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 Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department 3:45 pm, 25th June 2020

As the hon. Member for Croydon Central has pointed out, the Prime Minister has accepted the outcome of the Grenfell inquiry. However, Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report stated that his recommendation should command the support of those with experience of the matters to which they relate. That means that we need to make sure that everyone is on board with the proposals as we take them forward.

Our intention is to enact the proposals, subject to the views of the consultation, under article 24, which specifically requires the Secretary of State to

“consult with such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him to be appropriate.”

Once again I acknowledge the impatience of the hon. Lady and everyone else in the Committee to get on with it, and get the Grenfell inquiry measures in place, but there are stages that we need to go through to make sure that we get the measures right and to ensure that the changes made to building safety will be cultural as well as legislative and structural. That is an issue that became clear during my time as Housing Minister. The entire sector has to acknowledge its moral and legal duties for the safety of those in its care, whether that is in the design, building, management or maintenance of properties. That means we need to make sure everyone is bought in.

On new clause 9, I do not dispute the need to ensure that resources and enforcement activity are targeted, but I dispute the need for legislation to do so. Fire and rescue authorities are in the business of managing risk and are accountable for how they do so. The fire and rescue national framework for England requires fire and rescue authorities to have a locally determined risk-based inspection programme in place, for enforcing compliance with the order. It sets out the expectation that FRAs will target their resources on those individuals or households at greatest risk from fire in the home and on those non-domestic premises where the life safety risk is greatest. In parallel, the regulators’ code states that all regulators should base their regulatory activities on risk, take an evidence-based approach to determine the priority risks in their area of responsibility, and allocate resources where they would be most effective in addressing those priority risks.

We acknowledge the vital work that local FRAs do and the NFCC has done, and will continue to do, to ensure that building owners are taking all necessary steps to make sure that those living in high-rise buildings are safe and feel safe to remain in their homes.

The building risk review programme, which will see all high-rise residential buildings reviewed or inspected by fire and rescue authorities by the end of 2021, is a key part of this work. The programme will enable building fire risks to be reviewed and data to be collected to ensure that local resources are targeted at those buildings most at risk. It will also provide reassurance to residents that the risks in their buildings have been assessed and appropriate action has been taken.

We have provided £10 million of funding to support the work—not only to facilitate the review of all buildings, but to support the strengthening of the NFCC central strategic function to drive improvements in fire protection. This is in addition to a further £10-million grant to support the bolstering of fire protection capacity and capability within local fire and rescue services. The funding has been allocated based on the proportion of higher-risk buildings, further demonstrating the need to target resources at the risk.

In summary, the Government’s position is that adequate arrangements are in place to ensure that enforcement authorities target their resources appropriately and are accountable for their decisions without the need to make it a statutory requirement. I ask that the new clause be withdrawn.