Clause 72 - Occupation: registration requirement

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 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 clause 73 stand part.

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

The Bill makes the principal accountable person responsible for registering a building and applying for a building assessment certificate. Building on those responsibilities, clause 72 requires that all occupied higher-risk buildings are registered with the Building Safety Regulator. The principal accountable person will commit an offence if they fail to register.

For new buildings, the principal accountable person will be required to register their building before it becomes occupied. For existing occupied buildings, there will be a transition period in which the principal accountable person must register their building. During the registration, the principal accountable person will provide important information about the building and its duty holders to the Building Safety Regulator. It will include core details of the building, including address, height, date of completion and the name and contact details of all accountable persons and any building safety manager.

The Building Safety Regulator will use the information obtained through the registration of the effective regulation of higher-risk buildings. For example, registration information will support the regulator in prioritising building assessment certificate applications. The regulator will also use registration information to publish the national register of higher-risk buildings.

Clause 72 sets out the maximum penalty for the criminal offence of breaching the registration requirement. If tried by magistrates, the offence will carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. If it is tried in the Crown court, the maximum penalty will be an unlimited fine and/or two years in prison. These measures are tough but fair and are an important addition to engender compliance with the regime.

Clause 73 makes provision for the registration of higher-risk buildings and allows the Secretary of State to make regulations setting out procedural and administrative details for registration. The information obtained through the registration will ensure that the Building Safety Regulator has a record of all occupied higher-risk buildings in England and those responsible for managing them. Information collected through registration will be used to produce the national register of higher-risk buildings, which will be published. That means that higher-risk buildings can be easily identified and give the regulator excellent oversight and data on buildings in scope.

Clause 73 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations about registration applications. Information required in the registration process will be set out in regulations and will comprise core details of the building, including address, height and date of completion, and the name and contact details of the accountable persons, principal accountable persons, and any building safety manager. Regulations will also set out the procedures for submitting and withdrawing a registration application.

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

The Minister referred to national registration. For residents and leaseholders who want to access the information, what form will it take? Will it be digital? The Joule Group International Ltd made a lengthy written submission on that topic. I would be interested in hearing the Minister comments.

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

One of the things that needs to underpin the way the Bill operates is the access to digital information. We need to ensure that residents and leaseholders have no difficulty in accessing information about their building, and that the Building Safety Regulator has access to that information.

With regard to the capacity that we have discussed, once the register is published, the sector will understand the extent of the buildings in scope, where they are geographically and so on, and it will be able to respond in kind by developing appropriate resource in those areas. The information will be available digitally, which is one of the things that underpins the functioning of the Bill.

Photo of Siobhan Baillie Siobhan Baillie Conservative, Stroud

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. I was just listening carefully to the Minister. It is helpful to understand the digital nature and transparency of the measures. If there were a change to the details of a higher-risk building or an accountable person, would the register published by the Building Safety Regulator be updated, and how would that happen?

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

When the registration details of a higher-risk building or an accountable person change, there will be a need to inform the Building Safety Regulator, which will need to consider whether further changes are needed. The point is that the Bill needs to be flexible to accommodate the circumstances that the hon. Lady has mentioned. We may need to consider that further.

Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Labour, Liverpool, West Derby

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd, especially after some recent results.

Many people do not have digital access, despite the preoccupation with it. They might not be able to afford it or might not have the materials to get online. How will we ensure that residents who do not have the ability to access information digitally can see the overall picture of the register and any changes made to it? We need to drill down into that so that the Bill ensures that those records are accessible not only digitally and that everybody can access them.

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

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We do not have a preoccupation with digital, but it does allow lots of people easy access to the information. However, I think he is referring to the access to information that individual residents and leaseholders will have, which we will discuss later in Committee. It is incredibly important to me and to the Government that that information is presented to residents in an accessible format. That covers the necessity not just to publish the information in hard copy but to ensure that it is presented in an accessible format for people with any disability or impairment. I thank him for making that important point.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 72 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 73 ordered to stand part of the Bill.