Insurers are showing ‘cautious willingness’ to underwrite fire safety risks on defective cladding 

The Labour Party has backed a motion to help the building safety crisis highlighted by the Grenfell Tower fire, amid soaring professional indemnity insurance (PII) prices.

The cost of PII has risen due to the increased risk of insuring buildings with flammable cladding, many insurers show “cautious willingness” to underwrite it.

The motion, brought to Labour Party conference by the Fire Brigades Union, has called for “sustained investment” in public services. 

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “People up and down the country are stuck in homes, schools and offices which are death traps. To say that is unacceptable is a huge understatement, and we are glad that the Labour Party has come together and backed action that will help resolve this situation.

“More than four years after the fire, the courage and strength of the bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell as they fight for justice and safer buildings is clear to all of us. We at the FBU stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their fight.”

This coincides with Marsh’s report urging the insurance and construction industry to work together to tackle evolving risks.

More sustained investment

The motion calls for “more sustained investment in local authority building control” in fire service, fire safety teams, fire inspectors and other public agencies, and opposes “privatisation, deregulation and contracting out” of these services.

It said there “remains a deep, unresolved crisis in building safety”, and notes that hundreds of thousands are “trapped” in unsafe buildings, with “tenants and leaseholders expected to pay the price” for the crisis.

The motion recognises that “there is still no justice for the bereaved, survivors and residents”. Labour said it “stands in solidarity with the firefighters who attended” the fire, and backs cladding campaigners.

During her speech proposing the motion, Rosa Crowley-Bennett, firefighter and member of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “On the 14 June 2017 the fire at Grenfell Tower claimed the lives of 72 people. It devastated a close-knit, working-class community in the heart of London. My colleagues in London worked tirelessly in impossible conditions in the face of an unprecedented fire.

“This tragedy also marked the beginning of a national scandal which still continues to unfold in front of our eyes. In all the discussion of regulation and legislation, we must never forget that this debate is about real people, with real fears, suffering grave injustices in what should be one of the most basic of rights: the right to a decent and safe home.”

Meanwhile, Laura Hughes, general manager, general insurance, at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), told Insurance Times:“The Building Safety Bill is a landmark opportunity to fundamentally reform our building safety regulations, something that the ABI has long called for.

”Our industry has a crucial role to play in driving much needed change. We are totally committed to working with the Government and other stakeholders on these vital reforms to ensure residents and businesses get the safer homes and premises that they expect and deserve.”