Stephen McPartland – 2021 Speech on Unsafe Cladding

The speech made by Stephen McPartland, the Conservative MP for Stevenage, in the House of Commons on 1 February 2021.

I would like to pay tribute to UK Cladding Action Group and End our Cladding Scandal for the massive work they have done, along with the Select Committee and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith), to raise the profile of this issue and help millions of leaseholders.

I am sorry that the Labour party, the official Opposition, has played a little bit of politics today. We are very close to having the support in the House of Commons to force our amendment into law. Sadly, the vote today makes no difference whatever to any leaseholders. However, what we can do is focus on the amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, as those votes do make a difference. I say to the Minister that we are very close to having the support in the House of Commons, and we have the support in the House of Lords to keep sending the amendments back. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen and I therefore urge the Minister to work with us to ensure that leaseholders do not have to pay.

I believe that the Department has been incompetent throughout this saga. It has created a whole host of problems, especially with the consolidated advice note published in January 2020. Buildings over six storeys or 18 metres were already involved in this crisis, but the note then involved any building of any height, taking the number from around 1,700 buildings to well over 100,000. On top of that, buildings under 18 metres can still be built with combustible cladding.

We must also focus on fire safety defects. I hear the Minister when he says that the Fire Safety Bill is not the right place for this, but I remind him that the Bill builds on the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which tried to clear up two ambiguities around cladding and front doors. The Fire Safety Bill also ensures that costs can be recovered from leaseholders, which puts that cost on leaseholders in law. The Building Safety Bill is not in front of us, but it will also ensure that leaseholders are liable. That is not acceptable to me, and it is not acceptable to leaseholders. We have been very clear that leaseholders do not have to pay.

The Government must provide a safety net. They must step in and help leaseholders. I will not accept loans for leaseholders. If the Government announce that, I will vote against it. We cannot have leaseholders pay 90% mortgages of £150,000 and then maybe have to repay a loan of £75,000. Building societies and banks will say that they can offer mortgages only if they are affordable, and having such a debt on a property is not affordable. I urge the Minister to work with us to deliver for leaseholders and to ensure that they do not have to pay.