The government “has let people down in Grenfell” and has not always appreciated the importance of fire safety, Housing Secretary Michael Gove told MPs.
Mr Gove made the comments on Monday during his first appearance on the House of Commons housing, communities and local government committee since taking over the housing file in the September reshuffle.
Asked about the building safety crisis, he said: “We have collectively – the department, some in local government, some in the private sector – people stranded at Grenfell and there are people. who were and still are in buildings where there is a significant risk. “
He went on to say that while the Grenfell Inquiry looked into the role of government in the disaster, his department “will, on a few occasions, not necessarily appreciate the importance of fire safety and may not necessarily have any. made in the aftermath of the Lakanal House tragedy that he should have done.
The 2009 fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell, London left six dead and at least 20 injured. The first report of the Grenfell Inquiry, currently led by retired Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, found lessons from the Lakanal House fire had not been learned by the time of the eight-year Grenfell disaster later.
Mr Gove also had strong words for the developers who built the blocks caught in the building safety crisis, saying, “The sheriff (s) may not have known, but the cowboys behaved like cowboys in an unregulated manner. “
He said: “It seems to me that the developers and the manufacturers of building products, if they say they are perfectly clean, they are wrong.
“What we’ve seen from the survey so far, it seems to me that at the very least developers have to ask themselves whether or not they are engaging in, quotes, ‘value engineering’, in other words, seeking to cut costs in a way that not only in hindsight, but back in the day, people would have put cost reduction ahead of safety.
Asked who should pay for the work needed to secure the affected buildings, Mr Gove confirmed he would “pause” plans that would see tenants take out loans to pay for remediation work.
He said: “We have a responsibility to alleviate some of the obligations currently facing leaseholders, who are innocent parties in this matter and who are in many cases being asked to pay disproportionate sums when there is a problem. individuals in business – some are still in business. – who are guilty men and women.
Mr Gove added: “I am always unhappy with the principle that tenants have to pay, no matter how effective a program is to cap their costs or not hit them too hard at one point. My question is why do they have to pay?
Asked by committee chairman Clive Betts about whether support would be made available to address fire safety issues other than coating, which can often be even more costly, Mr Gove said it was his intention .