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Grenfell: Labour urges ban on combustible cladding

A senior Labour MP has called for a ban on combustible cladding and insulation on high-rise blocks ahead of the Hackitt report into Building Regulations. 

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey has written to housing secretary James Brokenshire claiming that government commitments have not been met since last June’s Grenfell Tower fire. 

He also called for powers for councils to enforce testing of high-rise blocks. 

It comes as Dame Hackitt is due to publish her government-commissioned review of Building Regulations and fire safety tomorrow, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy which claimed 71 lives. 

In her interim review, published last December, Dame Hackitt urged the construction industry, building owners and regulators to come together to tackle “shortcomings”, describing the system as not “fit for purpose”

Labour is also set to call for a “complete overhaul of the discredited system of building safety checks and controls” in a parliamentary debate today. 

John Healey’s letter

In his letter, first reported by Inside Housing, Mr Healey urges the government to ensure that:

  • Only non-combustible cladding and insulation can be used on high-rise blocks.
  • A ban on ‘desktop studies’ which allow building materials to be deemed safe without a basis in testing.
  • A £1bn emergency Fire Safety Fund, available to help council and housing association landlords with the costs of retrofitting sprinklers and other urgent remedial work.
  • Full public disclosure of the location, ownership and testing status of all high-rise blocks, and clear powers for councils to enforce testing.
  • A publicly accountable system of building control.
  • A presumption that private block owners are responsible for paying to replace dangerous cladding, and more robust sanctions where private landlords will not make buildings safe, including the option of confiscation of the tower blocks.

Mr Healey also claimed that a raft of commitments made by ministers “up to and including the prime minister” had not been honoured.

“When Grenfell survivors and worried residents in other tower blocks should have seen action, they have had to suffer painfully slow progress and broken promises,” the letter said.

“What was a national disaster is now becoming a national disgrace.”

The Hackitt review, Mr Healey said, will allow the government to “show its commitment to a complete overhaul of the discredited system of building safety checks and controls”.

He added: “When people’s lives are at risk, the government’s duty is clear-cut and government action must be equally clear-cut.

“The public must have confidence that there will be systemic changes to keep them and their families safe.”

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