I rise to speak to the amendments in my name. I am grateful for the support from all parties for them. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) and for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith) for the work they have done on this issue.
We have to find a way forward. We cannot continue this sterile ping-pong between the two Houses of Parliament. We need an actual plan, and I believe that my amendments set out a workable way that the Government can take this issue forward.
There are three issues that need to be dealt with, the first of which is forfeiture. The idea that people’s properties can be repossessed because they have been unable to pay cladding costs, which are unjust in the first place, is abhorrent. We need to reform leasehold legislation to prevent that from happening.
Secondly, we need a proper plan for apportionment of costs, as I set out in the appropriate persons for fire safety order costs amendment. That means that taxpayers are not asked to write a blank cheque, and nor will those with responsibility have the ability to collapse a company so that they can avoid costs at a future date.
We have got to ensure that the “polluter pays” principle is applied in this case.
The third thing we need is a real-time study, by the Department, to look at real people with real bills who are facing real negative equity and insurances issues, and who have difficulty accessing the building safety fund, given the narrow timescale and the fact that there are too few experts able to get them into that process. I therefore suggest the following.
How do we do this? First, on 11 May in the Queen’s Speech, we need to bring this issue forward in leasehold legislation, and deal with it once and for all. The Government have the ability to give us that assurance. Secondly, the long title of the forthcoming Building Safety Bill needs to be framed in such a way that we can deal with amendments relating to appropriate persons for fire safety order costs. That is also within the Government’s gift. Thirdly, if the Minister looks at my constituency of Portishead as a microcosm of the problems we face, he will see there are some buildings above 18 metres and some below; some have good management, some poor management. There are people with good copies of all the bills and who can tell a story to real officials in real time. All these things are possible. I set them out in the amendments as a route out of the sterile position in which we find ourselves.
We cannot simply continue passing this issue between the two Houses of Parliament. Our voters expect Parliament to come forward with solutions. We can find a genuinely practical way forward. We are two weeks from the Queen’s Speech. We can bring this legislation forward and enable the House to come together and provide solutions for our constituents in the way that they have the right to expect, and we have the duty to provide.