Malthouse accused of ‘misleading’ MPs over fire tests

Labour leaps on Commons response to cladding question saying minister has “serious questions to answer”.

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Housing minister Kit Malthouse has been accused of misleading MPs over building safety fire tests.

Labour leapt on to an answer Malthouse gave to a written Commons questions from its MP Steve Reed, raising the fire safety tests carried out in the UK on High Pressure Laminate cladding prior to June 2017.

Malthouse effectively admitted that, for the last eight months, his department has been aware of another cladding type that failed a large-scale fire test.

Shadow Housing Minister Sarah Jones has accused Malthouse of misleading MPs over a promise to remove any building cladding that failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.

In January, Malthouse told a parliamentary select committee that material that failed a large-scale ‘British Standards’ fire test would be considered too dangerous to be left on buildings and be removed immediately.

Last week, in a written response, Malthouse told Reed High Pressure Laminate cladding (HPL) –had failed a third party test when it was tested with certain insulation in November.

Reed had asked whether MHCLG was aware of any fire safety tests carried out in the UK on High Pressure Laminate cladding prior to June 2017.

In his reply, Malthouse said: “We are aware of one BS 8414 test carried out in the UK in 2014 on High Pressure Laminate (HPL) panels in combination with a combustible insulation material.

“This test was commissioned by a private company, and the Department only became aware of the test in November 2018.

He continued: “We understand that the arrangement tested failed to meet the criteria for passing the test. The Department’s Advice Note 14, first issued in December 2017 and reissued in December 2018, made clear that a wall system which did not contain materials of limited combustibility would only meet the requirements of Building Regulations’ guidance if it had passed a BS 8414 test.

“The Department has commissioned its own BS 8414 test of an HPL panel with non-combustible insulation as well as carrying out a programme to research the performance in a fire of non-aluminium composite materials, including HPL.”

Jones said the response left Malthouse with “serious questions to answer”, as it appeared he had misled MPs.

“It is scandalous that six months after being told this cladding was lethal, the government has not made any effort to remove it, or even find out how many buildings are covered,” Jones said.

Labour now wants fire tests “urgently widened” to include all suspect cladding and give any building which fails a fire test access to the government’s cladding removal fund.

MHCLG also commented, saying: “There should be no buildings in this country with this combination of cladding and insulation.

“Building owners are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and need to make sure this is the case.

“They should be well aware of their responsibilities as we issued clear-cut advice in December 2017, reinforced last December, telling them to check that only safe cladding and insulation combinations had been used on their buildings.”

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