Duties of owner or manager

Part of Fire Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office) 3:45 pm, 25th June 2020

The new clause does what the Government say will come later: it puts on the face of the Bill the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower inquiry phase 1 report. At the beginning of June, the MHCLG announced that it was preparing to open a public consultation on recommendations for new fire safety regulations emerging from the Grenfell Tower inquiry. In a letter to Martin Moore-Bick, the Prime Minister gave assurances that action on the findings of the inquiry’s first report “continues at pace”. However, the Government had already promised in October 2019 to implement the inquiry’s recommendations in full and without delay. Failing to include the simpler recommendations for the Bill, such as inspections of fire doors and testing of lifts, is a breach of their commitment to implement the recommendations without delay.

Only this week we saw alarming statistics that underline the urgency of implementing the recommendations. Of more than 100,000 doors in about 2,700 buildings across the UK inspected by the fire door inspection scheme in 2019, 76% did not comply with building regulations and about one in six, or 16%, were not even proper fire doors. Nearly two thirds, or 63%, of the buildings also had additional fire safety issues. Those are huge challenges. We need to move as quickly as possible to implement the recommendations.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said that the Bill

“provides a firm foundation upon which to bring forward secondary legislation”.—[Official Report, 2 June 2020; Vol. 676, c. 41WS.]

The Minister has taken the same approach, but there is no timetable for when everything else will happen. There are lots of committees, consultations and groups looking at these things, but it is not acceptable that after the promise of “without delay” in October 2019, we still have not moved on those issues by the middle of summer 2020.

I do not understand, and it would be good for Minister to explain, why we would not put such provisions in the Bill. They have the support of the organisations that we heard from this morning. It is just a case of putting things up front in the legislation, rather than waiting for an undefined time that may or may not come at some point in the future.

The new clause would require an owner or manager to

“share information with their local Fire and Rescue Service in respect of each building for which an owner or manager is responsible about the design of its external walls and details of the materials of which those external walls are constructed…in respect of any building for which an owner or manager is responsible which contains separate flats, undertake regular inspections of individual flat entrance doors…in respect of any building for which an owner or manager is responsible which contains separate flats, undertake regular inspections of lifts and report the results to their local Fire and Rescue Service; and…share evacuation and fire safety instructions with residents of the building.”

It just pushes faster and implements more quickly the action that the Government have committed to implementing. I press the Government to accept that that is possible, or to set out exactly when those things will become part of legislation.