Clause 53 - Functions under Part 3 of Building Act 1984

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 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)

Again, this is a little technical, but it bears some description. The clause provides powers for the Secretary of State, by regulations, to allocate responsibilities for functions provided to local authorities in part III of the Building Act 1984 between the Building Safety Regulator and local authorities. Part III of the Act places a number of functions on local authorities in relation to buildings, including the ability to issue a notice to the building owner to require work to be undertaken on the building on matters such as drainage, sanitary conveniences, provision of food storage and means of escape—a variety of requirements.

Part III of the Act also provides functions for local authorities in relation to demolitions of buildings, but there is a potential overlap for the Bill in respect of in-scope buildings. This is between some of the functions placed on local authorities under part III and the regulator’s role for in-scope buildings, both in occupation and as a building control authority, under part I of the Act. To avoid any confusion and any potential duplication of the regulations, we will be able to allocate formally to the regulator functions under part III for in-scope buildings, using regulations under the clause.

Alternatively, those functions may continue to rest with the local authority or be available to both the regulator and the local authority. It will be important that where the local authority retains responsibility for certain matters under part III, it informs the regulator if it intends to exercise the relevant functions, so that there is effective co-ordination between the two. The clause provides for regulations to require a local authority to notify the Building Safety Regulator if it intends to exercise one of the part III functions, and vice versa.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Efford. I am interested in part III of the Building Act 1984, which talks about means of escape. How will personal emergency evacuation plans be co-ordinated under this measure? I would be grateful if the Minister could explain further on that point.

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

I am obliged to the hon. Lady, and that is something that we will work through with the Health and Safety Executive and BSR as they work together to build up their specific competencies and responsibilities. That will become increasingly clear as the BSR beds in and builds out.

We will consult local authorities in developing any regulations. As they are subject to the affirmative procedure, Parliament will of course have to approve them.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Planning)

I was not sure when it was best to ask this question, so I will ask it now. It is a genuine question that I do not know the answer to. The hon. Member for North Devon rightly raised the concern of small districts. “Saddled” is the wrong word, but they will have increased responsibilities, require increased technical knowledge, and have a wider range of responsibilities. There is also the crossover with their other responsibilities mentioned in the clause. Many authorities, particularly small ones, share functions, departments and teams across more than one authority. Does the Bill take account of that—for instance, where an authority does not have its own building control team or one of the other safety teams, but shares it with another authority? Has the Bill taken this issue into account?

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

I am obliged to the hon. Lady. Yes, I believe it has. As we know, local authorities share services and a variety of functions, some of which are statutory. They are able to share those functions across geographies and still execute their statutory responsibilities, and I do not foresee any issue here. She is quite right to say that smaller authorities often have challenges with resources that do a multiplicity of things. One of the reasons why we want in the Bill to see the development of multidisciplinary teams—the Building Safety Regulator and its functions, fire and rescue services, local authorities —is to ensure that even smaller authorities that have in-scope buildings are able to use those multidisciplinary teams to do the work that the Building Safety Regulator will require of them.

I hope that Members will agree that these regulations serve an important purpose and will support the clause. I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I have just one brief question—and a plea. Again, they refer to personal emergency evacuation plans, or PEEPs, and a submission from the Leaseholder Disability Action Group, or Clad Dag, which I know the Minister is familiar with. In earlier clauses that we have considered, we spoke about the importance of residents’ panels in shaping the current landscape, and of ensuring that disabled people are a key voice on those panels. So I would be interested to hear the Minister’s observations on that point, briefly.

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

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think that we heard in evidence from the Health and Safety Executive that the shadow regulator is already doing work to—using that awful phrase—reach out to various communities and groups, to make sure that the residents’ panel, when it is fully constituted, is also fully representative.

With respect to people with disabilities, I do not believe that anything in the Bill cuts across or undermines disability rights or legislation.

With that, I commend the clause to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 53 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.