that Grenfell-type cladding would still not have been replaced in almost eight in 10 blocks; that in over half of them, no work would have started at all; and that no comprehensive testing programme would have been done on the estimated 1,700 high-rise or high-risk buildings with dangerous non-ACM cladding? The Secretary of State says that the Government acted urgently. The sorry truth is that in the face of these post-Grenfell problems, the Government have been frozen like a rabbit in the headlights—too weak and too slow to act at every stage and on every front.

On the detail of the Secretary of State’s announcement, is the £200 million new money from the Treasury to his Department, or will it be taken from other housing programmes? Is the fund simply a bail-out for block owners and developers who will not do their duty to replace dangerous cladding? How will he ensure that they pursue liability claims and repay the public purse? Will he consider emergency legislation to make block owners actually do this work and pay for it?

Is the fund enough? Per block, it seems to be only half the funding announced last year for the social sector. The Secretary of State says that the fund will cover the costs for 170 privately owned blocks that have Grenfell-style ACM cladding. Will he fund the costs for other blocks that are found to have similarly dangerous non-ACM cladding?

I have to tell the Secretary of State that warm words and fresh funding will mean very little to worried residents unless they know that the dangerous cladding on all blocks will be removed and replaced, and that as leaseholders they will not pick up the bill. Will he now set a hard deadline for that work, so that every block and every resident can be made safe?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 May 2019, 12:19 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support for our announcement. It is right that the Government have acted, but I underline the fact that the primary responsibility rests and rested with the building owners and with those responsible. We have now stepped in because of the failures we have seen in the private sector, although we acknowledge and recognise the many building owners and developers who have done the right thing by stepping up and agreeing to provide or maintain funding to address the need for remediation.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about urgency and timing. We did act with urgency in terms of the advice given. Indeed, I indicated in my statement the challenges in identifying some of the blocks affected and the work that was done at pace with local authorities. In some cases, local authorities had to take enforcement action to enable us to survey and identify those buildings, working with the relevant fire authorities, to which I pay tribute for their analysis and advice, and with the expert panel that was set up to advise Ministers.

The right hon. Gentleman asked several questions about the nature and manner of my announcement. One question was about non-ACM cladding systems. He will know that a testing programme is under way to assess non-ACM systems. That work is already happening. Advice was provided by the expert panel in December 2017 and updated in December 2018. That has been the focus, but clearly we will act on information and evidence provided as a consequence of the further testing programme. However, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to be careful not to prejudge the outcome or the results that we expect in the weeks ahead.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about funding. We intend to manage funding for the policy through our existing significant programme budgets. To put that in context, if the full amount were used, it would represent something like 3% of this year’s financial programming. We will keep the House updated through the supplementary estimate. The size of the new fund is informed by the public sector fund’s utilisation and drawdown, by the financial support that has been provided by some of the developers and builders, and by the insurance that has been activated for a number of the buildings.

With respect to the follow-through, clearly we want action to be taken to continue with liability claims. That process will be managed as we work with each of the building owners. As I indicated, we intend to start the process by the end of next week, by writing to the owners of the buildings that have been identified based on the information that we have.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked about legislation. We have supported local authorities in their enforcement activity through the joint inspection team. We remain ready, willing and able to support local authorities in the enforcement activity that they may determine to be necessary, and we are clarifying rules, regulations and guidance to assist them in that regard.

Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, however, that I am very clear about the fact that the current regulatory regime needs further significant change. That is why the Hackitt review was undertaken in the first place. In her report, Dame Judith Hackitt presented a very stark picture of the need for responsibility, for tougher sanctions and, indeed, for different regulatory arrangements. I propose to update the House on next steps in the coming weeks, because I hear that message very clearly, and I intend to act.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 8th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:45 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about viability assessments, which we addressed through the national planning policy framework—effectively the high-level planning guidebook —to provide greater certainty for councils and developers. Such assessments can slow the delivery of housing, which is why we took steps within the NPPF.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:45 p.m.

Two years ago, the Prime Minister at long last admitted that

“we simply have not given enough attention to social housing”.—[Official Report, 22 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 169.]

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, since the Prime Minister’s admission, his Government have recorded the two worst years for social house building in the 74 years since the second world war?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:45 p.m.

What I can confirm is that we have delivered more affordable homes over the past eight years of this Government when compared with the last eight years of the previous Labour Government. Indeed, 407,000 affordable homes have been delivered since 2010, which is 40,000 more than the comparable period under the previous Labour Government.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:46 p.m.

What the Secretary of State is doing is not working, which is why we have a housing crisis. One thing that he did not confirm is the hard fact that social house building has hit a record low under this Government’s watch. He told me recently that he has committed to funding only 12,500 new social rented homes over the six years to 2022, which will not even replace the homes lost through sales in the last year alone. This Government are failing on all fronts; we have a crisis with Brexit and a crisis with housing. When will the Government get serious about building the social rented homes that this country needs?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Apr 2019, 2:47 p.m.

I can say categorically that this Government are serious about building the homes our country needs. Indeed, that is we why we have committed funding to housing associations and given councils the flexibility to borrow to build. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman when he seeks to compare this Government’s ambition with that of the previous Labour Government. This Government have lifted the cap on council borrowing, and the number of local authority dwellings built under eight years of a Conservative-led Government is over four times the number built under the 13 years of the Labour Government.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 3:24 p.m.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

One year on from the Salisbury poisoning, we stand with the people and the city, and we applaud their resilience. The other message from Labour is also clear: such foreign aggression on our soil will never be tolerated.

Four weeks to Brexit, yet the Secretary of State is part of a Government who still threaten the country with a final collapse in negotiations and a crash-out exit. He may say that a no-deal Brexit is not his preference, but he supports this remaining an option and he is part of a Cabinet preparing for it. How many fewer homes will be built each year in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 3:25 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman should be more positive as to the future for our country. Indeed, we look to secure a deal that can command support from this House to ensure that our country—our United Kingdom—can look proudly to the future. Rather than talking things down, we should be talking up what we can do as a country—and, yes, securing a deal that takes us out positively and that ensures that we have that bright, positive future.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Mar 2019, 3:26 p.m.

Well, the Secretary of State has either not done the analysis or he refuses to share it. The Bank of England says that house prices could plunge by 30% on a no-deal Brexit—almost double the fall after the global banking crisis. A Labour Government kept Britain in business after that global financial crash with a big stimulus programme and a new low-cost house building programme as its centrepiece. If he still cannot say no to no deal, will he commit to a new stimulus of at least £4 billion for new low-cost homes next year so that, come what may, those who need new homes will not pay the price of this Government’s mess of Brexit?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

That is interesting. The right hon. Gentleman might reflect on the mess that his Government caused in terms of crashing the economy. We have a £9 billion affordable homes programme, and £2 billion beyond that in terms of long-term investment in affordable homes, as well as the new flexibilities and freedoms that councils will have to borrow to build. This is about that focus on building the homes our country needs and the support that this Government are giving to achieve that.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 28th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 2:39 p.m.

I commend my hon. Friend and his council for the work they are doing to build the homes that our country needs. Of course it is about the supply of affordable and social housing, which is why we are taking steps across the board to get people building.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 2:39 p.m.

Last year, nearly 600 people died homeless in this country. The Secretary of State was right to admit, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill), that this is truly shocking. In a country as decent and well off as ours, this shames us all. We cannot stop homeless people dying if we do not grasp the reasons why it is getting worse, so why does the Secretary of State think that the number has risen in the last five years?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 2:39 p.m.

I share the right hon. Gentleman’s understandable and rightful concern about the number who were shown to have died and the increase in rough sleeping. I have certainly not hidden from that or from the challenges and responsibilities that we have as a Government to look at the complex issues that lie behind this. We also need to look at what we can do in terms of other issues, such as social policy, where changes have been made, and to look at the evidence, to ensure that we are making a difference and eradicating rough sleeping, preventing people from becoming homeless and ensuring that the most vulnerable are well supported.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 2:39 p.m.

The Secretary of State is a decent man, but that was an answer of sheer irrelevance. People are dying on the streets, and the Government are ducking the hard truth that their decisions on hostel funding, on housing benefit, on social housing investment and on protections for private renters are the root causes of the homelessness crisis. With the first widespread winter snow forecast this week, there are still areas of this country where no extra emergency accommodation will be available. Will the Secretary of State think again? Will he save lives this winter and make Labour’s plan the country’s national plan, with £100 million for extra emergency accommodation for every rough sleeper in every area as the temperatures are set to hit zero?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

I take the issue of rough sleeping, ensuring that lives are saved and that steps can be taken to provide further accommodation and support, extremely seriously. It is one of my priorities. It is why the rough sleeping strategy looks not only at accommodation, which of course is important, and we have taken steps through our rough sleeping initiative, with additional accommodation and additional support workers out there as a consequence, but at issues of health, addiction and mental health. That is why I am determined to make that difference; and our rough sleeping strategy will make that difference and will make rough sleeping a thing of the past.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 10th December 2018

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:37 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I recognise the concerted work and effort that is going on to deliver homes and infrastructure through the local plan in his area. He rightly says that combined authorities with strategic planning powers will be able to introduce a strategic infrastructure tariff, but charging authorities can already pool their community infrastructure levy receipts to fund infrastructure jointly. We are updating the guidance to make that clearer, but I would be happy to continue that discussion with him.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:36 p.m.

In the midst of today’s political chaos, I wonder whether it is worth questioning the Secretary of State at all, as Cabinet members do not seem to be told what Government policy really is. Just as this Government are failing on Brexit, they are failing other big tests, such as taking on vested land interests and fixing the housing crisis. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), the Select Committee Chair, has just said, the Secretary of State’s own figures show that the price of land can soar hundredfold when planning permission is granted. That profiteering by landowners and agents pushes up the cost of the homes we buy and the rents we pay, and it blocks building the new low-cost homes we need on a big scale. After nearly nine years in government, why has the Secretary of State not put a stop to this?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

It is a bit rich for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about policy, given that his own side has very little policy to show at all on a range of issues. He asks a fair question about building the homes that our country needs, which is why it is right to highlight to the House the 222,000 additional dwellings in the past year. That is profoundly about not only building the homes our country needs, but about ensuring that we are looking at viability and getting these issues of land value capture addressed—

Break in Debate

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:40 p.m.

The Secretary of State tells us to wait till next year, but he may not be in government next year. In truth, this is a Government who delay and duck the big decisions on housing because they are too dysfunctional and too divided, just as they are on Brexit. His own Members know that their policy is failing and want action taken on land costs, so will he change the law so that the Government can work with councils to compulsorily purchase land without paying for landowner speculation, then use the savings to cut the costs for first-time buyers and renters? Even if the Secretary of State cannot get the backing of the House for his Brexit deal, he would get it for a radical plan to make the land market work for the benefit of the many, and not the few.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
10 Dec 2018, 2:41 p.m.

Our policies are not about the many, not about the few; they are for everyone in terms of delivering on our housing agenda. Yes, we will consult on the new draft amended community infrastructure regulations, and I look forward to having the debate on them. It is this Government who are taking action to build the homes that our country needs. We will certainly take no lessons from the other side.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 5th November 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:41 p.m.

As my hon. Friend will know, we are consulting on the implementation of a ban on inappropriate leaseholds on homes, which are the core of what we are discussing. Legislation will come forward once we have seen the responses to our technical consultation, and there will obviously be plenty of opportunity for colleagues to debate the matter further.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:41 p.m.

I start by formally echoing the Secretary of State’s comments about Sir Jeremy Heywood. Many of us were privileged to work with Sir Jeremy, and he was an exceptional civil servant who gave outstanding service to this country. Our deep sympathies are with his wife and family at this time.

As we have heard, many of us have constituents who bought their home but then found that they do not own it and feel ripped off by unfair leasehold contracts. When we hear, repeatedly, that leasehold buyers did not choose their own solicitor, were wrongly told that they could buy their freehold cheaply at any time, or found out later that they had to ask and pay freeholders for permission to own a pet, change their carpets or build a conservatory, the individual cases add up to something bigger. The Government must act, just as with other mis-selling scandals, such as on pensions, mortgages or payment protection insurance. Will the Secretary of State today back an inquiry into this systematic mis-selling to leaseholders?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
5 Nov 2018, 2:42 p.m.

I recognise and appreciate the right hon. Gentleman’s comments about Sir Jeremy Heywood. I know that that message will have been heard throughout the House.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s investigation into leasehold is live, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the seriousness with which we take the issues that he and others have flagged, and the troubling matters that pertain to some of the practices within the leasehold market. That is why I am taking action.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard

It is not the Select Committee’s action that counts, but the Government’s action, which has been too weak and too slow and, critically, largely overlooks the plight of existing leaseholders. An industry survey shows that six in 10 leaseholders did not even know what being a leaseholder meant until after they had bought, and that nine in 10 regret having bought a leasehold at all. Those are classic signs of mis-selling—it is a national scandal. I will give the Secretary of State another chance: when will he stand up for leaseholders and launch an inquiry into mis-selling?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard

Nobody is ignoring the issue. That is not only why we are legislating to address the inappropriate use of leasehold for new homes, but why I have underlined today the requests that I have made of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority. We recognise that there are serious issues, which is why we are taking action. We want to ensure that leaseholders’ concerns are heard and fully understood, and that redress can be provided.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 23rd July 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Jul 2018, 2:42 p.m.

As my hon. Friend will know, the Government have provided a £5 billion housing infrastructure fund to ensure that more homes mean better, not more stretched, local infrastructure. The draft national planning policy framework does make it clear that local authorities should ensure that the necessary infrastructure supports developments that they approve.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Hansard
23 Jul 2018, 2:43 p.m.

So many people’s dream of buying their own home has been dashed, yet the number of new low-cost homes built for first-time buyers has halved since 2010. Why?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
23 Jul 2018, 2:43 p.m.

I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are dealing with what has been a broken housing market—something that has existed over many years, with that lack of investment—which is why this Government are committed to investing £44 billion on the home building agenda in the coming years. That is about transforming life chances, and actually delivering the homes that our country needs and such opportunities for generations to come.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard

This Government have had more than eight years to do the job, and what they are doing is not working. Home ownership rose under Labour, but has now hit a 30-year low under the Conservatives. We cannot just stoke prices with tax cuts and home-buy loans; we need to build more low-cost homes to make home ownership more affordable. More than three years on from the Government promising 200,000 cut-price starter homes, why is the total number so far built zero?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Jul 2018, 2:44 p.m.

Last year, we saw the homes that are being delivered at a high, and that has not been any greater, other than in one year, over the last 30 years. The right hon. Gentleman glosses over Labour’s record, but what did we see when Labour was in power? House building—down by 45%. Homes bought and sold—down by 40%. Social housing—down by 400,000. However, there was one thing that kept going up: the number of people on the social housing waiting list. It is this Government who are determined to deliver.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 18th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2018, 2:42 p.m.

I am sure that we were all horrified to see the terrible fire at the Glasgow School of Art. We should think about what that iconic building has meant to so many people over the years. The hon. Lady highlights the issue of sprinklers. May I be clear on that: for existing buildings, it is for the building owner to decide whether to fit sprinklers retrospectively, as part of a fire safety strategy? Obviously, it is for building owners to make those determinations, but, clearly, it can be an effective safety measure, as part of an overarching strategy.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2018, 2:42 p.m.

Mr Speaker, you and I and other Members of the House were privileged to be part of the Grenfell silent walk with survivors and supporters last Thursday. They, like this House, want Ministers to take every action necessary to prevent such a fire ever happening again, yet, since Grenfell, 1,319 suspect cladding samples sent to the Government’s testing centre have been refused testing, as Ministers say that they will only test the aluminium composite material the Minister spoke of earlier. Why?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2018, 2:43 p.m.

I will happily look into what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The Building Research Establishment’s focus has obviously been on the ACM material that has been at the forefront of concerns to ensure that, in both the public and the private sectors, that can be tested so that where cladding does not meet the necessary standards, it is dealt with and remediation steps take place. I will certainly look in greater detail at the point that he has made.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2018, 2:44 p.m.

That simply is not good enough from the Secretary of State. The BRE does what Ministers tell it to do. We know that other cladding and insulation materials have been found unsafe. We know that the Hackitt review has confirmed that the whole building regulation system from end to end is, as she says, not fit for purpose. Since Grenfell, Ministers have been too slow to take responsibility and too slow to act. This Conservative dogma of “hands off” is delaying the Government action necessary to deal with this national disaster. Will he give local authorities powers to demand that testing and recladding are actually done? Will he release the details that he holds on tower block owners who will not do this work, and will he set a deadline, as my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) says, for all landlords to make their buildings safe or make it clear that Government will step in and then make them?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Jun 2018, 2:45 p.m.

I firmly recognise the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the urgency of the situation, which is why we have committed an additional £1 million to local authorities to identify the sites. In my time as Secretary of State, we have made an additional commitment of £400 million to the social sector to ensure that we get on with this remediation. I am intent on pursuing that level of action and focus to ensure that a sense of safety and assurance is given. Since the publication of Judith Hackitt’s report, I have announced that we are pursuing a consultation to bring into effect a ban on combustible cladding. The right hon. Gentleman and the House should be in no doubt that this Government gives priority to the issue, and we will continue to pursue that approach.

Grenfell Tower

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 11th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 5:09 p.m.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire, meeting our commitment to update the House following the Opposition day debate on 16 May. I am also writing to the Chair of the Select Committee on Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide a formal report on progress, a copy of which will be placed in the House Library.

As we mark a year since the tragedy, this will be an extremely painful time for the community. Many hon. Members provided powerful and poignant contributions in the e-petition and Opposition day debates last month, and I know that the whole House will join me in sending the bereaved and survivors our love and prayers.

On 14 June 2017 we saw the greatest loss of life in a residential fire since the second world war: 71 people lost their lives on the night of the fire, and a former tower resident who was rescued from the 19th floor passed away earlier this year. The start of the public inquiry was a timely reminder of that terrible human cost: a baby who never lived to learn how much he was loved; three generations of family wiped out; heroes who died saving others. Nobody could fail to be moved by the extraordinary tributes paid by family and friends to the loved ones they lost—by their courage and dignity in the face of unimaginable loss, and, yes, by their anger too. A catastrophe of this kind should never have happened in the UK in 2017, and when it did the initial response was not good enough. Nothing could undo the anguish and devastation this has caused, but as the Prime Minister said, we can and must do right by the memory of those who lost their lives and those left behind, by supporting those affected, securing justice and, above all, ensuring that nothing like this can ever happen again.

There has been an unprecedented effort across Government and our public services. Help is being provided on a range of issues from advice on benefits to emotional and mental health support. In total, we have spent more than £46 million of national Government funds and committed a further £34 million to help meet rehousing costs, deliver new mental health services and deliver improvements to the Lancaster West estate. The appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) as Grenfell victims Minister has helped to ensure that the voices of those affected inform the response, and we set up the independent Grenfell recovery taskforce to help and challenge the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to provide better support for residents and rebuild trust. I want to thank everyone for their tireless support, particularly the emergency services and the public and voluntary sectors.

Clearly, one of the most pressing issues has been rehousing those who lost their homes. A large-scale programme of investment work has been under way to ensure that the homes are of good quality and personalised to meet the needs of families. The council has acquired more than 300 homes in and around the borough. A total of 203 households needed new homes, and 198 have accepted permanent or temporary accommodation. That means that all but five households have accepted offers, and 134 have now moved in. Most of the work to ensure that all the homes that have been accepted are ready to move into is complete, and we expect many of the remaining properties to be ready in the coming weeks. While those households are preparing to move, the council has ensured that they have all had the option to move into more suitable accommodation.

I remain concerned, however, about the 43 households who are living in hotels. My ministerial team has met many of them, and I have personally written to all of them to find out what barriers exist in each individual case and how we can overcome them. This is not where any of us wanted to be a year on from the fire. There has been progress in recent weeks, but overall the pace has been too slow. My Department and the independent taskforce are continuing to provide scrutiny and challenge to the council, and we have provided additional resources directly to the council to help to speed up this work. We will not rest until everyone is settled into a new home.

Those affected also badly need answers and to see justice done. The Grenfell Tower inquiry and Metropolitan police investigations will ensure that this happens, but we must also learn from what has happened. Over the past year, my Department has been working closely with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to ensure that other buildings like Grenfell Tower are safe. Remediation work has started on two thirds of buildings in the social housing sector. Also, the Prime Minister announced last month that the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of potentially dangerous aluminium composite material cladding on buildings over 18 metres high owned by social landlords, with costs estimated at £400 million, and we have made it clear that we expect building owners in the private sector not to pass costs on to leaseholders. To that end, I recently met leaseholders and put their concerns to industry representatives at a number of roundtables. Some in the sector, such as Barratt Developments, Legal & General and Taylor Wimpey, are doing the right thing and taking responsibility. I urge all others to follow. Those in the private sector must step up, and I am not ruling anything out if they do not do so.

In addition, I recently welcomed Dame Judith Hackitt’s final, comprehensive report following her independent review of building regulations and fire safety. In response, I committed to bringing forward legislation to reform the system of fire safety and give residents a stronger voice. Having listened carefully to concerns, the Government intend to ban the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings, subject to consultation. We will publish the consultation next week. It is essential that people living in buildings like Grenfell Tower not only are safe but feel that the state understands their lives and works for them. There is no question but that their faith in that has been shaken. That is why, as well as strengthening building and fire safety, we will be publishing a social housing Green Paper by the recess. I am confident that these measures will help us to rebuild public trust and deliver the meaningful, lasting change that is needed.

Our country has seen many difficult times, but that night at Grenfell Tower was one of our darkest hours. We will never forget those who died. We will not falter in our support for those who are still grieving, or flag in our determination to ensure that no community has to go through such agonies again. In doing this, we can be inspired by the incredible spirit of the people of north Kensington and the way they have come together. And when we say never again, we mean it. I commend this statement to the House.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 5:14 p.m.

I thank the Secretary of State for honouring his commitment to make this statement following our Opposition day debate and for giving me early sight of it this afternoon.

In this anniversary week, we remember the 72 people who lost their lives through the Grenfell Tower fire, and we will not forget our special duty as Members of Parliament to do right by them and by those who survive them.

Directly after this national disaster, the Prime Minister was right to make the first statement to the House herself, and she had the whole House with her when she pledged that Grenfell residents would have all the help and new homes they needed and that every necessary step would be taken to stop this ever happening again. Imagine the reaction if the Prime Minister had said instead, “One year on, more than half of Grenfell survivors will still be stuck in hotel rooms or temporary accommodation; more than 300 other tower blocks around the country will have the same Grenfell-style cladding, yet only 10 will have had it removed and replaced; there will be more tower blocks in private hands that have still not been tested; and, astonishingly, the Government will still not know how many high-rise tower blocks there are in the country.” In truth, Ministers have been off the pace and too slow to act at every stage for 12 months, and I welcome the Secretary of State’s admission of that this afternoon. The Government’s response has not been good enough, and it is still not good enough. The time for warm words is long past. More action, not more apologies, is needed now.

On rehousing survivors, Grenfell residents feel that they were failed before the fire, and many feel failed since. They were promised permanent new homes within a year, but only 82 of the 209 households are in permanent new homes. On the wider Grenfell estate, only 39 of 127 are in permanent new homes. The dossier released today by the North Kensington law centre catalogues the defects in the new homes that have been offered, which include damp, delayed repairs and tenancy terms different from those for the homes people lost in the tower. The Secretary of State told the House on 16 May that he was

“establishing at pace what further action could be taken, by the Government or by the council, to speed up this process.”—[Official Report, 16 May 2018; Vol. 641, c. 314.]

However, he has told us nothing more today. What further action is he taking? What deadline has he set for all survivors to be permanently rehoused so that they can begin to rebuild their lives? Without a deadline, more words of regret will simply ring hollow to the still homeless residents of Grenfell Tower.

Turning to the safety of the other high-rise blocks around the country, after 12 months only 10 of more than 300 with the same Grenfell-type cladding have had it replaced, despite the Prime Minister’s promise to

“do whatever it takes to…keep our people safe.”

We welcome the funding for social housing tower blocks, which was pledged under Labour pressure, and we welcome the Secretary of State’s intention to ban combustible material on the outside of high-rise blocks, which was also pledged under pressure.

May I keep up the pressure following the statement this afternoon and persuade the Secretary of State to go further and take the action that is now needed? Will he accept that sprinklers must be retrofitted in high-rise blocks, and will he set up an emergency fire safety fund to help council and housing association landlords with the costs? Will he publish in full the details that the Department holds on the location, ownership, testing status and evacuation policy of all high-rise blocks confirmed unsafe? Will he make it clear to private block owners that they, not residents, have the legal duty to pay for replacing dangerous cladding? Finally, will he strengthen councils’ enforcement powers and sanctions so that they can act when private landlords will not make their buildings safe? That is how we honour the promises made in this House. That is how we ensure that, as the Secretary of State said today, when we say never again, we mean it.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Jun 2018, 5:19 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his response. I can say to him that, yes, we are very firmly focused on the outstanding issue of those needing to move into permanent accommodation. Since my last statement to the House, I have been pressing the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and its contractor. It is fair to say that, as I indicated in the initial response, the council had issues with its contracting that meant it needed to replace its contractor. The council has had a new contractor in place for a number of months that is making important progress on ensuring standards are met in respect of accommodation for those needing to be rehoused and that, actually, there is a firm element of personalisation in that accommodation to ensure that, when residents move in, they can see the care, thought and attention that has been put into the accommodation to make it a home and so that they can feel stability and safety in those new homes.

The right hon. Gentleman made a number of other points in respect of high-rise blocks and the various steps that have been taken over the course of this year. I point him to Dame Judith Hackitt’s comprehensive report on building safety, which gives a real sense of this Government’s commitment to making sustained change on building safety, and, equally, to my decision to go further in respect of banning combustible cladding and to the consultation I will launch next week.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about mandating sprinklers, and I underline to him that, since 2007, building regulations guidance has stated that all new high-rise residential buildings over 30 metres must have sprinklers. Sprinklers can be an effective safety measure, but they are one of many such measures that could be adopted. As Dame Judith Hackitt points out in her report, no single fire safety measure, including sprinklers, can be seen as a panacea.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me to provide details on the list of properties, which is something he has raised before, and there are particular safety concerns around that. In respect of his point on private owners, if he listened to what I have said he would know that I have stated on a number of occasions a very clear message on the responsibility of private owners, and I have underlined to a number of building owners and developers their responsibilities and the need to take action. We have also ensured that local authorities have the appropriate powers to investigate further, as I have previously indicated to the House.

The right hon. Gentleman’s broader point is a very relevant one, on remembering and honouring the victims of this appalling tragedy—one that, across this House, we all fully recognise—and the need for us to work together to ensure that appropriate changes are put in place. I certainly will not shrink from that, and I will certainly work with him on bringing forward changes. He knows that substantive changes have come from the Hackitt review, and I intend to publish further proposals on building regulations before the summer recess. I will certainly be updating the House on that again before the summer recess because, in honour of all those who lost their lives, we must get this right, and that is what the Government intend to do.

Tower Block Cladding

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 21st May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Hansard

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government if he will make a statement on the action taken and planned by the Government with respect to residents in tower blocks with dangerous cladding, following the Grenfell Tower fire.

James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Hansard

We are remembering those who lost their lives in the tragedy at Grenfell Tower today as the public inquiry opens. I know this will be an incredibly difficult time for all those affected. The whole House will join me, I am sure, in sending them our thoughts and prayers. I am determined to ensure that no community suffers again as they have done.

To that end, in the days since the fire, my Department has worked with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to identify high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding; to ensure that interim measures are in place to reduce risks; and to give building owners clear advice about what they need to do over the longer term to make buildings safe. Remediation work has started on two thirds of buildings in the social housing sector, and we have called on building owners in the private sector to follow the example set by the social sector and not pass on costs to leaseholders. I will be holding the first roundtable with representatives from the private sector this week and repeat what I said last week: if the industry does not step up, I am not ruling anything out.

My predecessor and the then Home Secretary asked Dame Judith Hackitt to carry out an independent review of building regulations and fire safety. I welcomed her final comprehensive report last week, which called for major reform. Having listened carefully to the arguments for banning combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings, the Government are minded to agree and will consult accordingly.

In addition, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of potentially dangerous aluminium composite material—ACM—cladding on buildings owned by social landlords, with costs estimated at £400 million. I will be writing to social sector landlords this week setting out more detail.

It is vital that people living in buildings like Grenfell Tower are safe and feel safe. I am confident that the work we are undertaking and the important reforms triggered by the Hackitt review will help to restore confidence and provide the legacy that the Grenfell communities need and deserve.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Hansard

As the Secretary of State has said, on this first day of the commemoration hearings at the Grenfell Tower inquiry, we remember the 72 people who lost their lives. We will not forget our special duty as Members of Parliament to do right by them, so it is a matter of deep regret that I must drag Ministers to Parliament again to explain their response to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The Government have been off the pace at every stage since the fire. More than eleven months on from Grenfell, how is it that two thirds of Grenfell survivors are still in hotels or temporary accommodation? How is it that the Government still do not know how many private tower blocks are unsafe? How is it that only seven out of more than 300 tower blocks across the country with the same Grenfell-style cladding have had it removed and replaced? How can it be that Ministers offered money to councils and housing association landlords for re-cladding costs and finally agreed to consult on a combustible cladding ban only last week?

Many people will have learned only yesterday that the London fire service has fundamentally changed its safety advice to residents in blocks still wrapped with the same Grenfell-style cladding. In place of “stay put” if a fire breaks out—strong advice given for decades to all residents in all tower blocks across the country, including those in Grenfell Tower—the London fire brigade now says “get out” directly. Do all fire brigades now give the same advice? Do all residents in all blocks with unsafe cladding know that? I say to the Minister that more action, more clarity and more urgency are required from the Government.

When will the Secretary of State publish a clear national statement on evacuation policy? When will he confirm when all tower blocks be re-clad? When will he get sprinklers retrofitted—the Opposition and fire chiefs have argued that they are needed? When will he make public the location, ownership and fire safety status of all high-rise blocks at risk? The information is held by the Government, but Ministers are keeping it secret. We know that the Secretary of State knows—he is the new Secretary of State—that more action and greater urgency is needed. When will we get it?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
21 May 2018, 2:30 p.m.

May I underline what I said in my opening comments about the importance of remembering and reflecting on the very moving testimony that has already been provided in the public inquiry? It is right that all those affected are able to share their memories of those who lost their lives and, indeed, that there should be no time limit on that process. We all need to reflect extremely carefully on the testimony given.

The right hon. Gentleman raises many points, a number of which we dealt with last week during the debates on Grenfell Tower and during my statement on the Hackitt report. He knows that I have been very clear about wanting to speed up the process, which is why I said last week that it is not a question of waiting for the final recommendations to be fully implemented, and it is why I took the steps that I did in relation to combustible cladding and other issues such as the use of desktop studies. I have outlined that although the consultation on desktop studies closes later this week, I will obviously not hesitate to ban them if they cannot be used safely.

The right hon. Gentleman highlights the advice from the fire authorities. Obviously, we are guided by the National Fire Chiefs Council on these matters, and the London fire brigade has given its advice in that regard. He mentions sprinklers. I would underline the points that I made last week—that is, we have given certain advice regarding the provision of sprinklers on new blocks of over 30 metres in height, but for existing buildings it is for the building owner to decide. As Dame Judith Hackitt rightly pointed out in her report, no single fire safety measure, including sprinklers, can be seen as a panacea.

I have already outlined the further steps that we are taking regarding remediation. We gave further instructions to local authorities last week to further empower them to take action in respect of identifying buildings. There is no lack of urgency on my part or on the part of my Department when it comes to moving forward with addressing these issues and underlining and recognising the serious concerns that have been expressed. Equally, I have underlined our desire to do the right thing in relation to fire safety. We will be taking the actions that I outlined last week and underlined again today to ensure that we are following this through and pursuing it rigorously.

Building Regulations and Fire Safety

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Thursday 17th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 May 2018, 12:19 p.m.

With permission, I would like to make a statement on the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report following her independent review of building regulations and fire safety.

Members will be aware that my predecessor and the then Home Secretary asked Dame Judith to carry out the review following the Grenfell Tower fire. We are approaching one year on from that tragic event, and those affected are firmly in our minds. I met some of the bereaved and survivors as soon as I could after I was appointed, and that strengthened my determination to ensure that they continue to receive the support they need and that we learn from this tragedy, so that nothing like it can ever happen again. With this in mind, Dame Judith was asked to undertake her review of the existing system as part of a comprehensive response to the fire. I want to pay tribute to Dame Judith and all those who contributed to this important report.

The report’s publication is a watershed for everyone who has a stake in ensuring that the people living in buildings like Grenfell Tower are safe—and feel safe. Dame Judith is clear that the current system, developed over many years under successive Governments, is not fit for purpose. She is calling for major reform and a change of culture, with the onus more clearly on everyone involved to manage the risks they create at every stage, and Government doing more to set and enforce high standards. The Government agree with that assessment and support the principles behind the report’s recommendations for a new system. We agree with the call for greater clarity and accountability over who is responsible for building safety during the construction, refurbishment and ongoing management of high-rise homes.

The Hackitt review has shown that in too many cases people who should be accountable for fire safety have failed in their duties. In future, the Government will ensure that those responsible for a building must demonstrate that they have taken decisive action to reduce building safety risks, and that they will be held to account. We agree that the system should be overseen by a more effective regulatory framework, including stronger powers to inspect high-rise buildings and sanctions to tackle irresponsible behaviour. We agree that there should be no buck-passing between different parts of the industry and that everyone needs to work together to change the system. Crucially, given the concerns raised following the Grenfell tragedy, we agree that residents must be empowered with relevant information. They must be able to act to make their homes safer.

This review has implications for Government as a whole. I am committing today to bring forward legislation that delivers meaningful and lasting change and gives residents a much stronger voice in an improved system of fire safety. Changing the law will take time, but, as Dame Judith acknowledges, we can—and must—start changing the culture and practice right now. As a first step, we are asking everyone involved to have their say on how we can achieve this by contacting us by the end of July. Their response will inform a more detailed statement to the House in the autumn on how we intend to implement the new regulatory system. I will also update the House on progress before the summer recess.

We all have a role to play. For our part, the Government have accepted and have been implementing the recommendations that relate to us since Dame Judith published her interim report in December. First, we are consulting on significantly restricting or banning the use of desktop studies to assess cladding systems. Inappropriate use of desktop studies is unacceptable, and I will not hesitate to ban them if the consultation, which closes on 25 May, does not demonstrate that they can be used safely.

Secondly, we are working with industry to clarify building regulations fire safety guidance, and I will publish this for consultation in July. Let me be clear: the cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under existing building regulations. It should not have been used. I will ensure that there is no room for doubt over what materials can be used safely in cladding of high-rise residential buildings. Having listened carefully to concerns, the Government will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings.

Thirdly, we will work with the industry to make the wider suite of building regulations guidance more user-friendly.

All this continues our work to ensure that people are safe. Since the Grenfell tragedy, my Department has worked with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to identify high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding, ensure that interim measures are in place to reduce risks and give building owners clear advice about what they need to do over the longer term to make buildings safe.

In addition, I am issuing a direction today to all local housing authorities to pay particular regard to cladding-related issues when reviewing housing in their areas. Remediation work has started on two thirds of buildings in the social housing sector, and we have called on building owners in the private sector to follow the example set by the social sector and not pass costs on to leaseholders. I find it outrageous that some private sector landlords have been slow to co-operate with us on this vital work. I am calling on them to do the right thing. If they do not, I am not ruling anything out at this stage.

As the Prime Minister announced yesterday, the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of potentially dangerous cladding by social landlords, with costs estimated at £400 million. This will ensure that landlords can focus their efforts on making ACM—aluminium composite material—cladding systems safe for the buildings they own. We want to allocate this funding for remediation as soon as possible. We will announce more details shortly, including how we will encourage landlords to continue to pursue other parties for costs where they are responsible or at fault. We will also continue to offer financial flexibilities for local authorities that need to undertake essential fire safety work.

We must create a culture that truly puts people, and their safety, first—that inspires confidence and, yes, rebuilds public trust. Dame Judith’s review and the significant changes that will flow from it are important first steps, helping us to ensure that when we say, “Never again”, we mean it. I commend this statement to the House.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 May 2018, 12:26 p.m.

I thank the Secretary of State for the advance copy of his statement this morning. I join him in thanking Dame Judith Hackitt and her team for all the work that they have done on this review. This is, as she says, a complex and confusing area.

Our building safety system catastrophically failed the residents of Grenfell Tower and has proved to be comprehensively flawed when over 300 other tower blocks around the country are wrapped in the same dangerous, unsafe cladding. Dame Judith said this morning:

“This is a broken system and it needs to be fixed.”

But while there are some welcome reforms in her report, it will not do that. Why no ban on combustible cladding and insulation? It really beggars belief that the report continues to give a green light to combustible materials on high-rise blocks. I say to the Secretary of State: do not consult on it—do it. Seventy-two people died in Grenfell Tower. Australia had a high-rise fire in 2014; it now has a ban. Dubai had a high-rise fire in 2015; it has a ban. We must do the same. We owe it to the Grenfell residents and we owe it to residents living today in other tower blocks with the same Grenfell-style cladding. The Secretary of State was here yesterday when MPs on both sides of the House argued for this. Even Dame Judith Hackitt was reported this morning as saying that she would support the Secretary of State if he did this just after ruling it out, of course, in her own report.

There are some steps that Dame Judith recommends that are welcome and that would help, such as clearer duties on those responsible for building safety and new ways for residents to have their concerns heard and acted on. I have to say, however, that too many sections of this report read like an industry insider urging reform without rocking the boat, referring to “culture change”, “clearer guidance”, a “less prescriptive system” and “greater responsibility” from some of those who have been cutting corners to cut costs in the current system.

I say to the Secretary of State that this is a missed opportunity to set clear-cut new standards that ensure that a disaster like Grenfell Tower can never happen again. With regard to what is not in this report, will he explain why and what he is going to do about those matters? They include not only having no ban on combustible cladding systems, but having no bar on desktop studies for safety clearance without testing, no plan for fitting sprinklers, no timetable for new safety regulations in legislation and no powers or tough enough sanctions to compel private block owners to get fire tests done and then get vital safety work done.

The Secretary of State cannot simply hold this report at arm’s length and say it is out for comment and consultation. This review was commissioned by the Government, with a chair picked by the Government, working with support from Government staff. He says that in principle he accepts the recommendations. While I agree that he can endorse some of the recommendations, he must reject others that fall short and he must act where recommendations are missing. If all he does in practice is accept the recommendations, the division of opinion in this House will not be between his side and ours, but between both sides and his Front Bench. This is not a matter of party politics; it is a matter of public safety, public confidence and, above all, a national response that measures up to the tragedy—the national tragedy—of the Grenfell Tower fire.

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Parliament Live - Hansard
17 May 2018, 12:31 p.m.

While I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s kind comments on the words of Dame Judith and her team in what I think is a comprehensive report—looking at the end-to-end system and at culture, but also making recommendations on strong enforcement and criminal sanctions—I urge him to look at it very carefully before rushing to judgment on all its different sections. He may not agree with certain sections, and he is entitled to take that view, but I think he will recognise the real intent of someone who is independent and has significant health and safety experience to bring about a shift in a system that, as we mutually accept, is not fit for purpose.

This report will no doubt be subject to further debate, and it is important that there is time for feedback on each of the different recommendations and points that are made, because of the complexity, depth and detail of them, so that we get this right. With a shared sense of what is cross-party and what is cross-community, that is absolutely what we want to achieve. That is why it is important to get feedback on and input into the report’s recommendations.

I underline this Government’s seriousness of intent. That is why I have today said that we will consult on the banning of combustible materials—I look forward to bringing the details to the House in due course—and why I have said what I have about desktop studies. I want to inject a sense of pace into the process. I have acknowledged that the legislation that may flow from this will take time, and we want to work with parties across the House to ensure that it is got right. Equally, however, I recognise that there are steps that may not require legislation that we should get on and take, and I am committed to taking that forward as Secretary of State.

I encourage Members on both sides of the House to look carefully at Dame Judith’s comprehensive recommendations. They should recognise that, on the issue of cladding systems, she acknowledges:

“A clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products must be developed. This should include products as they are put together as part of a system.”

We also recognise that, and we are bringing forward the consultation I have announced in my statement today so that we can actually make the difference we all want by making these changes and ensuring that our system and our high-rise buildings are safe.

Grenfell Tower

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Wednesday 16th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
John Healey Portrait John Healey - Hansard
16 May 2018, 2:27 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is nodding strongly in agreement with that. The overhaul must also include a ban on desktop studies, which currently allow building materials to be deemed safe without a basis in testing; full disclosure of the location, ownership and testing status of all high-rise blocks; clear powers, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, for councils to enforce testing and the work that might be required; a publicly accountable system of building control; a presumption that private block owners are, as the Government have argued, responsible for paying to replace dangerous cladding; and tougher sanctions, including the backstop power for councils to take over a block where property owners are breaking the law and putting people’s lives at risk by not making their buildings safe.

For 11 months, Ministers have been off the pace in their response to Grenfell Tower, failing to act with enough urgency on almost every front. The next month, before the anniversary of the fire, is when the Government must finally make good on their promises to the Grenfell residents and to the country.

James Brokenshire Portrait The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (James Brokenshire) - Hansard
16 May 2018, 2:29 p.m.

When I was appointed to my new role, I was clear that one of my biggest priorities was supporting everyone affected by the unimaginable tragedy at Grenfell Tower and ensuring that we learn from it so that nothing like this can ever happen again. That is why one of the first things I did was meet some of the bereaved and survivors as soon as I could, and why I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this important debate.

Today we are also remembering those who died and were injured in the Ronan Point disaster 50 years ago. This feels especially poignant as we prepare to mark the first year since the Grenfell fire next month. These milestones will be extremely painful for those who have suffered so much, and I know that the thoughts of everyone in this House will be with them. With our focus today on the terrible events at Grenfell, I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to helping them rebuild their lives as we remember their loved ones. In doing so, I want to pay tribute to the incredible way in which the community itself has come together to support and comfort one another, and to thank local charities and other groups who have been on the ground from the very beginning.

In the fire’s aftermath, our immediate priority was, quite rightly, to support those affected, with Government Departments and public services pulling together and playing their part to offer help with everything from business support to advice on benefits. This includes vital work by the NHS and voluntary sector organisations to offer emotional and mental health support to over 6,000 people. The dedicated NHS Grenfell helpline also remains available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In total, over £46 million of national Government funds have already been spent to support recovery following the Grenfell Tower fire, and we have committed to spend a further £34 million. This includes funding for rehousing, new mental health services, investment in the Lancaster West estate, and a new community space.

As the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) has fairly flagged up this afternoon, one of the most urgent issues has been rehousing people who lost their homes. The latest figures from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which is responsible for finding these new homes, show that of the 210 households that need to be rehoused, 201—over 95%—have accepted offers of temporary or permanent accommodation. Of these, 138 households have moved in—64 into temporary accommodation and 74 into permanent accommodation—so while progress has been made, there is no question but that this has been too slow. As a result, some households will still be in emergency accommodation in June.

It was always going to be a challenge to respond to an unprecedented tragedy on this scale. It has taken time to purchase suitable homes and to adapt and refurbish them to meet people’s needs and the highest safety standards, but this is clearly not good enough, and it is understandable that the community will feel disappointed and let down. I, too, am very concerned, especially to see people who have accepted an offer of a permanent home still living in emergency accommodation. I am therefore establishing at pace what further action could be taken, by the Government or by the council, to speed up this process. The council now has more than 300 properties available to those who need them, and my Department will continue to work with it to ensure that people are given whatever support they need to be rehoused as swiftly as possible. This is part of the wider work we are undertaking to ensure that, after a slow and confused initial response to the fire, the council is delivering better support to those affected and rebuilding trust.

Housing and Homes

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Tuesday 15th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
15 May 2018, 4:42 p.m.

I would certainly be happy to meet my right hon. Friend and others to discuss that issue. I note his points, although we maintain our views on the broader issue of abusive practices in the leasehold market. However, I will certainly listen carefully to him and others.

Affordability has become an issue and that was why the Prime Minister pledged a further £2 billion of investment in the affordable homes programme, increasing its budget to more than £9 billion. In the spring statement, we allocated an additional £1.67 billion of that funding to London, where the affordability crisis is most acute. That money will enable London to build a further 26,000 affordable homes. We have been clear with City Hall that this must involve funding for genuine social rent properties.

We know that we do not need just more social housing. We need to improve the experience of people living in it, especially following the tragedy of Grenfell. We will therefore shortly introduce a social housing Green Paper to look at how well social housing serves our communities.

I am particularly conscious of the needs of those without a home at all who find themselves in the hugely distressing situation of living out on the streets. One of my first actions as Secretary of State was to award £28 million of funding to Housing First to underline the priority I attach to this work.

Housing First is part of our bold new approach to help rough sleepers off the streets. The Housing First approach has an impressive international track record of almost eliminating rough sleeping. It gives people stable and affordable homes, combining that with expert support to address complex issues, such as substance abuse and mental health problems. That work to tackle homelessness and eradicate rough sleeping is essential. It is totally unacceptable that we still have people living on our streets. We must turn that situation around.

The new pilot projects for Greater Manchester, Liverpool city region and West Midlands combined authority will be an important step. Our pilot programmes will support around 1,000 rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping. I am looking forward to seeing the difference that those projects make in their respective areas, and assessing the case for a national roll-out of the approach.

The projects will also expand on steps we have already taken to tackle rough sleeping, including our new rough sleeping initiative, which combines a new rough sleeping team of experts drawn from Government and agencies, a £30 million fund targeted at local authorities with high numbers of rough sleepers, and further funding to support frontline rough sleeping workers in these areas.

The pilot programmes have laid the foundation of our rough sleeping strategy, which will be published this summer. This Government are investing more than £1.2 billion through to 2020 to prevent and reduce homelessness. We are taking these essential steps to meet our commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and to eliminate it altogether by 2027. There can be no doubt about our commitment to supporting those in desperate need.

Everyone deserves not just a roof over their head but a safe, secure and affordable place to call home. That is the foundation on which everything is built. This is the Government’s top domestic priority and, as Secretary of State, I am determined to do all I can to ensure we deliver the homes our country needs.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
15 May 2018, 4:45 p.m.

This is the Secretary of State’s first housing debate, but it is a bit like Groundhog day. He is the fourth Secretary of State, with the seventh Housing Minister, now in the ninth year of a Conservative Government, and it is clear from this debate that the Conservative party still has no plan to fix the housing crisis.

The Secretary of State may be new to the job, but he has been in government since the start in 2010. Surely he cannot look at the Government’s eight-year housing record and conclude that more of the same is what is needed. After eight years of failure on all fronts, how is the answer more of the same when, since 2010, we have seen 1 million fewer under-45s owning their own home and the lowest level of home ownership for 30 years? How can the answer be more of the same on homelessness when it has risen every year since 2010, and we now have 120,000 children growing up with no home? And how can the answer be more of the same when private renters face rents that are soaring way ahead of incomes? The average rent is now £1,800 a year more than before.

Finally, house building rates are still lower than they were at their peak under Labour, and fewer new social rented homes were started last year than at any time since records began.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between James Brokenshire and John Healey
Monday 30th April 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:39 p.m.

I will certainly reflect on the feedback that I receive from across the House in the days ahead. These are just the first few hours of my tenure in this role, but I will listen closely to the comments from my right hon. Friend and others, and certainly, as we look at the national planning policy framework, we will consider those matters carefully.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab) - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:40 p.m.

Although all Speakers become politically neutral, Labour Members welcome and endorse with particular strength your tribute to our former colleague, Michael Martin, as well as your condolences to Mary and the family, Mr Speaker.

I warmly welcome the new Housing Secretary; it is good to see him back. He has a big job to do and the Opposition wish him all the very best in doing it. The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) was right to highlight Labour’s analysis of his predecessor’s pathetic surrender of housing cash to the Chancellor. It shows the new Secretary of State’s real challenge: the huge cut in housing investment—from £4 billion in 2010 to less than £500 million now—and the huge fall in genuinely affordable new homes to rent and buy. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least make the modest commitment that while he is Housing Secretary, we will build more new social rented homes than we lose?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:41 p.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his warm welcome to me. As he will know, it has certainly been a challenging personal few months for me, and that is why I am so delighted to have been given this new responsibility on such an important policy issue, as he rightly points out. I point him to the fact that, with the £2 billion that was added last year, this Government are investing £9 billion in affordable homes. I also draw his attention to the fact that more affordable homes have been delivered in the last seven years than were in the last seven years of the last Labour Government. We will continue to have that focus on building more homes and on building more affordable homes, too.

John Healey Portrait John Healey - Hansard

The record is clear: 40,000 new genuinely affordable social rented homes were started by councils and housing associations in Labour’s last year in government, and fewer than 1,000 were backed by his Government last year. Does the Secretary of State not accept that the housing crisis demands that both central Government and local government do much more? In this local elections week, will he confirm a couple of important facts? Labour councils build five times more council homes than Conservative councils, and Labour councils get 50% more homes of all types built than Conservative councils, so does he agree that to fix the housing crisis, it is clear that we need more Labour councils and more Labour councillors to be elected on Thursday?

James Brokenshire Portrait James Brokenshire - Hansard
30 Apr 2018, 2:43 p.m.

Even Labour councils build more homes under a Conservative Government. The right hon. Gentleman does raise the important issues of housing supply, the housing challenges that we need to meet and the roles of national Government and local government. I very much look forward to working with local government to make sure that we deliver on that agenda, because that is what this country needs and what will make a difference to people’s lives.