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Tory rebels urge ministers to get behind amendment to fire safety bill
23 February 2021, 23:55
A group of Tory rebels are urging the government to accept an amendment that would protect leaseholders in England from paying for emergency fire safety work on their flats.
More than 30 Conservative MPs have signed the modification to the Fire Safety Bill which returns to the Commons on Wednesday.
Although the amendment has opposition party backing, there is currently insufficient support to overturn the government's majority as only English MPs will vote on the legislation.
The Bill was drawn up to strengthen regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster on 14 June 2017, which left 72 people dead.
Those behind the proposed amendment argue it is essential to prevent leaseholders from suddenly facing costs that could run to tens of thousands of pounds with just weeks to pay.
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However, Downing Street has indicated it will not support the revision and will instead insist that it has already put together a "large package" of support for leaseholders living in blocks covered in dangerous and potentially lethal cladding.
The current terms of the Bill could allow freeholders to simply pass on the costs of any remedial work the fire service order them to do, warned Stephen McPartland, the MP who tabled the amendment with fellow Tory Royston Smith.
"Depending on the terms of the lease and the costs involved, this could easily be a requirement for a leaseholder to pay £50,000 within weeks," he said in a message posted on his website urging his colleagues to back the move.
Mr McPartland encouraged ministers to either accept the change or come forward with their own proposals.
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He warned that if they failed to do so, there would be a fresh attempt to alter the legislation when it next returns to the Lords.
"We would urge the government to accept our amendment or table their own amendment in lieu to protect leaseholders, which we can all support," the Tory MP said.
He added: "We want to work with the government to resolve these issues for leaseholders, instead of our amendment being re-tabled in the Lords and coming back again and again."
Labour's shadow policing and fire minister Sarah Jones said ministers should take the opportunity to deliver on the promises it made to leaseholders following Grenfell.
"Blameless victims of this crisis, who are living in dangerous homes and facing financial ruin, expect nothing less," she said.
"It is not too late for the government to put the British public first, do the right thing and act now."
No10 said the government was already committed to providing a £5 billion support package for leaseholders living in buildings with dangerous cladding.
In a message to potential rebels, Boris Johnson's press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: "We think the package we have come forward with is the right balance and will sort this issue for them and their constituents."
Mr McPartland slammed the package announced earlier this month, branding it a "betrayal" of hundreds of thousands of residents of low and medium rise blocks who would be forced to take out large loans to pay for the removal of cladding.