Building safety crisis has ‘parallels with Post Office scandal’, MP suggests

An MP suggested there are similarities between the unsafe cladding crisis and the Post Office scandal during a select committee session on fire safety.

“Don’t you think there are parallels of what we’re seeing with the Post Office scandal?”, Labour MP Ian Byrne asked housing minister Lee Rowley, who was giving evidence at the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee session on Wednesday (17 January), referring to the cases of unsafe cladding across the country.

“It seems that unfairness is just totally hardwired into policy where these big corporations get away with it completely all the time,” added Byrne.

Rowley disputed this, saying that “developers don’t think they’re getting away with it” and mentioned the £2bn that housebuilders are committed to spend on repairs to buildings in England of 11m and above that they have developed or refurbished over the past 30 years.

Last January, the government wrote to housebuilders and mixed-use developers asking them to sign a remediation contract by 13 March 2023. Although some missed the deadline, all developers asked to sign have done so.

Cladding crisis
Lee Rowley was asked about the progress made by the government on building safety by a select committee on 17 January (Image: Parliament TV)

“When I go and talk to the developers, they are not happy with the government because we have spent an enormous amount of time making sure that those who caused the problem are paying for it,” Rowley said.

“You can see the pressure that the secretary of state [Michael Gove] has put is yielding results, that is a significant change.”

Byrne, however, pointed out that no prosecutions have taken place so far, and that many residents in his constituency of Liverpool West Derby are still affected by the situation.

Government response to product testing review to come ‘soon’

The select committee also asked Rowley for an update on the government’s long-anticipated response to Paul Morrell and Anneliese Day’s Review of the Construction Product Testing Regime published last April.

The 174-page document criticised the current product testing system and said that “many standards are outdated, inconsistent or non-existent”.

The government has not published its response yet. During a different select committee session with Morrell and Day in November, the former said that there had not been government engagement with the review at the time.

“There hasn’t been any engagement with government until last week,” Morrell told the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee on 27 November.

Rowley told yesterday’s committee that the government’s response will come “soon”, but did not provide a specific timeline. He added that his team is currently working on a public statement, but rather than a single document with a full response, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities might publish the response in multiple stages.

“I can’t give you a date today,” said Rowley. “The reason I’m hedging is because there’s probably going to be elements of this report which we want to understand in more detail.”

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  1. Unfortunately Ian Byrne is being naive, and is wrong to use tragedy to score political points. He would do well to read the transcripts from the Grenfell enquiry to understand the complexity of the situation which has revealed lack of clarity in the Approved Documents, shortcomings in the regulatory oversight, deliberate disingenuity by manufacturers seeking approval of products, and a lack of overall ownership by some designers, developers and construction companies among the issues.

  2. “However, the common duty holder for all the works was the KCTMO and they consistently failed to create or enable a process that complied with the CDM Regulations.”
    “Finally, I have no evidence that the HSE attended Grenfell Tower on an enforcement basis and I make no assessment of this in my Report.”
    Extract from Dr Barbara Lane’s report.

    So the BSR, part of the HSE, is the principal regulator for the Building safety Act. Lack of resources (Prospect report on HSE), big question mark on how many skilled BC professionals will not register by April 2024. Now the BSR have a large construction investigation panel, retrospective on buildings at risk, etc.

    Yes, I totally agree with the MP: 7 years in June and the conclusion of the Inquiry stated that the deaths were avoidable -not to mention the mental and physical impact on survivors, including residents, emergency services, etc. Latest update on Grenfell Inquiry report publish date?

  3. I have worked for both large and small local authorities plus 10 years in a private architects and surveying practice and have attended many fires over 50 years as a retained fireman and a chartered builder and surveyor, and I cannot remember seeing any building control officers/inspectors visiting the fire scene. They may quote the regulations but appear to not see the results of a fire, either small or large fires. I also believe that they are generally never advised of any fire incidents in their own local authorities.

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