On Monday there was a debate in Parliament under the title of Unsafe Cladding: Protecting Tenants and Leaseholders which involved words that appear very clearly to call for the Government to improve matters for people impacted by cladding problems. These words were put together by the Labour Party but the opening statement by Thangam Debbonaire who is the Shadow Secretary for Housing included these few words at the end of her introduction. “There is cross-party consensus—agreement across both Houses and across the country—that we should put the needs of those first-time buyers, key workers and pensioners first. I am not asking Members to vote with the Opposition; I am asking them to vote with their constituents to show that they will always put their interests first. If Members agree with what is in the motion, they should vote for it. It is as simple as that.” It certainly appeared as if she was right about the subject and yet the response to the voting was very much in the opposite position. So before repeating the phrases from other people here is the text of the basis for the vote so that we can be clear that the voting was not difficult to support. Indeed the 263 votes involved people from these political parties: Labour; SNP; Liberal Democrat; SDLP; Alliance; Green and Plaid Cymru. However the Conservative Party and the DUP did not vote, even though there were a significant number of people who took part in the debate and they did not appear to oppose the text that Thangam explained.
I beg to move,
That this House
calls on the Government to urgently establish the extent of dangerous cladding and prioritise buildings according to risk;
provide upfront funding to ensure cladding remediation can start immediately;
protect leaseholders and taxpayers from the cost by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis;
and update Parliament once a month in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement by the Secretary of State.
Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP for West Worthing stated
I believe that it is better if we do not have a vote today. We should look on this debate as a “take note” one. We are all trying to face the problems of our constituents who are living in homes that are unsafe, unsaleable and unaffordable.
Stephen McPartland, the Conservative MP for Stevenage stated
I am sorry that the Labour party, the official Opposition, has played a little bit of politics today. We are very close to having the support in the House of Commons to force our amendment into law. Sadly, the vote today makes no difference whatever to any leaseholders. However, what we can do is focus on the amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, as those votes do make a difference.
Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon stated
By seeking to push this debate to a vote, Labour Members are pretending to show how much they care, even though they know that Opposition-day debates are not binding on the Government, unlike amendments to the Fire Safety Bill. That is where those on the Labour Front Bench could have shown real leadership, but there has been none….This is a cynical opportunity for Labour Members falsely to raise the hopes of leaseholders and try to gain some popularity that they think they will translate at the ballot box. My constituents are not that naive, so today I shall be abstaining if there is a vote. I will be spending the rest of my afternoon helping my constituents, and not jumping on a bandwagon.
Neil Coyle, the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark stated
I enter into the spirit of today’s debate mindful of the cross-party support for amendments aimed at addressing the issue, and in the hope that we will see that support reflected in today’s vote. Frankly, everyone affected has waited far too long….Today’s motion would address many of the concerns of so many people affected and I hope that it is successful in the vote, to ensure that the thousands of my constituents who are experiencing these huge concerns can begin to plan their lives again.
Sarah Dines, the Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales stated
I appreciated the comments made by the Prime Minister a short while ago, and I look forward to a proper permanent solution. I will not vote in favour of the Opposition’s motion, because it is simplistic and solves nothing. The Government will solve the issues.
James Murray, the Labour MP for Ealing North stated
There has been a fundamental failure of leadership by the Government in resolving the question of who pays to remediate buildings, and that has been instrumental in the delay in making them safe. Two related principles must therefore be at the heart of what Ministers do next: first, there must be absolutely no further delay; and, secondly, leaseholders must be protected from the costs of the work. That is why I will be voting today for the Government to provide upfront funding to ensure that remediation can start immediately and then to protect the leaseholders and the public finances from the cost of doing so by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis.
Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans stated
I have now asked the Government three times to ensure that the House is given sufficient time to debate and vote on amendments to the Fire Safety Bill that could prevent costs from being passed on to leaseholders—amendments tabled by Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative MPs. If the Government think those amendments have technical problems, they should bring forward their own versions. I urge every Conservative Member to vote with Opposition parties today to show that they are serious about standing up for cladding victims and to put the Government on notice that if they fail to bring forward their own solution, Members of this House will work cross-party to force the Government’s hands.
Florence Eshalomi, the Labour MP for Vauxhall stated
There is so much more that the Government can and should be doing to right the wrong that is the national cladding scandal. They have the opportunity in the forthcoming Fire Safety Bill to support amendments from Members across the House. I urge all colleagues to show their support, and to care and stand up for their constituents, by voting in favour of today’s motion.
Janet Daby, the Labour MP for Lewisham stated
The Government have the power to end that nightmare. The vote today is to ensure that the costs are not passed on to residents and that those responsible for the cladding scandal are pursued. While leaseholders wait for the Government to act, some are becoming bankrupt. There are costs that residents should not have to pay, including waking watch and huge insurance rates.
Catherine West, the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green state
Fifteen times, Ministers promised to protect leaseholders, and today a vote will be forced in Parliament to ensure that costs are not passed on to residents, and that those responsible for the cladding scandal will be pursued. The motion is a good one. It calls on the Government to establish a proper audit of the risk, to provide up-front funding, to protect leaseholders from costs by pursuing those responsible for the cladding crisis, and to get the job done…..We are all aware of the immense stress of coronavirus and the public health crisis, but let us today not add more pressure to people already under strain. Let us vote for the motion and get this done.
So the question has to be if the vote achieved nothing and therefore the debate was arguably not measured, what is the purpose of these days?