Bishop of St Albans supports motion to regret on Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) Regulations

The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of a motion to regret relating to leaseholder protection tabled by Baroness Pinnock on 21st March 2023:

‘That this House regrets that in laying the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/126) His Majesty’s Government have not published data on the number of landlords who have benefited from an error which allowed landlords to transfer costs of remedying historical building defects on to their leaseholders; further regrets that His Majesty’s Government have no intention to identify leaseholders affected by that error to advise them to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal to recover costs; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to publish these figures in a spirit of transparency and write to those affected with clear guidance on how to recover costs.’

The motion was agreed.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I shall add a few words of support for the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. I stand with a weary sense of déjà vu, looking around at a number of people with whom I have sat as we have worked through building safety and fire safety measures.

What is interesting is that the Government fundamentally tried to grasp this problem. I pay tribute to the right honourable Michael Gove, who has been quite exceptional in taking hold of it and trying to solve it. I say well done to the Government for shifting the main problem in this very troubling area.

Like many noble Lords, I am still finding that people contact me because they are in a dreadful situation. Some of them are going bankrupt because they are simply unable to pay for the remediation work on their properties. This does not just affect big tower blocks; it happens to quite modest blocks of flats in places like St Albans, Stevenage and Bedford, in my diocese.

On the particular problem that the noble Baroness has mentioned, it is extraordinary, when the Government have already committed themselves to doing so many things on this—not least reforming the leaseholder system, which we will watch with great interest—and troubling that this unintentional problem, which is having a devastating effect on some people, is seemingly not being addressed. It would be a huge help if we could simply get the figures published to find out how many people are being affected by what seems to be an error and then try to help those people to find a remedy.

This is a terrible scar on the whole industry. We need to find ways to work with those who have unintentionally found themselves caught up in this and are quite desperate. That is supported by, as the noble Baroness has mentioned, the point made by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that we need that data. I add my weight to the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, has made today, and I hope we will see some movement.


Extracts from the speeches that followed:

Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Lab): My Lords, clearly what we are talking about today is building safety and the importance of leaseholder protections. That is at the core of everything.

We have discussed, on a number of occasions now, the terrible events that happened at Grenfell Tower along with similar incidents that brought to light the significant issues surrounding building safety and the appalling impact that it can have on the lives of those who have lived, and continue to live, in affected properties. The safety of the homes that we live in has to be of the utmost importance to all of us, and it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that buildings are safe and secure for those who live in them. So the Government’s Building Safety Act, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans said, is an important step towards improving building safety and ensuring that incidents such as Grenfell cannot happen again. However, we still need to ensure that leaseholders who have been bearing the brunt of the cost of remediation works are properly protected and can continue to make their homes safe.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): I should like to deal with a couple of further questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, referred several times to developers and their related companies. I point out that these regulations refer to landlords; that is, building owners. The mistake has no effect on the liability on developers.

I have answered the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, in that we think that this is a very small number. Of course, if anybody knows of any such person, we will give them the support they might need to ensure they get the redress they should have. I hope I have answered all your Lordships’ questions. As ever, I will happily follow up in writing on anything I have not covered, and I am very happy to meet with any noble Lords to discuss this issue further.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for bringing forward the debate today. We can all agree that qualifying leaseholders should be protected from the costs of historical safety remediation. This legislation is important in ensuring that landlords’ groups that meet the contribution condition must meet the full costs of both non-cladding remediation and interim measures. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her Motion.

Baroness Pinnock: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, for their support.

The right reverend Prelate has been at the heart of this issue for the six years since the awful Grenfell tragedy; he knows first hand, as he said, the devastating impact it has had on leaseholders. Perhaps I am wrong in saying this, but it was almost the last straw, in that all of us across the House had tried so hard to get the Building Safety Act to provide legislative ways of delivering remedies for leaseholders, and at that moment when everything should have been put right as far as possible—there are omissions that I still intend to pursue—an error crept in. Even then, where things were put right, innocent leaseholders were at the mercy of landlords who wanted to pass on the costs to them. The Minister has said that it is a small number but actually, we have no idea whether it is small or large, and the Government should find out.


I am very disappointed with her response and the response to the request by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which also made a very strong statement that the Government ought to find out how many leaseholders were affected and provide them with information and support. This is a government error, albeit one made inadvertently. The Government ought to be leading the way in showing that if errors are made, efforts are made to put them right. Currently, no efforts are being made to put this right. Therefore, I want to underline my considerable concern that the Government are not intending to take any action, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

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