Clause 30 - Higher-risk buildings etc

Part of Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 21st September 2021.

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Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 2:00 pm, 21st September 2021

I said that the amendments are technical, and so they are, but as to the clause itself, it provides a definition for which buildings will be higher-risk buildings and therefore subject to the design and construction portion of the new, more stringent regulatory regime. It also provides for what must be done if a decision is taken to alter that definition in the future. For Wales, it provides the Welsh Ministers with the ability to define their own higher-risk buildings. To support the Committee’s scrutiny and, indeed, that of Parliament, we published, upon the Bill’s introduction, the draft Higher-Risk Buildings (Descriptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations. Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review recommended implementing the new regulatory regime for buildings of at least 10 storeys. However, the views of stakeholders were gathered and they advocated expanding the scope still further. That is why we are defining the height threshold for a higher-risk building in England as at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys. We are being ambitious, providing the certainty that the markets require with our threshold approach while maintaining the focus on the taller buildings that the independent review advocated.

We agree with the pre-legislative scrutiny report about including more detail in the Bill, which is why we now define the height threshold of the regime within primary legislation and in the Bill. There may be incidents or emerging evidence in future that indicate that the definition of higher-risk building may need to be altered. Consequently, we included the power in section 120D(6), and its use would be subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament so that a Committee of the House—or indeed the whole House—would be able to discuss, debate and vote on the matter. However, any change must be proportionate. It must not slip into risk aversion. That is why the checks and balances outlined by sections 120E and 120F are necessary. We must understand the costs as well as the benefits. This is why any decision of expansion must consider the expert advice or recommendations of the Building Safety Regulator.

Taken together, sections 120D to 120H provide for a proportionate approach to defining higher-risk buildings and to the design and construction portion of the new regulatory regime. I commend the clause to the Committee.