Fire Safety Bill

The Fire Safety Bill is a crucial Bill that will clarify that fire risk assessments are updated to take account of external walls and flat entrance doors.

The McPartland Smith amendment was voted down in the House of Commons last week, and the consideration of amendments will now go back to the House of Lords in due course. Despite this amendment being voted down, I am reassured the Government is protecting leaseholders, while providing fairness both to leaseholders and the broader taxpayer, many of whom are not home-owners themselves.

I welcome the recent announcement of a further £3.5 billion in funding toward cladding remediation, bringing the total funding to £5 billion.

The Housing Secretary has confirmed that the Government will fully fund the replacement of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and higher in England, which have been independently judged to be the highest risk buildings. For leaseholders in lower-rise buildings between 11 and 18 metres, a new scheme will protect against unaffordable cladding removal costs through a financing arrangement where leaseholders pay no more than a maximum of £50 per month towards remediation when the building owner cannot pay for the work.

I welcome this reassuring announcement, which will provide security to leaseholders and protect against excessive costs. This funding should mean that banks and mortgage lenders have certainty that remediation costs for these buildings will be covered, and also balances the Government's commitment to help leaseholders while maintaining its responsibility to the wider taxpayer.

Indeed, remedying the failures of building safety cannot just be a responsibility for taxpayers. That is why plans to introduce a new Gateway 2 developer levy have also been announced. This will apply to developers seeking permission on certain high-rise buildings and is expected to raise £2 billion over a decade. This will help to ensure that taxpayers do not foot the bill for remediation and that large property developers contribute to the national remediation effort.

These measures will provide certainty to residents and lenders, boosting the housing market, and reinstating the value of properties. Work is underway with lenders and surveyors to make this happen.

Looking towards the future, new legislation is expected to be brought forward this year to protect future generations from similar mistakes and to prevent malpractice arising again. The legislation will seek to tighten regulation of building safety and to review the construction products regime to prevent malpractice arising again.

Taxpayer funding should not be the only means used to remediate buildings. In more than half of cases where Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding is present in private sector residential blocks, the original developer or building owner has agreed to pay, or such costs are covered through an existing warranty.

I welcome the new £30 million Waking Watch Relief Fund to cover the cost of fire alarms to reduce dependence on costly waking watches. The National Fire Chiefs Council has been clear that building owners should move to install common fire alarm systems as quickly as possible, which will reduce costs for affected leaseholders.