All 75 high-rises to undergo fire safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze have failed so far, Sajid Javid announced as he urged councils to send samples for testing quicker.
The Communities and Local Government Secretary said cladding on the buildings, which are across 26 council areas, was deemed to be flammable, similar to the cladding that helped the Grenfell fire spread and gut the tower, killing at least 79 people.
Javid told MPs he was concerned that landlords were not submitting samples for testing fast enough and urged them to send them quicker. A total of 600 high rises across Britain are due to be tested.
“The fact that all samples so far have failed the test underlines the value of the testing programme and the vital importance of submitting samples urgently,” he said, adding the lab can test 100 samples a day and runs around the clock.
He added: “Building Regulations and the system for ensuring fire safety in buildings have been developed over many decades.
“And until the Grenfell Fire many experts would have claimed that system has served us well.
“But now we have witnessed a catastrophic failure, on a scale many thought impossible in 21st century Britain.”
Javid’s statement to the Commons comes after Camden Council evacuated five of its high rises blocks on Friday evening, saying it would put up residents elsewhere while urgent work was done to make them safe.
While the council was initially accused of overreacting, Javid praised its action, saying: “Landlords must keep residential buildings safe for their tenants.
“Where they cannot satisfy that obligation with appropriate mitigating measures, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided while remedial work is carried out.
“That is exactly what has happened in Camden and I’d like to pay tribute to the residents there for their brave response in such a distressing situation.”
John Healey, Javid’s Labour shadow, responded by hitting out at why only 75 had been tested in the nearly two weeks since the fire.
He said: “Ministers talk too loosely about the ‘buildings or tower blocks tested’ or so far. The Prime Minister said ‘we can test over 100 buildings a day’.
“Will he make clear to the House that the Government’s ‘testing’ is only of cladding samples sent in by councils and housing associations?
“The Government says 600 tower blocks with cladding need safety checks. So why – two weeks on – have only 75 been tested so far? Why have all failed?”
Javid’s comments come after Downing Street revealed schools and hospitals would have their cladding tested as well.
The US company that sold the cladding that burned on the Grenfell Tower has also announced it was withdrawing it from sale.
A spokesman for Arconic said it “discontinuing global sales of Reynobond PE for use in high-rise applications”.