Clause 59 - Meaning of “building safety risk”

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 19th October 2021.

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

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 60, 61 and 58 stand part.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Before I address this group, I would like to say that since this Committee last met we have suffered the very sad loss of two much loved and much respected colleagues, so I want to put on the record my condolences to their families and close friends, who are trying to come to terms with their tragic loss.

Following the pause in proceedings yesterday, the business of the House continues and we must now turn our minds to saving the lives of other people.

Clause 58 serves as an overview of part 4 of the Bill, which contains provisions for the management of building safety risks in higher-risk buildings. Part 4 is concerned with occupied buildings. It defines a building safety risk and it defines and places duties on the accountable person in relation to risks in their building, including duties regarding resident engagement.

Clause 59 defines “building safety risk” for the purposes of the Bill as a risk to the safety of people in or about a building due to the spread of fire or structural failure. The accountable person for an occupied higher-risk building must consider the spread of fire, structural failure and anything which may trigger them, through the safety case approach.

The Government’s approach embraces the independent review’s recommendations that the new, more stringent regulatory regime should focus on fire and structural safety. Our consultation referenced fire and structural safety, and we have engaged stakeholders on what the appropriate building safety risks should be. That engagement has supported that our approach covers the appropriate risks.

The clause also creates a power for the Secretary of State to add other building safety risks in the future, should evidence come to light that that is necessary. The Building Safety Regulator will oversee building safety and through that gain knowledge about the built environment. Therefore, it is only right that it must provide a recommendation or advice, or be consulted, before the power to specify new building safety risks is used. However, the spread of fire and structural failure cannot be removed in the future. They will and must remain at the heart of the new regulatory regime.

Clause 60 will enable the Building Safety Regulator to recommend that the Secretary of State makes regulations under the power in clause 59(1)(c). It also specifies the conditions that must be met for the regulator to do so. Through its duty to keep the safety of people in and about buildings under review, the regulator will be aware of the risks to and in buildings. It is only right that the regulator should be able to make recommendations based on that knowledge. In making a recommendation to change the definition of building safety risk, the Building Safety Regulator must have regard to the regulatory principles in clause 3, including proportionality.

We are focusing on preventing those rare incidents that have the highest consequences. The conditions that must be met for the regulator to make a recommendation reflect that, including the three-part test for simultaneously adding a new category of higher-risk building and a new building safety risk.

Finally, clause 61 provides that the Building Safety Regulator must provide advice about proposals to make regulations under clause 59(1)(c) to the Secretary of State, if requested. The regulator will be able to provide expert advice and will be a wealth of knowledge on risks such as the aforementioned spread of fire and structural failure. Moreover, it is important for the regime to be flexible and to be able to respond to new risks, if and when they arise. Thus the ability for the Secretary of State to request formal advice when considering altering the definition of building safety risk is an important step in ensuring that the Secretary of State is expertly informed and to keep the regime flexible.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 59 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 60 and 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.