The government abstained on a cladding vote that could affect millions of lives

Grenfell Tower
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The government declined to vote on a motion that aimed to help people living in buildings with unsafe cladding that have been hit by huge bills.

On 1 February, MPs passed a motion in the House of Commons to take steps to support those affected by unsafe cladding. The motion passed with 263 votes to 0, as all Conservative MPs abstained.

The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire led to a cladding scandal has left millions of people living in unsafe buildings. Many have received large repair bills from landlords and building owners.


The motion

Labour put forward the motion, urging Conservative MPs to vote with them. The motion called upon the government to make buildings safe quickly and ‘protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis’.

Thangam Debbonaire, shadow housing secretary, said:

The Grenfell tragedy shed light on a crisis of building safety in this country, and hundreds of buildings have the same cladding that caused the Grenfell fire to be so deadly. Thousands have other equally dangerous cladding, and even more have other serious fire safety problems, such as combustible insulation, missing fire breaks and faulty fire doors.

Millions of homeowners are caught up in the wider building safety crisis caused by the defects and are unable to sell, re-mortgage or buy a flat, freezing up 16% of the housing market and affecting possibly as many as 11 million people.

Debbonaire asked the government to establish the extent of unsafe cladding and its dangers, make homes safe quickly, and to make sure leaseholders and taxpayers did not pay for the work needed.

Some Conservative backbenchers told the government it needed to take action against the cladding crisis, and ensure leaseholders did not have to pay for cladding removal. More than 30 have signed an amendment to the fire safety bill that would stop costs being put on leaseholders.

Despite this, none of them voted on the opposition motion.

The government is not obligated to act on opposition day motions.

Far-reaching effects

Inquiries into flammable cladding after the Grenfell Tower fire have uncovered many unsafe buildings throughout the UK. Labour analysis says up to 11 million people could be affected.

As a result, lots of leaseholders have been sent bills to pay for fire safety measures and repair work. In several cases, this has left these leaseholders financially struggling, and in some cases bankrupt.

Speaking as part of the debate, SNP MP for Glasgow East David Linden said:

I recently heard the story of Sophie Grayling, a mother who was so proud to buy her first home in 2017. However, the flat that she bought was part of a building clad in ACM cladding—the exact same type, as we know, used on Grenfell Tower. Ms Grayling’s building is under the 18-metre threshold for the fund offered by the UK Government to remove the cladding, and with cladding remaining in place she has seen the sale of her home fall through, is facing a bill of thousands to fix the block’s issues and, most importantly, every night puts her child to bed with the knowledge that her building is covered in the same material that saw 72 lives lost in the inferno at Grenfell.

It is clear that that is unjust. Homeowners like Ms Grayling now face a Catch-22 situation: they either pay out of their own pocket to fix a problem that is not their fault or stay stuck in an unsellable flat that risks their safety.

Protecting leaseholders

Several cladding action groups are campaigning for the rights of victims of the cladding scandal:

The government said it was exploring the possibility of providing loans to leaseholders to pay for cladding removal. However, many campaign groups said loans were not an acceptable solution, instead calling for complete cost avoidance.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said:

Almost four years have passed since the Grenfell Tower fire and those of us who have campaigned to tackle the building safety crisis are at the end of our tether with government inaction, delay, and incompetence.

The voices of residents and firefighters have been treated as little more than an annoyance throughout, while hundreds of thousands are left trapped in dangerous homes.

This debate should be a wakeup call to complacent ministers and their friends and donors in the housing and construction industry. As we have said from the beginning, the costs of this crisis cannot and should not be laid on the shoulders of residents.

Putting the cost of safety and repair work on residents is entirely unacceptable. The government must act urgently to avoid another tragedy by making buildings safe, while ensuring leaseholders are protected from paying for their safety.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ChiralJon 

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  • Show Comments
    1. The government abstained on a cladding vote that could,
      affect millions of lives.
      Just some Questions to ask Tory Govt Minister in the Minster jobs now.
      Q-HOW many Tory Minister + M.P.+ Cllr of the area where Grenfell fire
      Happened was involved in any way with the cladding firms back then
      That made deals or spent public taxpayer money on the C**p cladding?
      Q-For all Tory party members in LONDON why did Ms May protect a Minister Putting him under her protection as Prime Minister not to be investigated fully o the cladding mess?
      Q-To all Tory party members where did the funding out of 3 public donated collection amounting to million of pound go that was in Govt Treasury bank account because Grenfell fire victims did not get fully cash payments WHY?
      Q-WILL Tory Govt be seeking criminal charges to the rich businessmen + Women involved in the cladding Mess(making money off it ?)
      that now live outside the U.K. areas them that did a runner out of U.K.
      before the public enquiry took place on the cladding mess yes or no?

    2. If Opposition Day Motions are so meaningless. Other than being used as a political weapon to expose the Government of the days attitude towards certain events or issues. Then what’s the point? When the vast majority of Britain’s will not have even noticed or even heard of yesterday’s vote.
      Better that Mr Starmer get off his own arse and get hold of one of his rich barrister chums and file a class action lawsuit against the State, the Councils, and the Landlords, on behalf of the Leaseholders.

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