Grenfell Tower campaign groups have hit out at the government after MPs voted against an amendment to the Fire Safety Bill which would have protected leaseholders and tenants from paying to fix cladding on high rise apartments.
The bill, which amends the Fire Safety Order 2005, broadly means building owners or managers in multi-occupied residential builds have to assess the fire risk and reduce the risk of fire spreading.
However, there are fears leaseholders could be liable for costs of up to £50,000 to pay for the removal of flammable cladding from buildings.
The proposed amendment that would have eliminated these fears came from the House of Lords but was overturned in the House of Commons, despite 31 Tory MPs rebelling against their own party.
Grenfell United, made up of survivors and bereaved families from the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, as well as campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal, fiercely criticised the MPs responsible.
Grenfell United said: “We’re deeply disappointed that ministers have broken their promises to leaseholders who have done absolutely nothing wrong. The government’s position on this is indefensible.
“It’s a grave injustice that many innocent leaseholders will be financially ruined over fire safety issues that were not of their own making, while the government is letting those responsible continue to get off scot-free.”
Emma Byrne, spokeswoman for End Our Cladding Scandal, said: “The government has fought hard against amendments put forward to save leaseholders from widespread bankruptcy and financial ruin caused by bad regulations, corporate malfeasance and shoddy building work.
“If only they had bothered to work half as hard to protect us.
“This Bill pulls the rug out from under a generation of homeowners. MHCLG (the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government) knows it. MPs and peers know it. (Housing ministers) Christopher Pincher Lord Greenhalgh and Robert Jenrick – whatever tired lines they may repeat at the despatch box – know it.”
When debating in parliament, housing minister Christopher Pincher said the proposed amendment to protect leaseholders would have failed to define what the costs will be, which could result in litigation and delays to construction.
Stephen McPartland, Tory MP for Stevenage, was one of the MPs to vote against his party.
He said: The reality is that these buildings are not going to be made safe by transferring the financial and legal liability onto leaseholders to do it. Leaseholders do not have the funds to fix it.
“Like my colleague [Royston Smith] has said, myself, leaseholders and leaseholders groups do not want the taxpayer to pay. We just want the taxpayer to provide a safety net to help.
“We believe that those responsible should pay, nobody else.”