How your MP voted on bid to save flat owners from 'ruinous' fire safety bills

Montage of Suffolk MPs

Suffolk MPs James Cartlidge, Jo Churchill, Therese Coffey, Matt Hancock, Dr Dan Poulter and Colchester MP Will Quince all voted against amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, while Ipswich MP Tom Hunt (far right, middle) defied the Tory whip to vote in favour - Credit: OFFICE OF JAMES CARTLIDGE/ARCHANT/PA WIRE/WILL QUINCE MP

Campaigners living under a "financial cloud of misery and doom" in unsellable flats with fire safety defects say they may stage protests in the future, after proposals aimed at shielding them from crippling costs were voted down by MPs. 

All but one of our region's nine Conservative MPs voted against a proposal aimed at protecting leaseholders of dangerous flats from huge fire safety bills, despite Suffolk having at least 17 unsafe buildings and Essex recording 24 at the last count.

Only two MPs out of eight contacted by this newspaper responded to tell us why they voted in this way. 

Lords' amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, aimed at stopping building owners from passing on fire safety costs to individual flat owners, suffered a defeat in the Commons of 322 to 253 earlier this week. There was a Conservative Party whip in place although some Tory MPs defied it. 

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich where up to 2,300 people are currently trapped by the cladding scandal, was among those defying the whip, warning many in his consistency would be "left behind" under the current Bill. 

Tom Hunt is MP for Ipswich

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he felt the original Fire Safety Bill may leave some of his constituents behind - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

At Cardinal Lofts, on Ipswich Waterfront, fire marshals are patrolling the building 24/7 after defects were identified in October 2020. 

Leaseholders are facing a £300,000-a-year bill – equivalent to £5,600 per week. 

Alex Dickin, of campaign group Ipswich Cladiators, was an 11-year-old schoolboy when the flat he bought in Cardinal Lofts was built

Alex Dickin of the Ipswich Cladiators group, set up to fight cladding scandal of unsafe flats. Pict

First-time buyer Alex Dickin said the group may stage protests in future when the Covid lockdown ends - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

The first-time buyer said they were expecting a loss in the Commons but expected a far closer margin than the 69-vote majority the proposals were actually defeated by. 

Praising the support of Mr Hunt and hoping for another attempt by the Lords to see the amendments through, Mr Dickin added: "In terms of campaigning, there is certainly going to be a ramp-up. 

He said the group may look to hold protests in future when Covid lockdowns lift, either in Ipswich or nationally, adding: "There aren't any plans for certain, but there is a possibility, whether they be in Ipswich or making a bigger thing of it with other groups from around the country." 

Frustrated residents from Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich are faced with a large bill for fire marshals. P

Leaseholders of flats in Cardinal Lofts are among members of the Ipswich Cladiators group - Credit: ARCHANT/JULIANNE WOOR/SARAH CUSH

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National cladding group End Our Cladding Scandal said leaseholders are facing "ruinous costs" to fix a "scandal not of their making". 

We asked the region's remaining Conservative MPs why they voted against the Lords’ amendments. 

Colchester MP Will Quince and Waveney MP Peter Aldous were the only ones who responded to our requests.  

Central Suffolk and north Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter's office apologised for the delay and added that he was busy with other constituency issues and clinical work.  

We had no reply from the offices of Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, Clacton MP Giles Watling and Harwich and North Essex MP Sir Bernard Jenkin. 

Mr Quince said he voted against the amendments despite believing they were "well-intentioned". 

Colchester Conservative MP Will Quince has lost more than five stone in a year. Picture: WILL QUINCE

Colchester Conservative MP Will Quince said while he felt the amendments were "well-intentioned" he did not feel he could support them Picture: WILL QUINCE MP - Credit: WILL QUINCE MP

He added: "These amendments would not protect leaseholders from all costs associated with building remediation, and would delay the (Fire Safety) Bill becoming law. 

"More importantly, the Bill does not have the required legislative detail needed to underpin the proposed amendments." 

Meanwhile, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he reached the conclusion the amendments would not fully protect leaseholders from costs. 

"The provisions would only apply to those costs uncovered through the Fire Risk Assessment and not, for instance, defects discovered as a result of an incident or other works taking place," he added. 

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he was hopeful the region would be in the lowest of the three tiers Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Waveney MP Peter Aldous outlined his reasons for rejecting the Lords' amendments - Credit: Archant

Mr Aldous said it is not his position that leaseholders should pay for repairs, highlighting the Government's financing arrangement for people in buildings under 18m, where no leaseholder will pay more than £50 a month. 

He also noted the creation of the £30million waking watch fund to cover the cost of fire alarms and 24/7 fire marshals, and said non-cladding fire safety defects are a matter for building owners. 

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 on June 14, 2017, which claimed 72 lives. 

- Read more of the Archant Investigations Unit's coverage of cladding issues on our Facebook page 

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