POLITICS
05/02/2018 19:05 GMT | Updated 06/02/2018 12:44 GMT

Ministers Warned 'Another Grenfell' Is 'Possible' As Safety Delays Drag On

Just three of 300 high-rises with unsafe cladding saw casing removed.

Ministers were warned it is “possible to have another Grenfell ” as delays to a national fire-testing programme drag on. 

Just three out of 300 high-rises found to have unsafe cladding in the seven months since the tragic North Kensington inferno have had the casing removed, Housing Minister Dominic Raab was told. 

Scores of privately-owned flats with the “same suspect cladding” have also not sent samples for testing, despite appeals from Government, and fears are mounting the burden will fall on leaseholders. 

Labour MP David Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye was among the 71 people who perished in Grenfell Tower, lashed out at the Government for failing to give councils funding to remove unsafe cladding. 

He said a seven month wait was unacceptable, adding: “The minister says tonight that he is in conversation with a number of councils. 

“The Secretary of State said after Grenfell that he would leave no stone unturned and take every precaution with anyone in similar-cladding buildings. 

“The Prime Minister said on June 22 that every resource would be available. 

″Why is he still in conversation? Why is he not providing the funds? 

“Why is it possible tonight to have another Grenfell in this country?” 

David Lammy
Labour MP David Lammy in his exchange with Dominic Raab

Lammy could be heard shouting “it’s seven months on” from the Opposition benches as Raab batted back his question was “irresponsible” and the Government was “taking this forward as effectively as we can”. 

Raab added: “We’ve made sure that the interim arrangements are in place so that no one sleeping in their home at night is unsafe, and of course the wider renovations take time to get right, because it’s a very technical, complex undertaking.”

Ministers have said where councils do not have the funds to pay for fire safety upgrades, cash will be provided. 

Jack Dromey, the Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington accused the Government of “inexcusable delay” to cladding removal works in Birmingham.  

Birmingham City Council, on the advice of West Midlands Fire Service, wants to carry out works to more than 200 tower blocks and asked for £19.4m request from the Government, he said. 

“They have repeatedly asked for a reply: not one peep, not one penny. 

“Can I put this to the minister, the government is treating the city and worried tenants with utter contempt.” 

Raab insisted the Government was “in constant dialogue” with councils and would follow up on his questions. 

Dominic Raab Housing Minister
Dominic Raab, Housing Minister, called David Lammy's question "irresponsible" 

Shadow Housing Minister John Healey, who had tabled an Urgent Question on the issue in the Commons, said the Government was failing to show leadership after a national disaster.

He said: “Seven months on from Grenfell, this national testing regime is in tatters.

“And after this national disaster people look to national leaders for action - only ministers can act to make sure that all high-rise buildings are tested, that all tests are sound and that all dangerous cladding or insulation is removed.”

Labour MPs Hilary Benn and Matthew Pennycook raised issues over leaseholders in private tower blocks being charged for improvement works.

Steve Reed, another Labour MP, said the Government still permits use of a type of cladding that industry experts say is “dangerously combustible”.

Raab said the Government had been clear that property owners should bear the cost of repairs and private landlords “should not be passing on any unreasonable costs to leaseholders or tenants”.