Robert Jenrick on his feet in the Commons for the second reading of the Building Safety bill
Jenrick says he'll be laying down a written ministerial statement on the subject shortly which is "market sensitive" and ergo MPs haven't seen it yet

@LucyMPowell says it's completely unacceptable for a ministerial statement not to be laid before the debate so MPs can scrutinise
Mike Penning (Conservative) also says it's completely unacceptable and criticises Robert Jenrick for not giving MPs more notice
Jenrick says that fire risk is generally low. He says that's why he's drawing the line at 18m as these are the buildings which pose the greatest safety risk.

Yet leaseholders in buildings which are much shorter are being faced with huge bills.
.@hilarybennmp: "The SoS says the risk of fire is low...but can the SoS explain then why thousands and thousands of leaseholders are paying for expensive waking watches, having been told by their fire services that unless they have them the building will be closed down?"
Jenrick says that waking watches are an element of the market failure which exists, saying they're expensive, inefficient and could be replaced by alarms. Says Home Sec is looking at this with fire services and he'd like to see most WWs closed as quickly as poss.
Jenrick says the govt will strengthen the ombudsman to deal with problems around new builds. Says there will now be a forum where these "issues will be settled"
Jenrick says that the bill extends litigation periods

How much help this will actually be for leaseholders is deeply contested. As I reported last night, even in a case where a building has literally burnt down, leaseholders are struggling to litigate

Jenrick on developers

"I want to recognise some house builders have stepped up...some have not, or at least not in the way I expect them to do...the industry needs to go further."

But critics say this is the problem, expectations aren't enough and govt must make them.
Jenrick: "I want to be clear that the vast majority of residents in all homes in this country, including blocks of flats, should not feel unsafe."
Still no sign of the written statement online. MPs continuing to pressure the SoS
Seems that the written statement says that EWS1 forms won't be necessary for buildings which are shorter than 18m- if so that's a pretty significant shift....
On where there the written statement is there seems to have been a fault at the vote office. Am told it will be online imminently.
.@LucyMPowell: "The relationship of leaseholders and developers is like David and Goliath. Legal action is uncertain, expensive and also requires that a company still exists to sue but many have disappeared since."
"What's more, given what we know from Hackitt and elsewhere, in how many cases can all the blame be legally pinned on a developer- given the failures of the regulatory regime at the time? Very few I'd imagine."
Powell: "Two prime ministers, his two immediate predecessors as well as as the SoS himself that leaseholders should not pay. I agree- I think we all agree in here? so why does the bill not say it?"
Confusion abounding about exactly what Robert Jenrick has announced on EWS1 forms. According to the ministerial statement the govt’s position is they should no longer be required and several lenders have “welcomed” t advice
So- it seems that is something government wants but we don’t know how long it will take to happen and if it will happen across all lenders.

Other question- what about leaseholders who have already paid for the work? Do they get the money back?
Stephen McPartland (Con): “I believe the written ministerial statement could begin to reverse some of the damage the SoS did- but it will need to be put into legislation to provide real practical support for leaseholders, not just rhetoric.”
MPs asking what this all means for leaseholders currently engaged in remedial works and who have already suffered enormous costs.

Think it’s fair to say confusion is reigning about what the SoS has announced.
Also important to say that the EWS1 form relates only to cladding. Even if banks do agree for it to be removed it'll do nothing for the legion of other buildings with non cladding problems but with other remedial work. There's been talk of a loan scheme for this-no sign of it.
Notable just how much concern there is about this across the House. Hard to overstate how big a problem this is- MPs from all sides with so many constituents affected. For this reason, if there aren't changes between now and 3rd reading, govt could have a problem.
Matthew Offord (Con): 'The bill is focussed on constructing and maintaining new buildings rather than fixing safety issues in existing blocks."
Bob Blackman (Con): "The fact is that leaseholders are being presented with huge bills right now- they don't have 18 months to wait to resolve these issues and to sort them out. We need action right now." Makes point as I was saying earlier that we have no details for loan scheme
Notable how many Conservative MPs are in favour of govt stepping into pay bills if necessary and regulation was at fault.

Bob Blackman: "The govt has to find a way to find the remediation because the government was responsible for putting in place regulations."
.@hilarybennmp references Richmond House fire, which we featured on last night's Newsnight. It would be unaffected by govt proposals-was only 10m (but burnt down anyway, despite what govt says about smaller buildings) and didn't have a cladding problem.… you can watch our Richmond House report from last night here.
Rachel Hopkins (Lab): “How can it be that property developers, who are making millions each year are protected while teachers, nurses, shopkeepers, transport workers, carers and pensioners are left to pick up the bill?”
Bob Neill (Con) says he welcomes the bill but: “there are areas where the bill will require improvement...the protection of leaseholders especially where there are historic improvement remains critical. The problem is a growing one.”
Near unanimous agreement across the house that there needs to be much improvement to the bill on protection for leaseholders.
Inbox was already overflowing with leaseholders at the lowest ebb, mental health crushed over years. So depressing as have been tweeting the debate that yet more have come in. I know I keep saying it but you cannot overstate the extent of this and we all need to pay attention.
NEW: Building Safety Bill passes without division at second reading.

But it’s very clear the next stage is going to be much more complicated for the government.

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More from @lewis_goodall

21 Jul
.@columeastwood on the Protocol: “this is the second attempt in one week by this government to put distance between agreements they themselves have signed. Why does he think anyone in Northern Ireland or any other country would trust anything they say from this day forward?”
Eastwood asks this after reminding Brandon Lewis of his previous assurances that NI was uniquely placed to benefit from the Protocol and that there was no sea border between GB and NI.
Brandon Lewis says that it’s right that the govt listens to all of the voices who are saying the Protocol is a threat to the Belfast/GF agreement.
Read 12 tweets
21 Jul
Big blow to Liverpool and yet further questions about the city’s development policy and management in recent years.
Liverpool becomes only the third place in the world to completely lose its UNESCO status. Quick googling tells me the other two were the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany.
That said some there will argue that UNESCO were saying Liverpool had to be frozen in aspic when the city wanted/needed to develop. It’s a tension which has been brewing for years.
Read 6 tweets
20 Jul

Yday spent the evening talking to leaseholders of Richmond House on the south west London/Surrey border.

Or rather- what's left of Richmond House, it burnt down in 2019. The fire cavity barriers were labelled as "defective" in an independent report 🧵
RH is instructive because it potentially highlights two central weaknesses of the government's response to the crisis

1) idea that litigation is a credible solution
2) idea that problem is only or mainly with buildings which were 18m or over with cladding problems
First background

Richmond House burnt down in September 2019. It was built in 2010/11 by Berkeleys one of the biggest building firms in Britain.

The estate "The Hamptons" is a big one. As the name would suggest it's got an American air. Big houses. Wide avenues. Opulent.
Read 25 tweets
20 Jul
Endless paradoxes with Cummings, as ever. He works to make a man he says is an incompetent prime minister. He does so because he thinks it would be dangerous not to honour democracy. Having been democratically elected with big maj,DC says days later he is discussing removing him.
Key exchange below

Laura K: "Some people will be listening to you saying you were thinking of getting rid of Boris Johnson and just wonder who you think you are?"

Cummings: "Possibly but the situation we found ourselves in was that within days the PM's gf is trying... get rid of us and appoint clowns to certain key jobs. Do you just go, OK that's fine or do you say, OK that's a disaster and try and avoid that happening?"

So Mr Cummings believed the survival of he and his core team was more important than the survival of the just....
Read 6 tweets
20 Jul
NEW: Covid related absence in England’s schools continues to increase. On 15th July Covid related absence in English state schools was 14.3%. That’s up from 11.2% on 8th a July and 8.5% on 1st July.
Picture is even worse in secondary schools- was 17.9% on 15 July. This is up from 13.5% on 8 July and 10.4% on 1 July respectively. So going on for 1 in 5 English secondary school pupils off for Covid related absence (not necessarily nor likely because they actually had Covid).
You’ll see that demonstrated here. Vast majority of absence as a result of contact with Covid+ pupil (or suspected), not because they themselves had tested positive.
Read 5 tweets
18 Jul
NEW: England has moved into Step 4 of the roadmap and lifted remaining Coronavirus opening restrictions. Hence 👇
Doubtless Twitter is going to be flooded with people expressing concern about nightclubs. Whatever you think, do dial down any judgmental comments. Loads of young people have sacrificed a lot in the pandemic and now doing what the govt (rightly or wrongly) is saying they can.
Well all the replies to this demonstrated the grace, understanding and lack of judgment we’ve come to expect on here during this period.
Read 4 tweets

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