Clause 48 - Plans certificates

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 23rd September 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Clause 48 aims to bring the process for checking plans when work is supervised by a registered building control approver more into line with the process when local authorities are the building control body—another example of our trying to level the terrain. Currently, section 50 of the Building Act 1984 enables an approved inspector, or registered building control approver as they will be called in the future, at the request of a person intending to carry out building work, to issue a plans certificate to the local authority. That can be issued if they have inspected plans of work covered by an initial notice, and are satisfied that if the work is carried out in accordance with the plans the work will comply with building regulations’ requirements.

At the moment, plans certificates are voluntary, and we know that only a small proportion of initial notices are accompanied by plans certificates. In contrast, where a local authority is the building control body, plans of building work have to be deposited for building work to be carried out on a building subject to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These plans have to be approved or rejected by the local authority.

Although approved inspectors or registered building control approvers will undoubtedly do a diligent job in checking plans, it is right that we seek to bring the processes more into line with each other. That will ensure greater transparency, bolster assurance that plans have been properly checked, and avoid any suggestion that those carrying out building work may get an easier ride depending on whether they use an approved inspector or registered building control approver, or a local authority. This will also provide a better basis for consultation between registered building control approvers and fire and rescue authorities on the fire safety aspects of plans.

We consulted last year on the principle of making plans certificates mandatory in specified circumstances. There was strong support for that, and clause 48 provides the framework for doing so. The clause inserts proposed new subsections (1A), (1B), (1C) and (1D) into section 50 of the Building Act 1984. They set out that if certain conditions are met, and the person carrying out the work so requests, a registered building control approver must issue a plans certificate and that these must be provided in the prescribed form.

Clause 48(2)(c) inserts proposed new section 50(7A) into the Building Act 1984. It enables building regulations to prescribe circumstances in which a plans certificate must be issued, and the consequences if a plans certificate is not issued.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I will just finish this part and then I will give way to my hon. Friend, who I know is champing at the bit.

We can prescribe, for example, that plans certificates must be issued for buildings covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

The Minister may be coming to this, but it would help my learning and understanding if he could clarify why we are not mandating plans certificates for all building works. It would be helpful to have a few more examples of where there will be mandated plans.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

Order. Before the Minister responds, I gently point out again that I was reading his speech from the explanatory notes as he made those points. Will he point out to his officials that we do not need them to provide him with notes from the explanatory notes, which are already in the public domain, to read out here in Committee?

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I am grateful to you, Mr Efford. There are certain legal reasons why I say to the Committee what is in the explanatory notes. It helps the Committee to understand and ensures that those listening to my words also understand the way we intend to upgrade the law.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud asked why we do not mandate certificates for all building work. We think that it is a disproportionate response to expect plans for small-scale building work to be deposited with an approved local authority, and the same principle essentially applies for plans certificates. We need to make sure that proportion is maintained at all times.

I will reiterate the key function of the clause in order to help the Committee and to help you, Mr Efford, in guiding our deliberations. I am grateful to the Clerks for their ever-mindful guidance. The clause provides the framework for us to make important changes to the way in which plans certificates are issued. I hope the Committee will agree that it should stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 48 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 49 and 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.