MPs defend voting record on rented homes safety in wake of tragic Grenfell Tower fire

Election count 2015. Sir Peter Bottomley - West Worthing, left. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160622-115732003
Election count 2015. Sir Peter Bottomley - West Worthing, left. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160622-115732003

Linking the Grenfell Tower disaster to a vote on ensuring rented homes are ‘fit for human habitation’ is politically motivated, MPs have claimed.

MPs were criticised for their voting record in the wake of the fire, which claimed the lives of scores of people last Wednesday.

Comment focused on a defeated Labour amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill, summarised as making homes ‘fit for human habitation’.

Sussex Tory MPs, including Sir Peter Bottomley, Tim Loughton, Nick Gibb and Nick Herbert voted against the amendment.

East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton said the matters raised by the amendment were not relevant to the circumstances of the Grenfell Tower fire.

He said: “It is an unfortunate feature of tragedies like this and the immediacy of social media that certain people have sought to point the finger of blame as certain individuals, organisations and politicians often to further political agendas.

“In the light of the sensitivity of this appalling event and the magnitude of the loss of life this is a particularly crass thing to do and does the victims no favours. Their families are entitled to the truth not partisan speculation and I urge them to desist casting ill-informed and often abusive accusations.”

Mr Loughton said there were already rigorous standards landlords must meet under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

He said: “Under the Housing Act 2004, following an inspection, local authorities can issue the landlord with an improvement notice or a hazard awareness notice.

“This is also an area that my Worthing colleague Sir Peter Bottomley has been closely involved in and we work together to make sure that the safety of local residents is paramount, notwithstanding the pressures caused by social housing shortages in the area.”

Sir Peter Bottomley, whose Worthing West constituency stretches as far as Rustington, defended his record on keeping tenants of rented properties safe.

He pointed to the signing of numerous Early Day Motions promoting fire safety, including one in 2012 calling on residents to undertake basic checks as part of Electrical Fire Safety Week.

He said: “There are a lot of people on social media trying to stir up political hatred.

“The amendment was not about what is most likely to be the contributory cause of the fire.

“If someone had drawn my attention to flammable cladding I would have campaigned as strongly as I have for other causes.”

Sir Peter drew parallels from his time as roads minister in the late 1980s.

He said at that time, there were around 5,600 deaths on the UK’s road network, a figure cut today to 1,700. He explained he was ‘laughed at’ in the media for being ‘too conscientious’ but said people needed to be conscientious to make a difference.

Mr Herbert and Mr Gibb did not reply to a request for comment by the time this newspaper went to press.

But another Sussex MP, Horsham’s Jeremy Quin, explained why the Labour amendment was not directly linked to the issues surrounding the Grenfell Tower fire.

The MP said the amendment focused on private landlords – not social housing like Grenfell Tower – and he explained his reasoning behind the vote.

Mr Quin argued the amendment would have created a parallel scheme to the existing housing safety system, which allows councils to take enforcement action if properties are not up to scratch.

He said the change would have meant tenants had to gather evidence and take their landlords to court if there was an issue with their property – creating an ‘ambiguity’ over who was responsible for enforcement.