“Schedule (Special measures) provides for the appointment of a special measures manager, to undertake duties under this Part in place of an accountable person, and makes further provision in connection with that appointment.”—(Christopher Pincher.)
This new clause introduces NS1 and is intended to be inserted before clause 104.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 1—Review of payment practices and building safety—
“(1) The Secretary of State must, within 60 days of the day on which this Act is passed, establish a review of the effects of construction industry payment practices on building safety in general and on safety in high-risk buildings in particular.
(2) The review must, in particular, consider—
(a) the extent to the structure of the construction market incentivises procurement with building safety in mind,
(b) the extent to which contract terms and payment practices (for example, retentions) can drive poor behaviours, including the prioritisation of speed and low cost solutions and affect building safety by placing financial strain on supply chain,
(c) the effects on building safety of other matters raised in Chapter 9 (procurement and supply) of Building a Safer Future, the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published in May 2018 (Cm 9607),
(d) the adequacy for the purposes of promoting building safety of the existing legislative, regulatory and policy regime governing payment practices in construction, including the provisions of Part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, and
(e) recommendations for legislative, regulatory or policy change.
(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the findings of the review before Parliament no later than one year after this Act comes into force.”
This new clause would put an obligation on the Secretary of State to review the effects of construction industry payment on practices on building safety and to report the findings to Parliament.
New clause 2—Building regulations: property protection—
“(1) The Building Act 1984 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 1 (Power to make building regulations), after subsection (1)(f), insert—
‘(g) furthering the protection of property’.
(3) In Schedule 1 (Building Regulations), in paragraph 8(5A)—
(a) after ‘1(1)(a)’ insert ‘(d), (e) and (g)’;
(b) after ‘flooding’ insert ‘and fire’.”
This new clause would add “furthering the protection of property” to the list of purposes for which building regulations may be made under the Buildings Act 1984, and extends the purposes for which persons carrying out works on a building may be required to do things to improve building resilience.
New clause 15—Duty of social landlords to undertake electrical safety inspections—
“(1) A social landlord of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must—
(b) provide to the tenant of the dwelling, including any new such tenant—
(i) a copy of that EICR, and
(ii) a document explaining the provisions of this Act;
(c) handle any valid complaint about the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling in accordance with subsection (5).
(2) A person who fails to comply with a duty under subsection (1) commits an offence.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine.
(4) A complaint is valid if—
(a) it relates to the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling;
(b) it is made in writing by, or on behalf of, the tenant of the dwelling; and
(c) it is not frivolous or vexatious.
(5) The landlord must investigate any valid complaint within 28 days of receiving that complaint.
(6) If such an investigation shows that the electrical installations are unsafe, the landlord must rectify the situation using a qualified and competent person within 28 days of the completion of the investigation.
(7) If the landlord believes that a complaint is not valid they must write to the tenant within 28 days of receiving that complaint explaining why they do not think it is valid.
(8) In this section— a ‘valid Electrical Installation Condition Report’—
(a) is dated within the last five years;
(b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling;
(c) has a satisfactory outcome;
(d) was completed by a qualified and competent person; and
(e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent;
‘social landlord’ has the same meaning as in section 219 of the Housing Act 1996.”
This new clause requires social landlords to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high rise buildings and is intended to reduce risk of spread of fires between flats.
New clause 16—Duty of leaseholders to undertake electrical safety inspections—
“(1) A leaseholder of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must—
(a) hold a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) for that dwelling; and
(b) provide a copy of that EICR to a person specified by the Secretary of State.
(2) A person who fails to comply with subsection (1) shall—
(a) initially receive a written request from the specified person to provide the EICR; and
(b) if he or she fails to comply with such a written request, be liable to a civil penalty.
(3) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, nominate who the specified person shall be.
(4) In this section a ‘valid Electrical Installation Condition Report’—
(a) is dated within the last five years;
(b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling;
(c) has a satisfactory outcome;
(d) was completed by a qualified and competent person; and
(e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent.”
This new clause requires leaseholders to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high rise buildings and is intended to reduce risk of spread of fires between flats.
New clause 17—Staircase standards—
“The Secretary of State must, within 6 months of the day on which this Act is passed, consult on regulations requiring staircases in all new build properties to comply with British Standard 5395-1.”
New clause 18—Property flood resilience—
“(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed, use the power under section 1 of the Building Act 1984 to make building regulations for the purpose in subsection (2).
(2) That purpose is to set minimum standards for the safety of new build public and private properties in England for—
(a) property flood resilience,
(b) flood mitigation, and
(c) waste management in connection with flooding.
(3) The Secretary of State must by regulations establish—
(a) a certification scheme for safety improvements to domestic and commercial properties in England made in full or in part for flood prevention or flood mitigation purposes, and
(b) an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements.
(4) The scheme under subsection (3)(a) must—
(a) set minimum standards for the improvements, including that they are made by a person accredited under subsection (1)(b), and
(b) provide for the issuance of certificates for insurance and assurance purposes stating that improvements to properties have met those standards.
(5) The scheme under subsection (3)(a) may make provision for the certification of improvements that were made before the establishment of the scheme provided those improvements meet the minimum standards in subsection (4)(a).
(6) In setting minimum standards under subsection (4)(a) the Secretary of State must have regard to the minimum standards for new build properties under subsection (1).
(7) The Secretary of State and local authorities in England must take all reasonable steps to make data about flood prevention and risk relevant to building safety publicly available.
(8) The duty under subsection (1) extends to seeking to facilitate use of the data by—
(a) insurers for the purpose of accurately assessing risks to buildings, and
(b) individual property owners for the purpose of assessing the need for property flood resilience measures.”
This new clause would establish minimum standards for property flood resilience measures in new build properties and in improvements to existing building designed to increase safety protections for flood prevention and mitigation purposes, and require local and national government to make data available to support this.
New clause 23—Building control: independent appointment—
“In section 47 of the Building Act 1984 (giving and acceptance of initial notice), in subsection (1)(a) after ‘approved inspector’, insert ‘who has been chosen by a system of independent appointment, prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.’”
This new clause, along with Amendment 73, is intended to remove choice of building control body from those carrying out all building work.
New clause 24—Building Safety and Local Authorities—
“(1) The duties performed by the regulator under section 31 of this Act in respect of relevant buildings must be performed by the local authority that exercises building control functions in the area in which the building is located.
(2) In this section ‘relevant building’ means a building—
(a) under 18 metres in height, and
(b) comprising more than one dwelling.”
New clause 25—Building Safety Regulations for multi-occupancy dwellings—
“The Secretary of State must by regulations amend paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984 to apply to all buildings that comprise more than one dwelling.”
Amendment 1, in clause 3, page 2, line 13, at end insert—
“(aa) furthering the protection of property, and”.
This amendment would require the building safety regulator to exercise its functions with a view to furthering the protection of property, which is intended promote longer term protections for occupant safety and reducing fire damage and cost.
Amendment 74, in clause 30, page 18, line 17, at end insert—
“(3A) In making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must have regard to the ability of residents to evacuate a building, taking into account the vulnerability of residents and the number of means of egress.”
This amendment is intended to ensure the Secretary of State has regard to the ability of residents to evacuate a building when revising the definition of higher-risk building.
Amendment 73, page 60, line 7 leave out clause 45.
This amendment, along with NC23, is intended to remove choice of building control body for those carrying out all building work.
Amendment 75, in clause 57, page 79, line 23, at end insert—
“(5) The regulations must exempt any relevant application made by or on behalf of a registered social landlord for the provision of social housing as defined under section 68 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.
(6) A ‘relevant application’ under subsection (5) means an application of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”
Government amendments 11 to 40.
Government amendments 60 and 61.
Government amendments 63 and 64.
Government new schedule 1—Special measures.
Government amendment 70.
I am happy to set out this group of new clauses and amendments that I hope will be non-contentious as they relate to special measures.
Let me briefly remind the House that special measures orders are a last-resort regulatory intervention that will be invoked if there has been a serious failure or multiple failures by the accountable person to meet their duties under part 4 of the Bill. The new clauses and amendments, beginning with new clause 19, provide for the special measures regime to operate in high-risk buildings across all housing tenures. They also ensure that a special measure order cannot be circumvented by a recalcitrant accountable person, including in respect of a situation in which an accountable person sells their interest in the building and tries to avoid being bound by the special measures order.
New clause 19 introduces new schedule 1, which will encompass the special measures provisions and replace clauses 104 to 113. I shall refer to the paragraphs in the schedule as I address the House. Proposed new paragraph 9 is a new provision that provides for a financial management proposal. This will detail how the accountable person will fund the relevant building safety expenses across both leasehold and rented buildings that are subject to special measures. The financial management proposal sets out the estimated expenses, the measures that they will fund and the special measures manager will undertake, and the apportionment of payments if there is more than one accountable person.
Proposed new paragraph 10(3)(b) ensures that for commonhold buildings a special measures manager may carry out the functions of a receiver of commonhold building safety assessments. This aligns with the provisions on the building safety charge and ensures that the manager is remunerated and can carry out their functions for such a tenure of building. Amendments 33 to 35 are supporting provisions for special measures in common-hold buildings.
Proposed new paragraph 12 is a new provision that ensures financial propriety and provides that any payments received by a manager further to the proposal are deposited into an account to be held on trust. Proposed new paragraph 16 gives power to the Building Safety Regulator to provide financial assistance to the special measures manager to enable it to carry out its functions.
Proposed new paragraph 18 provides for a proactive regulator who will review key aspects under the special measures order and, where necessary, apply to vary the order if the regulator considers that any of the functions or terms require amendment.
Proposed new paragraphs 20(7) to 20(9) provide that on the discharge of a special measures order, the tribunal must direct the special measures manager to prepare a reconciliation of those accounts held on trust and may direct final payments from the manager or accountable persons as appropriate.
Proposed new paragraph 22 creates provisions that ensure that while it is in force the terms of a special measures order will be binding against an incoming accountable person, while the outgoing accountable person remains liable for any contraventions under the order and any debts that may have been incurred prior to the transfer of ownership.
A swathe of Government amendments—Nos. 11, 12, 16 to 28, 31 and 32, 36, 40, 61, 63 and 70—are consequential amendments that make changes relating to special measures due to the provisions now appearing in new schedule 1. Amendments 33 to 35 provide for changes to provisions to ensure that special measures operate effectively for commonhold, high-risk buildings. Together, these amendments and new provisions will ensure that a special measures intervention will operate effectively across buildings, regardless of tenure.
Amendments 14 and 15 are, again, minor technical changes to the process of registration of high-risk buildings. Amendment 14 simply clarifies the meaning of registration, while amendment 15 makes it clear that the building safety regulator has the powers to update the register of high-risk buildings beyond the initial registration application. The amendment will therefore make sure that the register is kept up to date and is fit for purpose. Amendments 29 and 30 are on the protection from forfeiture and amend clause 122. They amend it so that leaseholders can be assured that they have the same protections against forfeiture of a lease as those that already exist in relation to the service charge. They are consequential amendments that ensure that statutory protections against forfeiture apply to relevant leases where there is a requirement to pay a building safety charge. We want the same procedural rights to apply to the building safety charge regime as apply to the service charge. The amendment extends service charge protections for leaseholders who default on payments or challenge the reasonableness of a charge to the building safety charge.
Finally, the Government have tabled another small batch of minor or technical amendments that are either consequential to other changes or correct clauses in the Bill. Four technical amendments are consequential to amendment 1, which I introduced earlier, relating to the new homes ombudsman. Amendments 59 and 62 remove the regulation-making power to add the description of “developer” for the purposes of the new homes ombudsman provisions from the scope of the general provision about powers to make regulations. This is because new clause 20, in respect of the regulations, means that we can ensure that Scottish and Welsh Ministers, as well as the Secretary of State, have bespoke powers. Amendments 66 and 67 adjust the territorial extent of the provisions about the new homes ombudsman scheme now that that the scheme will operate across Great Britain, and territorial extent issues are also dealt with in new schedule 2, which contains a consequential amendment related to the new homes ombudsman. [Interruption.]
Finally, I heard from my right hon. Friend Bob Stewart, who has not yet risen—
I thank my very good friend for being so nice to me—decent of him. In sum, all these special measures are devices to ensure that, once people are identified as culpable to fix the problem, they are pinged and have to do it. Is that correct?
My right hon. and gallant Friend, as ever, is on or near the money. The point of the changes is to make sure that the accountable person is indeed accountable, so they do what it says on the tin.
Amendment 13 makes it clear in the Bill that an accountable person who allows occupation of a single residential unit or more in part of a higher risk building, as defined in clause 62, without a relevant completion certificate has committed a summary offence, and the guilty person is liable for conviction up to a maximum summary term. Amendment 60 allows regulations made under clause 71 to be subject to the affirmative procedure. Clause 71 sets out the parameters of the part of the building for which an accountable person is responsible. Amendment 64 provides that the consequential amendments in schedule 5 relating to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967—an Act we all know well—and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 extend to all of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Amendment 68 provides that clause 127 is automatically commenced two months after Royal Assent.
The amendments, while hardly scintillating, will help to improve the Bill and make it ready for scrutiny by our colleagues in the other place. I trust that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members have listened closely, with care and attention, have absorbed all the points I have made, and that they will support the amendments.
Before I call Matthew Pennycook, I ask colleagues who are trying to catch my eye that they please make sure that they address the new clauses and amendments in the group before us, not those in the previous group.
Scintillating they may not be, but it is still a pleasure to respond for the Opposition to the remaining proceedings on consideration. I will first deal briefly with several of the non-Government amendments selected, before taking the opportunity to ask the Minister several specific questions relating to Government new clause 19, new schedule 1 and various other amendments relating to special measures and protections against forfeiture. I hope he is able to answer at least some of them.
New clause 1, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend Debbie Abrahams, who sadly cannot be in her place today because she has contracted covid, is a straightforward amendment that would place on the Secretary of State an obligation to review the effects of behaviour in the construction industry that have a negative impact on building safety, such as contract terms and payment practices that prioritise speed and low-cost solutions, and to report findings to this House. We support the new clause fully and urge the Government to give it due consideration.
New clause 18, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend Emma Hardy, would establish minimum standards for property flood resilience measures in new-build homes. In response to my hon. Friend last week, the Secretary of State made it clear that “more could be done” on this issue. I hope my hon. Friend gets a chance to make her case in more detail in due course, and that the Minister will give serious consideration to her new clause and to what might be done through future planning legislation to drive up standards when it comes to flood mitigation and resilience.
New clause 15, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter, would extent the electrical safety inspection duties that currently apply in the private sector to social landlords. It is straightforward and we believe it warrants support.
New clause 16 would extend the same duties to leaseholders. Although we do not want extra burdens to be placed on leaseholder-occupiers—those who sub-let are of course required to have the relevant certification anyway—and we do want further assurances that the provision would not duplicate powers and duties that the Bill confers on the building safety manager, we support in principle steps to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high-rise buildings and to reduce the risk of fire spreading between flats.
My hon. Friend is a logical and fair man, and he will appreciate that there is an anomaly here. If a leaseholder rents out their property, as we have heard some are forced to do, they will be a private landlord and will be obliged to carry out these checks, but they will not be if they are living in the property themselves. In the name of safety, there has to be consistency. Not only landlords of high-rise blocks but social landlords and resident leaseholders need to do this, and the cost is estimated to be about £30 a year per flat.
I agree there is an anomaly, and I agree that we need consistency. I very much hope the Government give further thought to what might be done to achieve that objective.
On Government new clause 19 and new schedule 1, which will replace clauses 104 to 113, and various related amendments, we fully accept the need for special measures in cases where a given accountable person fails to discharge their duties under the new regime, including the appointment via an order secured by the regulator at the first-tier tribunal of a special measures manager who will take on the management of risk in a given building in such instances.
We also support the changes made to the special measures arrangements by new schedule 1, such as the change to enable the regulator to provide financial assistance to the special measures manager by way of loans or grants. However, we would be grateful if the Minister provided some clarification on those parts of the new schedule that allow for payments to be made by the accountable person to the special measures manager if expenses exceed what can be raised by way of the building safety charge. Will he give a commitment this afternoon that those additional payments will not be able to be charged to leaseholders?
Building height was debated extensively in Committee and warrants a brief mention in relation to this group of Government amendments, because the Bill’s arrangements for special measures still apply only to higher-risk buildings, defined as those of at least 18 metres in height or of at least seven storeys—I note that new clauses 24 and 25, in the name of Daisy Cooper, directly address this.
Eighteen metres has always been a crude and arbitrary threshold that fails adequately to reflect the complexity of fire risk. It is absolutely right and long overdue that the Government made it clear last week that 18 metres will no longer be the difference between whether an affected leaseholder is protected by the state from the costs of remediation or made to take on a forced loan and long-term debt, although leaseholders will still face ruinous costs for the remediation of buildings under 11 metres. That requirement will not be entirely resolved by the withdrawal of the January 2020 consolidated advice note, and we urge the Minister to ensure those people are also protected financially.
Leaving aside whether a more proportionate approach to fire safety risk results in a reduction in the number of medium-rise buildings that ultimately require remedial works, many of them will clearly remain designated as high risk and will therefore require remediation. Can the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s intention eventually to bring high-risk buildings under 18 metres into the purview of the regulator and the gateway system once the regime has been given a chance to bed in and deal with the most complex high-rise cases?
Lastly, amendment 29 will extend existing protections against forfeiture of a lease on the ground of non-payment of a service charge to non-payment of a building safety charge. We do not oppose this amendment as it rebalances, even if only marginally, the disparity in power between a landlord and leaseholder when it comes to the building safety charge. This directly relates to our previous debate on part 5. No provisions prohibiting forfeiture would be necessary if the House had accepted any amendment, whether it be new clause 3, new clause 13 or potential forthcoming Government amendments, that provides sufficiently robust legal protection for leaseholders in all circumstances.
The difficulty of considering amendments on Report when other amendments that are likely to have a direct bearing on their operation, were they to be accepted, have not yet been tabled is that, if no amendments are made to provide legal protection for leaseholders against the costs of remediating historical defects, we would be concerned that amendment 29 could inadvertently incentivise freeholders to sue for unpaid building safety charges. I therefore ask the Minister and his officials to consider revising the amendment to make it clear that failure to pay a building safety charge can never be used as a basis for forfeiture, rather than merely regulating the process by which forfeiture takes place, as the amendment does in its present form.
New clause 2 and amendment 1, which stand in my name and are kindly supported by Emma Hardy, add “the protection of property” to the list of purposes for which building regulations may be made under the Building Act 1984, and require the Building Safety Regulator to carry out its work
“with a view to furthering the protection of property”.
In many respects, in terms of drafting, these are tweaks to the Bill, but they could have far-reaching and positive consequences. Modern methods of construction and the increasing compartmental sizes of industrial and commercial buildings are leading to more challenging and larger fires, which put lives at risk and also cause enormous social, economic and environmental consequential damage. That is exactly what happened at Wessex Foods in Lowestoft 11 years ago, in July 2011. If adequate property protection measures—in the form of sprinklers, in that instance—had been in place, a huge amount of disruption would have been avoided, and the firefighters would have been back at their station in four minutes.
If the consideration of “property protection” were added to the Building Act and the building regulations, we would secure a significant double dividend: greater safety for people, including firefighters, and more sustainable buildings. It is far better to be preventing fires than to be putting them out. I should therefore be grateful if the Minister gave serious consideration to accepting new clause 2 and amendment 1, so that the Building Act can be amended to provide for the protection of property. These proposals have the support of professionals across the fire sector: the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Fire Sector Federation, the Fire Brigades Union, the Fire Protection Association and the Institution of Fire Engineers.
The new clause and amendment would provide an appropriate framework for the future fire safety of building design, and we would therefore know that homes, schools, care homes, student accommodation and all industrial and commercial buildings had adequate property protection and fire prevention measures built in at the start, so that we were not putting people—including firefighters—and property at risk. As I have said, I should be grateful if the Minister considered these proposals.
Amendment 75 is pretty straightforward. At present, the Bill lacks clarity in relation to social housing providers. This amendment to clause 57 would make registered social landlords exempt from the additional financial burden of the building safety levy. I think it unacceptable that council and housing association tenants have to subsidise the failures of private developers under this scheme.
The purpose of the two new clauses, taken together, is to introduce a more stringent building safety framework that would apply to multiple dwellings under 18 metres in height as well as those above. We have already heard from hon. Members about how crude the 18-metre cut-off is and how it has no basis. Indeed, many of us remember seeing a leaked video of an adviser to the Government saying that that figure had been plucked out of the air.
These two new clauses, taken together, would prevent having a two-tier building safety regime. I ask the Minister to respond to the amendment and the new clauses to see whether the Government might be willing to adopt them all during the passage of the Bill.
I rise to speak to new clause 17, which stands in my name.
The Minister, probably more than anybody else in this Parliament, already knows that I have a tendency to fall over. Because I am teetotal, this is not down to drink either. Indeed, I suspect that every single Member here will know someone—a friend, a loved one or a relative—who has had a fall on the stairs. They are a silent killer and claim the lives of over 700 people every year, as well as thousands more who suffer injuries and lose their independence.
Finding a solution to the issue of flammable cladding has proven fiendishly complex, as we know from our time here, but for staircase safety it should be, and indeed is, simple. A British standard already exists that reduces falls by a staggering 60%: British Standard 5395-1. It means that stairs must have a minimum size of “going”—the horizontal surface on which one treads—and a maximum rise in height limiting steepness and providing enough surface area on which to step. Provision of easy-reach handrails is also required for staircases to be compliant. While such staircases hardly look different at all to the naked eye, their impact on preventing falls is remarkable.
British Standard 5395-1 has been in place since 2010 but never enshrined in law as a requirement, so today I am proposing this new clause, alongside Mr Betts, for whose support I am most grateful. This is the result of ardent campaigning by the UK’s leading accident prevention charity, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, but also, crucially, major players in the housing industry such as the Berkeley Group. Industry wants this regulation. It wants a level playing field where there is one simple rule for all to adhere to. Because I am only calling for the standard to be applied to new-builds, there will be negligible cost and no need for retrofitting.
I can almost hear what the Minister is about to tell me—that it is uncommon to use primary legislation to enshrine such a standard into law. The Government will argue that our focus should be outcome-based rather than legislating on method, but I might point to regulation 7 of the building regulations, on combustible materials, which is in itself descriptive and sets out how the industry must achieve that particular regulation. If the outcome that we are all aiming for is safety of stairs, then the status quo is simply not working, and hundreds of people are dying every year from something that could so easily be prevented: I refer back to the 60% figure. If the Government have some other way to achieve such a reduction in preventable death in the home, then I am all ears, as many people have often pointed out to me. Independent safety campaigners such as RoSPA are confident from the statistics that this simple measure will save more lives than perhaps anything else in the entire Bill.
Genuine low-hanging fruit does not come along very often in politics, and I would like the Minister to grasp it when he sees it. He may not wish to satisfy me by granting me the agreement of the Government to the new clause. He has spent many years working on this with me trying to keep me satisfied and happy, but failed. Now he has his chance to redeem himself after 12 months of horror. Will he at least agree to meet me to discuss how we can take this matter forward? He can make my day by saying, yes, the Government agree. He can give me a minute of happiness and take forward Conservative party harmony, so rare these days, just by agreeing to meet me. I look forward to hearing what he might just have to say.
I will speak briefly to new clauses 15 and 16, which are in my name and which relate to electrical safety. They seek to extend the requirement for five-yearly checks on electrical equipment to resident leaseholders and to social landlords, where these already apply and in fact apply more widely than just to high-rise residential buildings and private landlords.
We have quite rightly spent a lot of time this afternoon talking about the effects on leaseholders, and we have strayed into other territory and exposed other deficiencies in the Bill in relation to the requirements for social landlords and tenants, what types of building are covered and, indeed, as we heard from Bob Blackman, how certain types of buildings now being constructed are still being constructed with many of those faults.
What all of those have in common is that they are about the spread of fire, and these new clauses are not about that, but about the cause of fire, which I suggest we should also pay attention to. The Grenfell fire was caused by an electrical fault in a fridge-freezer. Less than a year before Grenfell, in August 2016, there was a very serious fire, less than 1 mile from where Grenfell Tower stands, at Shepherd’s Court—an 18-storey block—in my constituency. That was caused by an unsafe Indesit washer-dryer. Some 5.5 million of that particular type of faulty washer-dryer were manufactured, and hundreds if not thousands of fires across the country, some obviously in high-rise buildings, have been caused by that. The New York fire just a week or so ago was caused by an electrical heater.
Lakanal House, Shirley Towers, New Providence Wharf—almost every one of the notorious recent fires in high-rise blocks have been caused by electrical faults, and they are increasing. In the last year, there were just over 350 fires caused by electrical ignition in high-rise residential blocks, which compares with about 300 five years ago. The fear always used to be of gas—going back to Ronan Point—with a gas explosion or fire, but in fact six times as many fires are caused by electricity as by gas. Indeed, over half—53%—of all accidental dwelling fires are caused by electrical sources of ignition.
It is entirely anomalous that whereas a private landlord quite rightly has to ensure the safety of electrical appliances, a private residential owner or social landlord does not, yet the Government’s own social housing White Paper said that the standards—this is clearly pretty much common sense—should be as good for social housing as they are for private housing in this respect.
I would like to get the Government’s support, as I have had the support—almost total support—of my own Front-Bench spokesperson, my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook, on these matters today. He was a little grudging on my second new clause, but I will live with that. I hope that if the Government will not support the new clauses today, and I do not intend to push them to a vote, they will at least positively respond, and go away and think about how we are going to do this. It is entirely anomalous in a single block of flats with different types of tenures for some flats to be subject to greater rigours, and this applies not only to electrical safety but to fitting sprinklers, compartmentalisation and alterations to properties.
If we are going to take seriously the issue of preventing fires, given the devastating consequences that can result from them in high-rise blocks, we will have to make sure there is a level playing field, and that we equally address the problems concerning social housing and leaseholder-owned property as those concerning private rental.
I rise to speak in favour of new clause 18. This amendment seeks to tackle the Government’s currently laissez-faire approach to flood protection, which are known as property flood resilience measures, by introducing minimum national flood protection standards in new builds.
The reasoning behind this amendment is the inevitable change to our climate and the fact that we are going to see more flooding in this country, and it feels as though our legislation is not keeping up with the reality we all face. As the shadow spokesman, my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook, said, the Secretary of State did acknowledge in his response to me on the statement that “more could be done”. Therefore, I really do hope that the Government go away, have a look at the amendment I am putting forward, and consider how we can increase flood protections as part of building safety.
Currently, local authority planning departments can choose what property flood resilience measures they introduce as part of their pre-commencement conditions. In reality, that means that adjacent local authorities have different requirements for property flood resilience, flood mitigation and water management measures, even if they are rated in the same flood zone. In Hull, we have very strict flood resilience measures, as the House can imagine—we are an area that floods—but if the surrounding local authorities are not as strict on flood mitigation, we end up with the flood water from those areas, which creates more of a problem for an area such as Hull. That is why we are talking about having the same level right across the country. Even if a part of the country does not flood at all, the new clause seeks to ensure that they still need to take flooding seriously because if they do not, it will lead to problems upstream for somebody else—excuse the pun.
The new clause would also address the lack of clarity about effective PFR measures by looking at a proper accreditation scheme, which would include installers. In the same way that we have gas safety certificates and other safety measures, as well as energy efficiency ratings that are set and established and which everybody understands, the new clause would do the same thing on flooding so that people know they get a certain standard of flood protection in their property and in new builds.
In 2021, Flood Re proposed that lower premiums should be offered on policies where property flood resilience measures have been installed, but the insurance industry says that the lack of standards and proven efficacy makes it very difficult to assess premiums. If the new clause introduced standardisation and a certain standard was set, people could say to insurance companies, “This property has reached a certain standard, so there should be some reflection of that in the premium you’re offering.” This proposal is about looking at a certification scheme.
To further help insurers and the public, the new clause would create a requirement that all the relevant available data held by bodies such as the Environment Agency and local authorities on flood mitigation measures should be made publicly available. This is about trying to make premiums cheaper for people. Insurers purchase flood mapping data to aid them in setting premiums, and the better information they have, the more accurate their insurance premiums will be. At the moment, as I am sure the Minister knows, householders in some parts of the country cannot get any flood insurance if their property has been built after 2009. This proposal attempts to address that issue as well.
Climate change is causing heavier and more frequent flooding, and we currently have 6.3 million homes in the UK at risk of flooding, without any property flood resilience measures. That should be a cause for extreme concern, yet the Government are failing to address it and, in fact, flooding is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. It is irresponsible and reckless to allow new builds to continue to be built in this country without really strong property flood resilience measures, because we need our homes to be fit for the future. Without positive action from the Government, tens of thousands more homes will be built without the protection they need. This is another housing scandal in the making, so I urge the Minister to go away and look at improving provisions on flooding as part of this Bill.
And new clause 23, but let me comment briefly on two other new clauses. New clause 17, which was tabled by Paul Maynard, is about safety on stairs and ensuring that stairs built in new properties conform to British standards. He is absolutely right and I have put my name to the new clause. Each year, 300,000 people are admitted to A&E because of falls on stairs. That is a staggering figure and anything that we can do to reduce that has to be considered. This proposal is not a difficult one; as he said, it should be easy to implement and cost-free because it would be in new properties. Making sure that the stairs are wide enough and have proper handrails is not rocket science, and I hope that the Minister might indicate agreement on that in future, even if he cannot agree to the new clause today.
I just want to make it clear that nothing I am saying here is meant to try to improve harmony in the Conservative party—that is not something I want to be associated with, as the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys indicated. However, I am more than happy to have harmony with him in promoting new clause 17.
My hon. Friend Andy Slaughter is right that there should be similar standards for social tenants in social rented properties. The Select Committee on Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has an ongoing inquiry into the regulation of social housing, and if he could drop a note to the Committee as evidence so that we can take account of his proposals, that would be useful.
I turn to new clause 23 and amendment 73 in my name, which reflect what the Select Committee has looked at. Building control has come up as an issue as a result of the Hackitt review. Dame Judith Hackitt made it clear that two of her concerns about the construction industry were: the whole culture of the industry with its race to the bottom; and—this goes alongside that—conflicts of interest.
In the previous debate, I mentioned conflicts of interest on approvals for products in the industry, with suppliers hawking products around until they found someone—a friendly approver—who would approve them. Building control is the same—it is about the developer finding someone less likely to give them difficult scrutiny. The Government have addressed that for the highest-risk buildings, for which in future building control will be appointed by the regulator. However, for all other properties the developer can say, “Yes, I’ll have you to do my building control” or, “I won’t have you, because you gave me a difficult time with the last property I built.” That is not acceptable.
We need someone to approve a building who is independent of the developer. The Committee has gone on record on that several times, and we recommended it when we scrutinised the draft Bill. So far, the Minister has come back with, “The Government don’t agree.” I hope that at some point the Government will reconsider, because that seems to be a fundamental principle and something that will make all buildings safer in future. It would provide security for the owners, occupiers and tenants that their buildings have been approved by someone independent of the developer.
This is exactly the point. My constituents are deeply concerned as a result of some developers’ unscrupulous behaviour in appointing inspectors and building control approvers who they know will give them an easy ride. My hon. Friend may be familiar with the case of New Lawrence House in the constituency of my hon. Friend Lucy Powell, which has the same developer that turns up often in my constituency. The issue was not that there was a definite intent to collude with the developer but that it was easier to turn a bit of a blind eye. Leaseholders in my constituency are worried about that real issue, so I strongly support his amendments.
I am not aware of the particular scheme that my hon. Friend mentions, but unfortunately it is all too common that concerns are raised after the event about the quality of building control. It can sometimes be that an independent building control inspector approved a development, but all too often it is someone appointed by the developer, and that is not right. I am sure that the Minister will not have a conversion when he responds to the debate, but I hope that he might consider that this needs addressing in the future.
Let me turn to amendment 74, which is about the buildings in scope for the new regulatory regime. The Select Committee has been on the record as welcoming the Government’s approach to stronger regulation with the new Building Safety Regulator under the umbrella of the Health and Safety Executive. We supported all that, with one or two questions and reservations in our response on the draft Bill, but we said that the scope of that regulation should eventually be expanded to include other buildings. I think that the Government accept that in principle but do not want to lay down on the face of the Bill the other factors that might be taken into account to expand that scope of regulation at a future date.
My amendment seeks, as the Select Committee has recommended, to ensure that the requirement on residents’ ability to evacuate a building explicitly includes and takes into account their vulnerability, and that the number of means of egress is included on the face of the Bill. We recognise that the Government have gone a bit further with the new regulation, which now includes some hospitals and care residences, but we do not think it goes far enough.
In looking to the future—we recognise that the new regulator will have to move in a considered way, and it is important that the highest-risk buildings are considered first—we believe that, eventually, there ought to be a requirement to consider extending the scope of regulation. Where a building has within it vulnerable people, who will take longer to get out of the building in the event of a fire, or where the means of access and egress are limited—as in the proposal to build a 50-storey tower block with one means of fire escape, which fortunately was withdrawn the other day from a local planning committee—that factor ought to be taken into account when extending the scope of the new regulatory regime to other buildings in the future. Again, we are not saying it has to be done today or tomorrow; we are merely saying that that issue should inform future decisions about extending the scope of the new and important building safety regulatory regime. I would hope that the Government will eventually give approval to those approaches, if not today. We will not push the amendments to a vote, but at least we have put the issue back on the agenda for future consideration.
I rise to speak in support of amendment 73, tabled my hon. Friend Mr Betts, and amendment 1, tabled by Peter Aldous. The Bill renames “private approved inspectors” “building control approvers”. Not just amendment 73 has touched on the issue; other Members have done that through other new clauses and amendments. I wish to express my support for the Fire Brigades Union’s opposition to those private inspectors, which, as it argues, undermine professional local authority building control and weaken building safety regulation.
Amendment 1 is about the Building Safety Regulator. Again, I share the alarm expressed by the Fire Brigades Union that the Building Safety Regulator would be permitted to seek private sector involvement if the fire authority cannot assist. Surely it is obvious why private firms cannot be given licence to sign off on fire safety matters relating to higher-risk buildings. Fire safety is a matter for professional firefighters, not profiteers, and it is not clear how the new Building Regulations Advisory Committee will be constituted. I would be grateful if the Minister could say more about that.
Many of us would like to see the Government re-establish a statutory fire safety advisory body, with guaranteed representation for trade unions and residents. As the Bill progresses, I would like to see legislation and provision that apply to all residential buildings above 11 metres in height, an idea that has been echoed by Members of all parties. Any new regime should apply to other multi-occupancy institutional or residential buildings, which was also touched on in various amendments.
It would be helpful to hear from the Minister whether the Government have any plans to introduce a threshold height at which two staircases are required in order to provide means of both resident escape and firefighter entry. As he will no doubt be aware, concerns were raised that the plans for Ballymore’s proposed 51-storey development in Cuba Street in my constituency included only a single fire escape for a building that would have been two and half times the height of Grenfell tower.
Elsewhere in my constituency, the recent fire at Ballymore’s New Providence Wharf, where the fire spread between multiple floors and the ventilation system failed, led to smoke spreading throughout the building. That demonstrates the potential shortcomings of relying on stay put evacuation policies, so it would be helpful to know whether the Government have any plans to commit to addressing that in the Bill.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that she has done to draw wider attention to the Ballymore application, and indeed it has now been withdrawn. That is happening everywhere, however: on the border of my constituency, one over 50-storey block is already under construction and three others are in planning with, again, one staircase each. It is ridiculous to say that the stay put policy is the answer to that, because post Grenfell, people will not stay put and we understand exactly why.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point strongly. I share his concern that there is too much of a free pass in that situation and such buildings should just not be allowed to be presented. On his point, the Cuba Street development has been withdrawn for now, but it is only paused. It will come back and there is no guarantee that all the problems will be addressed, so it would be helpful to know whether the Government have any plans to address that issue and, if not, whether they will commit to a national independent review of stay put policies, particularly given that the Cuba Street proposal was allowed under existing building regulations.
At present, there are insufficient fire safety inspectors after decades of cuts and increased workloads. It is urgent that the fire and rescue service is properly funded and resourced, because people have a right to be safe in their own homes. The Bill is a small step forward, but it does not resolve the overall building safety crisis across the UK. In the words of the Fire Brigades Union, it is at best
“a sticking plaster over a gaping wound unless the whole regime rebuild around need rather than profit.”
I rise to speak in support of new clauses 1, 2, 15, 16 and 23. The events at Grenfell Tower were devastating, with the tragic loss of 72 lives, which shocked us all. Words will never adequately describe the pain felt by the families and friends of the victims. Later, though, as light was shed on the extensive preventable failings that led to the disaster, justifiable anger followed.
I am glad to see the Bill progress through this place, but it should not have taken almost five years. I welcome the Secretary of State’s recent announcement that leaseholders in England will not face the astronomical costs of remediating unsafe cladding. I am pleased that the Government have taken a moral stance on the issue.
Unfortunately, there are still gaps that must be plugged, and I hope that the Minister’s promise of statutory protection against all building safety defects will materialise. For my constituents, I hope that the Government will engage in a constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government to ensure that leaseholder protection can be extended across the UK fully funded.
There is still a glaring lack of clarity and the Government must facilitate funding being available across the devolved Administrations to achieve an equal standing. Although much of the Bill has limited territorial extent, there are some key areas that apply across the UK and in Scotland, such as the testing and inspection of construction products.
Early last year, it was announced that the independent panel on the safety of construction materials would review the testing system and how it can be strengthened so that product safety confidence can be restored. The industry is still awaiting the report’s publication, which prompts the question of how we can fully scrutinise the Bill’s measures without knowing what the review found. Can the Minister provide a definitive date for when it will be available? Will he also provide an update on the establishment of a national regulator for construction products?
As it stands, there are a limited number of private product testing companies, and fewer still of the accredited bodies’ testing sites, which means limited access to the furnaces that are used to test all combustible building materials and products. Subsequently, there are huge delays in products moving through the testing system.
Some companies are reporting delays of up to six months to test their products. The accredited sites are managed by private sector companies, and as demand increases and supply decreases, the price set by those bodies climbs. Concerns have been raised that that model incentivises the maximising of profit over the quality of testing.
The Government must also be cautious not to create widespread quality disparity between existing buildings and new ones of any height. While preservation of life is of course the most key consideration, the lifespan of buildings must be protected too. Buildings such as schools, hospitals and care homes, which hon. Members have mentioned, should have a mandatory requirement for sprinklers. By making such buildings as safe and resilient as possible, human life is protected, yes, but many other things too. Schools are pillars of the community. Where do those students go to learn if their school burns down, or for a hospital, where do the patients go? What delays will essential services suffer?
The Bill is a mammoth piece of legislation and it is easy to look at each single part in turn to make it digestible, but a key finding in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review was that there needs to be a holistic, whole-building approach to fire safety. We ought to apply that principle here and take a whole-Bill approach, to truly understand how it will work in practice.
I am grateful to all Members across the House for their contributions to the debate. I will speak in response to the non-Government amendments first and then, as I progress through my remarks, pick up the points that have been raised about the Government’s amendments.
New clause 1 was tabled by Debbie Abrahams, who is not in her place; we wish her a swift recovery. I thank her for raising the matter, and I recognise that the issue that she has embedded in her amendment is intended to address the fact that the poor adversarial practices in the way that payments are charged and made within the built environment can lead to unsafe, low-quality building safety outcomes as well as poor value for money.
I assure all hon. Members that we agree that the issue is important. There is already work across Government to ensure that fair and prompt payment practices are addressed with industry—such as the construction playbook, which captures commercial best practice and specific sector reforms, outlining the Government’s expectations of how contracting authorities and suppliers, including in the supply chain, should engage with each other. That is resetting the relationship between the construction industry and the Government. It is focused on delivering a more sustainable, modern industry, better able to deliver high-quality built assets for its clients.
We published guidance as a result of work set up with the Construction Leadership Council and the procurement advisory group, alongside our recent announcement. We will now work with industry to implement the principles of that guidance as widely as we can. We support industry to lead its own important culture change to deliver the very significant changes being brought forward in the Bill. There is existing legislation—part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996—that aims to create a framework for a fair and prompt process of payment through the construction supply chain and the resolution procedure for disputes. The intention in that framework is to ensure that it is implemented throughout the construction contract.
Turning to new clause 2 and amendment 1, tabled by my hon. Friend Peter Aldous, our assessment is that the new Building Safety Regulator has the right two objectives to deliver this critical mission, and adding a further objective around property protection would not be necessary or beneficial.
The Bill provides the Building Safety Regulator with a broad statutory objective to improve the standard of buildings, which enables it to consider the overall performance of buildings. Meeting this objective could involve the regulator looking at such specific areas highly relevant to property protection such as security, resilience and fire safety. Therefore, we do not believe that an additional objective is necessary. Adding a specific Building Safety Regulator objective on property protection would also confuse and dilute its mission—that issue was raised in Committee. I think there was agreement across the Committee that we do not want to confuse or obfuscate the responsibilities of the Building Safety Regulator as it is set up and beds in. We want a proportionate regulatory regime that avoids putting undue and unnecessary pressures on leaseholders, but we also want to make sure that the regime builds in and beds in effectively, so I hope my hon. Friend will feel able to withdraw his amendments.
Andy Slaughter spoke in support of new clauses 15 and 16. Again, I am grateful to him for raising this important matter, and I can assure him that his intention is being met by the Government. Social homes are already safer than homes in other tenures in respect of electrical safety. Indeed, in 2019, 72% of social homes had all five electrical safety features compared with 60% in owner-occupied tenures and 65% of private-rented homes.
Social landlords are already required to keep electrical installations in repair due to their obligations under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and free of electrical hazards as a result of the Homes (Fitness for Habitation) Act 2018, a Back-Bench Bill that received Government support. Since the beginning of 2019, the regulator of social housing has issued 20 regulatory judgments related wholly or partly to electrical safety issues.
The social housing White Paper that we have committed to, will involve consultation on electrical safety requirements in the social sector, and expert stakeholders will participate in the Government-led working group to inform the content of this consultation, so I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel able, as he said, not to press his new clauses. I am certainly happy to keep in discussion with him, because I appreciate that it is a matter of concern to him, as it should be to the entire House.
Let me turn now to new clause 17, tabled by my hon. Friend Paul Maynard. He reminded me that we served together in Her Majesty’s Government’s Whips Office. He described it as a horror. He did not tell the House for whom it was a horror—him or his colleagues in the Whips Office. I shall leave the House to make its own judgments as to what he actually meant. None the less, I am grateful to him for raising a very important issue. Our desire to reduce deaths, injuries and hospitalisations on staircases is laudable. I know that my hon. Friend Mark Fletcher has a very particular and personal reason for taking an interest in the matter. We are committed, through current legislation and guidance, to supporting safety on staircases. We are acutely aware of the risk of death and injury that can be caused by staircases.
The new building safety regime places building safety at the heart of our very consciousness. The Building Safety Regulator will use all the evidence that it gathers to identify emerging issues with the safety and performance of buildings, including staircases, and will make recommendations to Ministers where they consider that changes to standards or guidance may be needed.
There are two reasons why, having said all that, I cannot accept my hon. Friend’s amendment. He clearly benefits from second sight—either that or he has had a sneaky peak at my speech without my knowledge—with respect to my first point. It is highly unusual, as he said in his own remarks, for the Government to include such detailed proposals in an Act of Parliament. The second reason relates to how we have structured secondary legislation, at least in recent decades. Building regulations are outcome-based, rather than prescriptive. I am keen to discuss further with my hon. Friend how we can ensure that the objectives—the outcomes—that he seeks to achieve might be met through the rather technical method of regulation. I therefore commit to talk further to him and others who have an interest in this matter.
New clause 18 was introduced by Emma Hardy, who spoke eloquently on flood mitigation for new homes. There is a well established regulatory system. The national planning policy framework, which was updated recently, is clear that:
“Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided”.
I say to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle in all candour that I do not believe that this Bill is the right place for new clause 18. It is a planning matter, rather than a building safety matter. I am certainly keen to continue to look at flooding issues and flood resilience, as we bring forward further legislation that relates specifically to planning. I am sure that we will have further engagement at that point.
Moving on to the new clauses and amendments raised by Mr Betts, as ever I thank the Chairman of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee for his wise counsel and the great care that he and his Committee take to consider the Government’s proposals and present their own counter-proposals, shall we call them? Perhaps “enhancements” would be a better way of describing them.
On new clauses 23 and 73, we believe that there is no need to create a system of independent appointment. The Bill already takes unprecedented steps to raise standards in building control. We are introducing a system of oversight of the performance of building control bodies, and we are turning building control into a regulated profession, with a system of individual registration based on competence and adherence to a code of conduct. That was debated by the Bill Committee, which agreed with the trajectory on which the Government are set.
The Bill introduces a new professional framework for the whole building control sector: both public and private sector building control bodies will have to obtain and consider the advice of a registered building inspector before exercising key regulatory activities and functions, and the Building Safety Regulator can decide whether any restrictions or conditions should be imposed on the inspector’s registration. That extra step ensures that all building control bodies are making key decisions based on advice from a professional who is proven and competent.
The hon. Member for Sheffield South East spoke in support of amendment 74. I thank him for his interest and recognise the concerns that led to his tabling it. I assure him that the Bill makes provision for the Building Safety Regulator to consider a wide range of factors that influence the level of risk in categories of buildings before making recommendations or providing advice as to which categories should be considered higher risk. The Secretary of State can already consider the vulnerability of residents when making regulations. We have already responded to concerns of stakeholders and, as he said, included hospitals and care homes of at least 18 metres in height or seven stories in the new design and construction elements of the regime. That is to ensure that higher-rise buildings, which may be occupied by those who are unable to evacuate quickly or without the assistance of others, are designed and constructed under the new, more stringent regime. As ever, I am very happy to maintain a respectful and, I hope, helpful dialogue. I hope the hon. Gentleman will feel able not to press his amendment to a Division and to keep talking, as we want to ensure that the Building Safety Regulator and the regime, as it beds in, can evolve as appropriate, rather than trying to place upon it in statute too many responsibilities too soon in its life cycle.
Daisy Cooper spoke in favour of new clauses 24 and 25, which she tabled. The Building Safety Regulator will be the building control body for higher-risk buildings. It may, in some limited cases, be the building control body for some buildings that are not higher risk under a regulator’s notice. Where local authorities have the right skills and the capacity to assist the Building Safety Regulator and do not have a conflict of interest, we believe they should do so, and the Bill enables that to happen. However, we recognise that the Building Safety Regulator must have the right competence and capacity for its work, as I said earlier. We are therefore providing it with the powers it needs to procure the services of registered building control approvers where needed, so that it can secure the appropriate skills and expertise to deliver its regulatory function, as I said in remarking on other amendments. I hope the hon. Lady will therefore feel able not to press her new clauses to Divisions.
Before I wind up, I should try to address two points raised by the shadow Minister, Matthew Pennycook. He raised the question of special measures and payments made by accountable persons to special measures managers. Special measures managers will receive the building safety charge directly. I can tell him that additional costs can be directly recovered from the accountable person. Whether leaseholders are charged by the accountable person is a matter for the lease. They can only be charged if the lease allows it.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about me about what one might call the forfeiture gap. We are working across Government to help leaseholders, as I remarked earlier on, and we will consider the gap and engage with Members across the House and other interested parties as we do so.
This, again, has been a good debate—perhaps a quieter debate, on much more technical matters, but they are no less important to make sure we have a Bill that is effective and a Bill that works. I hope the House will be able to support the Government in opposing, benignly, the new clauses and amendments I have mentioned.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 19 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.