Seema Malhotra – 2021 Speech on Unsafe Cladding

The speech made by Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP for Feltham and Heston, in the House of Commons on 1 February 2021.

The Government’s handling of the cladding crisis has lacked any sense of grip or urgency. Almost four years on from Grenfell, it is heartbreaking to see the pain that families are going through. I thank The Sunday Times for its campaign.

Residents are facing lockdown in inflammable buildings with potentially huge bills for repair work, higher insurance, and interim safety measures such as waking watch. They are also unable to sell their flats. An estimated 4,000 residents in Hounslow alone are affected. My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) has also supported many affected constituents. They include young couples, now with children, trapped and unable to upsize to a home big enough for their growing family.

The situation is now not just about cladding. There is also a worrying lack of transparency and speed from housing associations such as A2Dominion and FirstPort. They were slow to undertake the survey work needed on fire safety, despite residents asking for clarity a year ago. With permission, I will share part of a letter that my constituent Pamela Canales received last week from A2Dominion. It reads:

“We wrote to you in June 2020 to let you know your building needed an ‘intrusive survey’. Our fire safety contractor carried out an intrusive survey in several different areas of your building…The results showed that there are issues with timber cladding, insulation inside the masonry walls with incorrectly installed cavity barriers between flats and cavity closers”.

It goes on to say:

“If you would like to re-mortgage or sell your flat, the mortgage lender involved will probably ask for an (EWS1 form). Your building received an ESW1 rating of Option ‘B2’—confirming combustible materials are present and remedial work is required. It is likely a lender will ask for more information about what work is needed, the likely timescales and the costs of carrying out the work. Unfortunately, we don’t know that information at this stage.”

On who will pay for the remedial works, it says:

“At this stage it is too early to say. We fully understand this is a key area of concern for residents and this is a top priority for us. We do not wish to pass cost onto leaseholders and will only do this as a last resort.”

A2Dominion and others do not have a good track record on transparency of costs for leaseholders. This morning, residents told me:

“We don’t know how much this is going to cost us. We don’t know if we will have to vacate the building. It’s time for us to have answers. It’s stressful enough already with the pandemic. We can’t go on like this.”

We need a Government-led plan now to fix the cladding crisis that does not burden leaseholders with the cost. Those responsible must pay.