Clause 4 - Duty to facilitate building safety: higher-risk buildings

Part of Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 16th September 2021.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 2:45 pm, 16th September 2021

I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss amendment 6, which is a minor and technical amendment that will ensure clause 4 works as intended.

Clause 4 places a duty on the Building Safety Regulator to assist and encourage those responsible for the safe construction and management of high-rise residential and other in scope buildings, as well as residents, to secure the safety of people in or around those buildings. The intention of clause 4 is to ensure that the Building Safety Regulator proactively engages with those with duties around the safety of high-rise residential and other buildings in scope, to encourage them to do the right thing.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure the list of classes of “relevant persons” that the Building Safety Regulator should encourage is complete. The current list of “relevant persons” includes residents. However, the key duties on residents of high-rise residential buildings at clause 95 of the Bill also apply to owners of residential units, even if they are not resident at the time.

Amendment 6 adds owners of residential units to the list of “relevant persons”, bringing this clause into line with the approach to residents’ duties elsewhere in the Bill. The effect of this amendment is that the Building Safety Regulator will be under a duty to assist and encourage owners of residential units in higher-risk buildings to do the right thing, for example through guidance and communications.

I turn now to clause 4. At the heart of our proposals to transform the building safety environment is the implementation of a more stringent regulatory regime for high-rise residential and other in scope buildings. This new regime will be implemented and enforced by the Building Safety Regulator. The details of the new regulatory regime for high-rise residential and other in-scope buildings will be set out when the Committee deliberates over parts 3 and 4 of the Bill, so I will not detain the Committee on those matters now. These create powerful enforcement tools for the Building Safety Regulator to hold duty holders to account.

However, a good regulator does not rely on enforcing breaches in the law after they have occurred. A good regulator proactively supports and encourages those it regulates to comply. This principle is reflected in the regulator’s code, which highlights that:

“Regulators should provide advice and guidance that is focused on assisting those they regulate to understand and meet their responsibilities.”

To ensure that this best practice approach to regulation is taken by the Building Safety Regulator when regulating the safety of high-rise residential and other in scope buildings, clause 4 places a specific statutory duty on the Building Safety Regulator to take this approach.

Clause 4 places a duty on the Building Safety Regulator to assist and encourage those responsible for the safe construction and management of high-rise residential and other in scope buildings, as well as residents, to secure the safety of people in or around those buildings. It will require the regulator to take proactive steps to enhance the safety of people in high-rise residential and other in-scope buildings. The regulator could fulfil this duty by developing and publishing best-practice guidance, setting up information services to advise duty holders, or running workshops for those responsible for developing and managing such buildings. The regulator could also test materials aimed at residents of such buildings with a residents panel, to help ensure that its communications are well targeted, effective, digestible and understandable. The shadow Building Safety Regulator is already liaising closely with stakeholders and will be releasing a series of guidance documents over the next 18 months to help duty holders understand what is needed of them in order to meet their new duties.

Once the regime is in place, the Building Safety Regulator will encourage, but ultimately will be able to force, duty holders to do the right thing in a proportionate way. Requiring the regulator to take proactive steps to encourage the construction and management of safe high-rise residential and other in-scope buildings is a vital part of creating the culture change we need, to which Committee members have referred. I commend this short clause, and the short amendment to it, to the Committee.