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 am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West and the hon. Member for Weaver Vale for their contributions.

My hon. Friend for West Bromwich West is quite right: we heard from witnesses that it is important to have an objective set of criteria when defining risk. I appreciate that there are different shades of opinion. We heard from Sir Ken Knight and Dan Daly, who are experts in their fields, suggesting that an objective threshold would be a sensible mechanism for adjudicating risk.

We chose high-rise residential buildings of at least 80 metres after engagement with stakeholders and judged that the risk to multiple households is greater when fire spreads in residences of that height. We are following the recommendation of Dame Judith’s committee to focus on residential buildings. We have responded to the concerns of stakeholders. That is why, rather than set a threshold at 10 storeys, we chose to set it at above 18 metres or seven storeys. The reason that it is and/or is to make sure that we mitigate the risk of gaming just below 18 metres. Adding the seven-storeys requirement makes it much more difficult for a regime to be gamed.

We certainly heard evidence that properties and buildings that are below 18 metres are generally less at risk than those above that height. The BRE Group has said that, as have the National Fire Chiefs Council and Dame Judith in her independent report. That is not to say, however, that we are not mindful that changes cannot take place in future. That is why we have set in place in the clauses a mechanism by which the Building Safety Regulator will have a duty to keep the safety of persons in and around taller buildings constantly under review. Indeed, when we reach it, we will see that clause 139 requires an independent and periodic review of the effectiveness of the building regulatory regime. We have put in place measures that will allow for an expansion of the in-scope regime following advice and recommendations to the Secretary of State by the Building Safety Regulator after a three-part test. We think we have been proportionate and have also allowed in the Bill sufficient scope for appropriate expansion if and when experts deem it necessary.