Chris Stephens – 2023 Speech on Building Safety

The speech made by Chris Stephens, the SNP spokesperson on Levelling Up, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2023.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I have a couple of quick questions.

On the developers who have not signed, the Secretary of State is obviously talking about the situation in England. Does he intend to share that information with the devolved Administrations? Those companies may have interests in devolved areas.

What happens if a non-compliant building has defects that extend beyond fire performance matters? Further defects are often discovered only after the opening works have commenced and cladding has been removed—I am thinking particularly of acoustic and thermal non-compliance. Could the Secretary of State tell us which independent bodies will manage the work to identify such defects, and how will developers be held to account for them?

Finally, what is the Secretary of State’s plan when owners and/or developers of non-compliant buildings cannot be traced?

Michael Gove

We will certainly share information with the devolved Administrations. As I mentioned briefly, we want to work with the Welsh Government, and indeed with the Scottish Government, to ensure that everyone is in a safe building and that businesses that are not operating in accordance with their responsibilities cannot wriggle out of their responsibilities. I look forward to working with the new First Minister—whoever she is—in due course to achieve progress.

On non-compliant buildings, the hon. Gentleman is certainly right that, as we replace cladding, new faults are sometimes identified. Developers have a responsibility to deal with those if they were the original responsible actor. That brings me to his third question. Where it is not a developer who takes responsibility but a freeholder, our recovery strategy unit is working to identify all the freeholders responsible. It is only in the very last instance that leaseholders may be liable for costs, and even then, they are firmly capped under legislation that this House passed.