In a speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Gove (pictured) said: “I am putting them [developers] on notice. To those who mis-sold dangerous products, such as cladding or insulation, to those who cut corners to save cash as they developed or refurbished people’s homes, and to those who sought to profiteer from the consequences of the Grenfell tragedy: we are coming for you.”
He said he had established a dedicated team in the department to “expose and pursue those responsible” and it would review government schemes and programmes to ensure there are “commercial consequences for any company that is responsible for this crisis and refusing to help to fix it”.
It comes after Gove gave developers a March deadline for cladding remediation plans and said that if the industry failed to take responsibility then the government would “impose a solution into law”.
He added: “We must also restore common sense to the assessment of building safety overall. The government are clear—we must find ways for there to be fewer unnecessary surveys. Medium-rise buildings are safe, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
“There must be far greater use of sensible mitigations, such as sprinklers and fire alarms, in place of unnecessary and costly remediation work.”
Gove confirmed the withdrawal of the government’s consolidated advice note, which provided guidance on how to assess a building’s external walls, smoke control systems and identified the types of short-term interim measures.
He said it had been “wrongly interpreted and has driven a cautious approach to building safety in buildings that are safe that goes beyond what we consider necessary”.
He also said there would be “new and proportionate guidance for assessors”, developed in conjunction with British Standards Institution, which would be brought out this week.
Gove continued that the government would press ahead with the Building Safety Fund and adapt it, so it was “consistent with our proportionate approach”.
He added before Easter he would implement the scheme to indemnify building assessors doing external wall assessments, which would give them confidence to exercise their “balanced professional judgement”.
Gove will also work with lenders over the coming months to “improve market confidence” and Lord Greenhalgh will also work with insurers on new approaches to lower premiums for leaseholders.
Gove added that he would take the power to review the governance of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to ensure it was equipped to support a solution to the cladding crisis.
He said the government would do its utmost to “relieve the burden that has been unfairly placed on leaseholders”, and he would scrap the proposal for loans and long-term debt for medium-rise leaseholders.
Gove said: “Leaseholders are shouldering a desperately unfair burden. They are blameless, and it is morally wrong that they should be the ones asked to pay the price. I am clear about who should pay the price for remedying failures. It should be the industries that profited, as they caused the problem, and those who have continued to profit, as they make it worse.”
He confirmed that no leaseholder living in a building over 11 metres will face costs for fixing dangerous cladding, and it would work with members of both houses to “purse statutory protection for leaseholders and nothing will be off the table”.
One of these actions includes amending the Building Safety Bill to extend the rights of leaseholder to challenge those who causes defects in premises to 30 years.
It would also provide an additional £27m to fund more fire alarms, and change grant guidance so shared owners can more easily sub-let their properties. He also added that he would encourage lenders and landlords to approve sub-letting arrangements.
The government will also put the recommendations of the Hackitt review on building safety into law and would commence on the Fire Safety Act.