Power to change premises to which the Fire Safety Order applies

Part of Fire Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 25 June 2020.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office) 2:45, 25 June 2020

The amendments seek broad delegated powers to amend key articles of the fire safety order: articles 2 to 22, in parts 1 and 2 of the order, which relate to the interpretation of the order and to fire safety duties; and article 38, a miscellaneous article relating to a further duty on the responsible person to concern themselves with the maintenance of measures for the protection of firefighters. The amendments also seek to enable changes to be made to the fire safety order by secondary legislation, rather than primary legislation, that are consequential to changes made by other regulations. The amendments build on the delegated power in clause 2 of the Bill, under which it is proposed that the order can be amended for the purpose of changing or clarifying the premises to which it applies, and can allow for consequential provision to be made. I have already set out the purpose and limitations of that power.

The fire safety order already has a delegated power under article 24, which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations on the precautions that are to be taken or observed in relation to the risk to relevant persons. That can be used to provide additional fire precaution requirements over and above those already required under the order.

Although powers that enable legislation to be expedited when needed, and with the appropriate scrutiny, have clear benefits, the Government’s view is that it would not be appropriate to ask Parliament to delegate legislative power in the manner proposed. I have made the point already that this is a short and technical Bill. We intend to legislate further. The Government will shortly publish the second of our fire and building safety Bills, the building safety Bill. Alongside this, there will be pre-legislative scrutiny: we will publish a fire safety consultation, which will set out our proposals for strengthening the fire safety order and improving compliance on all regulated premises, leading to greater competence and accountability.

We will also implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower inquiry’s phase 1 report, which calls for new requirements to be established in law to ensure the protection of residents in multi-occupied residential high-rise buildings, with some proposals applying to multi-occupied residential buildings of any height.

As the Committee has heard, the Government are taking further steps to ensure that the fire safety order continues to be fit for purpose, as part of our consideration of reform of the wider building safety landscape. The consultation will propose changes to strengthen the order in a number of areas to improve fire safety standards. It will also seek further evidence and implement further legislation if required.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report examining the events of the night of 14 June—the night of the Grenfell Tower fire—was exhaustive. Of the 46 recommendations made in the inquiry’s first report, 12 were addressed to the Government directly, with 11 requiring legislative changes. They relate primarily to a number of prescriptive safety measures and checks, to be undertaken by building owners and managers. The Prime Minister accepted the principle of these recommendations on publication of the report in October last year.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, our intention is to deliver, where possible, the Grenfell inquiry recommendations through secondary legislation under the fire safety order. Where an amendment to the order is required through primary legislation, we intend to do that in the building safety Bill. That Bill will also cover the consequential amendments that will be required to the fire safety order to ensure that the Bill, when enacted, and the order align and interact with each other. We will ensure that the legal frameworks and supporting guidance provide clarity for those operating in this area, and bring about the outcomes sought across the fire and building safety landscape.

The hon. Member for Croydon Central mentioned having a single point of responsibility, and that is very much on our minds. Intensive work is going on between the Home Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and with the wider sector, to ensure that there is no confusion as to who is the responsible individual.

One of the key principles that came out of Dame Carol’s review—I mean Dame Judith’s review; Dame Carol’s review is about drugs, which is also within my portfolio—was the need for the point of responsibility to be transparent and known to everybody. It is a key part of the proposals, and I have no doubt that it will form part of the consultation and, therefore, the legislation that will follow.

Sir Gary, I hope that explanation is enough to allow the Committee to be content for the amendment to be withdrawn.