Gove comes for construction suppliers on safety agenda

Michael Gove has vowed to make construction products suppliers be “held to account” on building safety, in a strongly worded letter to the Construction Products Association.

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the CPA following a meeting, warning he will do “whatever it takes to hold cladding and insulation manufacturers to account.”

Gove did thank the body for its “considerable efforts to convene the sector to move this issue forward,” and welcomed the agreement by construction product manufacturers that leaseholders should not face bills for unsafe cladding, as well as for their support of the ‘polluter pays’ concept.

However Gove added that while 35 property developers had responded to his request in January to make a “public funding commitment by early March” to address building safety failings, manufacturers had not followed suit.

“Unlike the approach taken by developers, manufacturers have failed to make any such commitment. This is simply not good enough.”

Gove accepted that making such commitments would be challenging for manufacturers, “leaseholders do not have the luxury of waiting years for every building to be assessed before funding is committed.”He said that five years on from the Grenfell tragedy, “there is little to suggest that manufacturers are ready to show leadership and play their part in bringing this unacceptable situation to an end.”

He continued: “The scale of this injustice should have spurred manufacturers into doing more, at speed, and it is disappointing that the sector appears instead to be using it as an excuse to do nothing, slowly.”

Gove held that manufacturers were not accepting responsibility: “It is unacceptable that there has been no clear acknowledgement that actions taken by cladding and insulation manufacturers have contributed to the problem, and that manufacturers have individually and collectively failed to come forward with a proposal for playing their part in addressing it.”

He believed that negotiations with the CPA had been “concluded,” and said he had instructed Department officials to do “whatever it takes” to hold manufacturers to account through the new powers being established in the Building Safety Bill, via a new ‘recovery unit.’

Gove concluded:

“My new recovery unit will pursue firms that have failed to do the right thing, including through the courts.

“I will consider carefully how to use other powers at my disposal to make sure that there are significant commercial and reputational consequences for those firms that have not stepped up.”