Parliamentary stand-off over post-Grenfell safety reforms comes to an end

A parliamentary stand-off over post-Grenfell fire safety reforms has ended, despite Boris Johnson suffering another major rebellion.

The Fire Safety Bill is on the verge of becoming law after a final, but ultimately doomed, push in the House of Lords to amend it to help leaseholders.

The Liberal Democrats pressed a final vote in a bid to prevent remediation costs linked to fire safety improvements being passed on to leaseholders and tenants.

Despite the Labour frontbench signalling they would not support the amendment after bemoaning the Government for “not listening” to their concerns, Lib Dem Baroness Pinnock moved it.

But the proposal was defeated by 242 votes to 153, majority 89, thereby paving the way for the Bill to become law following a lengthy parliamentary battle.

Housing minister Lord Greenhalgh had earlier noted the House of Commons had pushed back four times on proposals from peers linked to the issue of leaseholders and remediation costs during the parliamentary process known as ping-pong.

Earlier on Wednesday, a total of 32 Conservative MPs rebelled in a bid to retain a previous Lords amendment designed to protect leaseholders.

But the Tory backbenchers, along with opposition MPs, failed to convince ministers to take swifter action to implement the protections via this legislation.

The Bill, which clarifies who is responsible for fire safety in blocks of flats, was drawn up in response to the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a new £3.5 billion package, with ministers insisting no leaseholders in high-rise blocks in England will face charges for the removal of unsafe cladding.

But critics of the Government’s response argue this will not cover the costs faced by leaseholders, which have emerged through no fault of their own.

Conservative MP Royston Smith (Southampton Itchen) said the Government had “done nothing” in the last five months to find a compromise with the rebels.

Tory backbencher Sir Bob (Bromley and Chislehurst) noted it was “disappointing” the Government has not compromised, adding: “While the fundamental elements of the Bill are worthy, it nonetheless has at present the effect of causing collateral damage to innocent leaseholders.”

Housing minister Christopher Pincher earlier argued amendments proposed by peers “won’t help leaseholders” due to a lack of detail for such a “complex and intricate problem of this nature”.

He added: “This Government remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering the Grenfell Tower inquiry phase one report’s recommendations.

“The Fire Safety Bill is an important first step in our legislative programme delivering these recommendations and I cannot stress enough… the vital importance of this legislation and the ramifications if it fails as a result of outstanding remediation amendments.”

The Bill is expected to receive royal assent on Thursday ahead of the current parliamentary session being concluded.