Labour to force vote to reveal ‘full extent’ of crumbling concrete crisis

Party plans to force vote to reveal information about ‘full extent’ of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in school buildings

Archie Mitchell
Wednesday 06 September 2023 05:18 BST
Nick Gibb laughs as he's asked if he's as 'frustrated' as Gillian Keegan

Labour will attempt to force ministers to publish documents detailing the full extent of the crumbling concrete crisis facing Britain.

The party plans to force a vote to “reveal information about the full extent of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in school buildings”.

It will table a so-called Humble Address motion in the House of Commons next Wednesday to force the publication of documents about how the Tories handled the crisis.

Labour accused the government of refusing to set out a timetable under which it will release details of the schools forced to close.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said a list of schools affected will be published “before Friday” and said delays so far were due to the need for it to be “accurate”.

Pupils across the country will be forced to resume their studies either online or in temporary facilities after the government ordered more than 100 schools to close immediately following fears over the concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.

The potentially dangerous material was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the fifties and mid-seventies in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.

In total, the government said 156 schools were found to contain RAAC, of which 104 require urgent action while 52 have already received repair works.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said on Tuesday the number of schools affected will “go up a bit” as engineers assess more buildings.

And Labour is calling for an “urgent, full audit” of buildings across the public sector amid reports the ministry of justice and ministry of defence are reviewing their estates.

A National Audit Office report in July revealed RAAC was present in at least 41 hospitals.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said parents and the public “have the right to know where public buildings affected by this dangerous concrete are”.

And she said they have a right to know “what ministers knew about the risk that this concrete posed to life and why they acted to intervene only days before the start of the school term”.

Ms Phillipson said: “Labour has been raising the issue of danger posed by our crumbling schools estate for nearly a year and at every turn have been met with complacency, obstinacy and inaction.

"An urgent, full audit is required to reveal the extent that Conservative ministers failed to replace this dangerous concrete across the public sector estate.

“It’s time ministers were transparent about their handling of this debacle: if they still refuse to publish these documents and give parents the reassurances they deserve about the risks to their children’s safety, then we will force a vote in parliament next week.”

Ms Keegan hit back, saying: “As chancellor, the PM introduced the School Rebuilding Programmes – delivering 500 schools over the next decade – on top of that the Conservatives have invested £15bn in schools since 2015.

“In addition, capital spending this year will be almost 29 per cent higher in real terms than last year.

“An independent review found Labour’s schools funding programme was badly targeted and complex. It did nothing to fix schools in poor condition, particularly those affected by RAAC. “In contrast the Labour-run Welsh government have sat on their hands and failed to act on schools in Wales.”

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