Cladding scandal: Rebel Tory MPs warn ministers leaseholders will not ‘forget or forgive’ footing the bill


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ebel Tory MPs today warned ministers that leaseholders will not “forget or forgive” the Government for having to pay out for emergency fire safety work on their flats.

The House of Commons voted 340 to 225, majority 115, to remove changes made by peers to the Fire Safety Bill which had sought to prohibit building owners from passing on any remediation costs, such as the replacement of dangerous cladding, to leaseholders and tenants.

A separate attempt to protect leaseholders from unexpected costs was also tabled by Conservative Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) and backed by more than 30 of his Tory colleagues.

They argue it is essential to prevent leaseholders being handed bills potentially running to tens of thousands of pounds with just weeks to pay.

Mr McPartland’s amendment was not put to a vote but his call for action received strong support from MPs across the House during the debate.

He said: “The leaseholders are not responsible for this – they know they’re not, we know they’re not. The Government knows they’re not and therefore the Government’s position is now untenable.

“I will appeal to them and to all my colleagues to think very carefully before they abandon thousands of their constituents because I know this: they will not forget and they will not forgive.”

He warned that this part of the housing market was “heading for collapse” with thousands of leaseholders “heading for bankruptcy”, adding: “This Government could and should prevent this from happening.”

He added: “Imagine the howls of derision when the first Government minister stands up and declares that we are the party of home ownership.”

Mr Smith commented: “What sort of solution says we can see that it’s not your fault but we are only going to help half of you?”

A reluctant rebel, Mr Smith said he had no “axe to grind” with the Government who were his “friends and colleagues”.

But he added: “I’m not going to blindly follow them when I can see that their treatment of leaseholders is wrong.”

The Fire Safety Bill is intended to strengthen regulation in the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster.

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More than 30 Tory MPs have signed an amendment to protect leaseholders from the costs of carrying out emergency fire safety work on their flats.

They argue it is essential to prevent leaseholders being handed bills potentially running to tens of thousands of pounds with just weeks to pay.

Mr McPartland, who tabled the amendment with fellow Tory Mr Smith, warns that freeholders could pass on the costs of remedial work they are ordered to carry out onto leaseholders.

Mr McPartland, who chairs the Regulatory Reform Committee, told the Commons: “We’re very keen to work with the Government, we’re very keen for the Government to maybe table an amendment in lieu, accept our amendment today, or if the minister feels inclined, maybe even move our amendment to a vote to test the will of the House.

“But I imagine we won’t have the opportunity to vote on what’s called the McPartland-Smith amendment today, sadly. However, I would like to pick the minister up a little bit on the point he made around this not being the correct place for the amendment.

“Myself, [Mr Royston-Smith], those who supported our amendment and the leaseholders themselves are all very clear we’ve never asked the Government to pay for the full costs of remediation, we’ve never asked for the taxpayer to bail people out.

“We just want the taxpayer to provide a safety net for leaseholders to ensure that fire safety works are actually undertaken. It’s been nearly four years.”

Minister Kit Malthouse said the bill was not the “correct place” for remediation costs to be addressed. He told the Commons: “The Building Safety Bill is the appropriate legislative mechanism for addressing these issues and it will be introduced in the spring. It will contain the detailed and complex legislation that is needed to address remediation costs.”

Meanwhile, Downing Street criticised Mr McPartland’s amendment, arguing it would “slow things down” for leaseholders.

The Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Allegra Stratton said: “We’re talking to colleagues ahead of it. Of course we don’t support it.

“Our problem with McPartland’s amendment is that, far from speeding things up for constituents across the country who are worried about finding themselves in these properties, it would actually slow things down.

“We feel Conservative colleagues need to look carefully at an amendment that would actually slow it all down rather than get action as we want, which is as soon as possible.”



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