I recently spoke in support of the Building Safety Bill, a significant milestone in improving the safety of homes and ending the anxiety for many constituents who are private leaseholders. In my speech, I highlighted the already significant public sector involvement in remediating the cost of building safety, particularly from local authorities, yet the private sector’s involvement is ambiguous.
It has also caught my attention that many of my constituents faced a lack of clarity when it came to ESW1 form, with many taking extra precaution when they perhaps didn’t need to, worried about the consequences of a rule being broken. Whilst there is of course a gap in the Government’s knowledge with the details of some buildings or structures, the detail this bill provides will hopefully clarify to leaseholders in all industries the requirements to ensure both leaseholders and inhabitants can safely and efficiently fix building errors to do with cladding or other dangers that may occur.
I expect Ministers to properly engage with councils like Harrow and Hillingdon, who have very good building control departments, to ensure that we are learning from the best practice already seen in the market. You can read my full contribution below:
I very much welcome this Bill, which is an extremely important step towards ending the anxiety that has particularly affected very large numbers of private leaseholders of modest means. I welcome, in particular, the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Gareth Bacon) about the challenge posed by subsidiary companies.
Let me turn to a couple of other points that are important to make in the context of the passage of this Bill. Local authorities, on the whole, have moved extremely swiftly to remediate any risks that they could through measures such as waking watches and physical changes to buildings. On the whole, the public sector has been very responsible in its role as a landlord and in ensuring that the finance was there so that the work that was needed could be done. The private sector has been a much more mixed picture. Some developers deserve praise for taking responsibility, even if it was not their fault and they had acted in good faith, for putting right problems that posed risks to leaseholders, but clearly others have chosen to walk away by putting businesses into liquidation.
While Government cannot know the risks that are posed by the inside and the outside of every building and structure in the country, I urge Ministers to be as clear as possible, particularly with the finance and the property industries, about what the requirements are to fulfil the expectations of this Bill. The situation that some of my constituents faced with EWS1 forms, for example, was a result in many ways of a lack of clarity and understandable caution on the part of that industry in going for the belt-and braces option, even though it was not required in the vast majority of transactions that were undertaken, which had the double effect of gumming up the system and ensuring that people who really needed the work to be done could not find appropriately qualified professionals to do it. So can I urge that we are really clear about what is required and also what is not required?
I would also ask Ministers to consider the representations from councils such as my own in Hillingdon and Harrow, which have in many cases outstanding local authority building control departments, so that we can ensure that the recommendations for practical change outlined in the Bill to ensure that building control work is done to the highest possible standard learn from the best practice already there in the market. We must make sure that those things only government can do are done correctly and appropriately by government, and also that those at the sharp end like local authorities have the powers they need. But, overall, this is a big positive step in the right direction.