Ministers urged to back Conservative rebels' amendment to fire safety legislation
- Credit: PA
Ministers are being urged to accept a rebel amendment to protect leaseholders in England from the costs of carrying out emergency fire safety work on their flats.
More than 30 Tory MPs have signed the amendment to the Fire Safety Bill – intended to strengthen regulation in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster – which returns to the Commons on Wednesday.
MPs behind the move – which also has opposition party backing – say it is essential to prevent leaseholders suddenly being presented with bills potentially running to tens of thousands of pounds with just weeks to pay.
However, Downing Street has signalled that it intends to resist the change, insisting that it has already put in place a “large package” of support for leaseholders living in blocks covered in dangerous cladding.
Steve McPartland, who tabled the amendment with fellow Tory Royston Smith, said under the terms of the legislation, many freeholders could simply pass on the costs of any remedial work they were ordered to carry out by the Fire Service.
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“Depending on the terms of the lease and the costs involved, this could easily be a requirement for a leaseholder to pay £50,000 within weeks,” he said in a message posted on his website urging MPs to back the move.
While the numbers so far supporting the amendment are insufficient to overturn the government’s majority as only English MPs will vote on the legislation, McPartland urged ministers to either accept the change or come forward with their own proposals.
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He said that if they failed to do so, there would be a fresh attempt to alter the Bill when it next returns to the Lords.
“We would urge the government to accept our amendment or table their own amendment in lieu to protect leaseholders, which we can all support,” he said.
“We want to work with the government to resolve these issues for leaseholders, instead of our amendment being re-tabled in the Lords and coming back again and again.”
For Labour, shadow policing and fire minister Sarah Jones said the government should take the opportunity to deliver on the promises it made to leaseholders following Grenfell.
“Blameless victims of this crisis, who are living in dangerous homes and facing financial ruin, expect nothing less,” she said.
“It is not too late for the government to put the British public first, do the right thing and act now.”
Downing Street said the government was already committed to providing £5 billion in support for leaseholders in buildings with dangerous cladding.
In a message to potential rebels, the prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: “We think the package we have come forward with is the right balance and will sort this issue for them and their constituents.”
McPartland was fiercely critical of the package announced earlier this month, describing it as a “betrayal” of hundreds of thousands of residents of low and medium-rise blocks who would be forced to take out large loans to pay for the removal of cladding.
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