On Thursday, Labour tabled an Urgent Question to ask the government to give an update on their action in response to the Grenfell Tower fire.
As part of that debate I asked Sajid Javid what the government was doing to build public confidence in Bristol about the content, scrutiny and enforcement of building safety regulations. His response that he had written to council chief executives to remind them of their powers was inadequate. Elsewhere in the debate, he again refused to commit government funding for the retrofitting of sprinklers in tower blocks. Something he also failed to do when I asked him about this directly on 3 July.
As Labour’s Shadow Minister for Housing, John Healey said in his opening statement, when events like this happen people look to the government to act and to lead. It’s time they did so – passing the buck to underfunded local authorities is just not good enough.
What is the Secretary of State doing to build public confidence among the people of Barton Hill, Kingsdown, Redcliffe, Hotwells and elsewhere in my constituency in the content, scrutiny and enforcement of fire and building safety regulations?
The hon. Lady will know about the work that has been going on with respect to publicly owned buildings, which include those owned by housing associations as well as by local councils; I have set that out previously and done so again today in detail. Like all other Members, she will have in her constituency private sector buildings, including the tall buildings above 18 metres, some of which we have tested if samples have come forward to us.
On 5 September, based on the expert advice that we had received, I wrote to the chief executive officer of every council to ask them to put in place a procedure to work out what other private buildings they have that would meet the criteria, to make sure that they are tested and to confirm for themselves that they are safe. I also took the opportunity to remind local council leaders and chief executives of the powers they already have under the Housing Act 2004 to take enforcement action, if they need to, on building regulations, if the work was recently done, as well as the powers that the fire and rescue services have under the fire safety order.
You can watch the exchange below: