I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), to the Dispatch Box. I always think that there is nothing like a baptism of fire for a new Minister.
Portishead in my constituency of North Somerset is one of the best examples in the United Kingdom of the development of a brownfield site, taking an old power station and turning it into a world-class marina. It is an attractive and desirable place to stay, the consequence of which is that large numbers of people have invested considerable sums to be able to live there.
We all welcome the response of Ministers that it cannot be right that leaseholders have to worry about the cost of fixing safety defects in their building that they did not cause. We welcome the more than £1.5 billion that the Government have put into this, but it cannot be right that all the burden for remediation falls on taxpayers. Where a problem arises from regulatory changes made after construction, assuming that the proper standards were met, it is reasonable for public money to be used, but that in no way absolves the construction industry or the NHBC of their responsibilities. For example, at Ninety4 on the Estuary in Portishead, a survey carried out to the external façade in July last year identified “combustible materials which are not only non-compliant with current building regulations but might not have been compliant with regulations in force at the time of construction.” It would be outrageous if taxpayers’ money were to be used in this circumstance.
Those who have built substandard dwellings need to be held to account, because these underlying issues give rise to others. Insurance, reselling and property values and the availability of mortgages are just three. Can my hon. Friend tell me what talks the Government have had directly with the big banks, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the Association of British Insurers and NHBC? Will he take account of the fact that there is some sharp practice going on, especially in relation to surveys. Extortionate amounts are being paid by tenants for these surveys in relation to EWS1. I have one in front of me, which talks about incorrect height information, 24-hour monitored CCTV when there is none, timber decking to balconies when the balconies are composite decking and stacked balconies when they are open balconies—the list goes on and on.
In formulating the response to the consultation, which we look forward to hearing, may I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that this is not just about buildings? In fact, it is not about buildings; it is about people. It is about their hopes and their fears, their savings and their future. All the Government’s instincts on this issue have been right and the amount of money put aside is generous. What we now require is not good intentions, but delivery.