My speech in the Fire Safety Bill in the House of Commons.
I support holding the Lords amendment. I think it is the right thing to do at the moment, although not because it is perfect—it is far from perfect and not without its flaws. My problem is that I do not see the Government responding to the overwhelming concern about what is happening to leaseholders, many of whom, as has been said before, were first-time buyers.
We face, today, an issue of concern both personal and public. The public concern is that the devaluation of these homes is now so dramatic that it will cause an economic shock. I remember the old negative equity problem that erupted as a result of a collapse, and I do not want to see us back there again. I accept that, as has been said, the Government have already put £5.1 billion into the process, but it is worth at least another £10 billion in settlement, and that is going to fall on the shoulders of leaseholders.
Let me relate what is going on in my constituency. Like everybody else, I have a set of estates, including Queen Mary’s Gate and Blackberry Court, among other blocks in my constituency. Many of them are under 18 metres and have cladding—this is the point that has been raised—that was not compliant at the time of their building. The leaseholders did not know that—they bought their homes with a sense that they were buying something that was right and reasonable—and are now not eligible for the safety fund.
What has happened because of all this? We have tried to get hold of the developer, Telford Homes, but it has not engaged for more than a year now. Telford Homes does not answer anything or engage about what it might do; it has gone to ground. That is the problem that lies at the heart of all this right now: there is no way that the leaseholders can get redress because they cannot go to those who did this wrongly at the time and the Government have not brought forward any mechanism to allow leaseholders to get after these individuals, who will sit there and wait for the leaseholders to waste their money.
The Lords amendment is not perfect, but I am trying to articulate a cry for help from my constituents and others around the country. I agree with and support the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox). Let us find a way to make sure that those who were responsible stand up and pay the bill. They have made a lot of money in the past, legitimately, on building homes; those who did not put up the right cladding should automatically be in the frame. Meanwhile, the costs spiral and my constituents will pay them.
Today, for the first time, I shall vote to maintain and hold the Lords amendment. I say to the Government that if they do not want it, they had better get to the Lords and get us something decent that allows us to give support to our leaseholder constituents, because that would be doing the right thing.