Clause 85 - Safety case report

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 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 consider clause 86 stand part.

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

The independent review recommended the introduction of a safety case regime for high-rise residential buildings to drive culture change and improve the understanding and management of fire and structural safety risks, delivering safer buildings for residents. We are delivering on this recommendation. The introduction of this regime will change the way in which building owners demonstrate how they are managing building safety risks.

Safety case regimes have been successful in improving safety standards and reducing incidents in a number of sectors. Under this approach, accountable persons will not be able to rest on the assumption that merely following prescribed standards will result in safe outcomes. They must produce and maintain documented assurance to demonstrate that they are meeting the duties placed on them.

Safety case reports, which will be assessed by the Building Safety Regulator, are a tool that help to offer this assurance. The report must focus on the unique risks and arrangements in place at each higher-risk building and should justify why the safety arrangements that accountable persons are taking are appropriate and sufficient for managing the risks present. We will set out in secondary legislation the form and minimum content required for a safety case report. This will provide clarity on the areas that should be covered.

The HSE, as the shadow regulator, is leading a work programme with industry that will deliver simple guidance to help those with duties under the new regime comply with these new requirements.

The safety case regime is a dynamic and continuous process. A safety case report must remain relevant and be revised to reflect the risks present and how the building is being managed if and when circumstances change. Safety case reports will be assessed by the Building Safety Regulator, including as part of the building assessment certification process. On assessment, the regulator may use its powers of direction to require that further safety measures be implemented if they consider that accountable persons do not have sufficient arrangements already in place.

The process of developing the safety case report will improve safety by ensuring a systemic review and assessment of hazards and their associated risks and the control measures either required or being employed to eliminate or reduce them. The Health and Safety Executive has vast experience and expertise in delivering regulatory oversight for safety case regimes and working collaboratively with stakeholders. We will ensure the right environment is in place to deliver holistic management of building safety risks, so that residents are, and feel, safe in their homes.

The independent review recommended that the duty holder for occupied higher-risk buildings be required to present their safety case to the regulator at regular intervals, to demonstrate that building safety risks are being managed. Clause 86 provides the framework by which this process will be delivered. On completion of a safety case report, and at any time when the report is revised thereafter, the principal accountable person must notify the regulator. As noted, the regulator will assess the safety case report as part of the building assessment certification process, but it may also undertake a further assessment if that is deemed necessary. The report must be submitted if such a request is made. The knowledge that there has been a review by the regulator of the safety arrangements in place in their building will provide reassurance to residents that their buildings are safe to occupy. These arrangements will ensure that the regulator is able to maintain oversight and deliver its functions effectively.

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Bill is already setting criteria for the building safety case report, inasmuch as it refers to 18 metres or seven storeys. Beneath that, a building does not comply, so how or where do we get the building safety manager’s freedom to do a personal risk assessment of a building that is below seven storeys or 18 metres? Can the Minister quantify or qualify how they are going to be able to do their job, or is this one of the “developments” that we are looking for to change the criteria, to bring buildings below that measurement in?

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

I think there is a terrible possibility that I may not have completely understood the case the hon. Lady was making. The point about the assessment is that it will be a live assessment of the risks in a particular building and then the mitigating factors that will be introduced in order to minimise those risks. With regard to the prescription of building height set out in previous clauses, that simply determines which buildings are in scope. If we assume that a building is in scope, that the legislation applies and that the principal accountable person needs to submit their building case to the regulator in order for it to be assessed, that will be bespoke and determined by individual building requirements.

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

On the safety case reports, a lot of the detail will, again, be elaborated on in secondary legislation. Sometimes this is rather difficult—we are operating blind—in terms of scrutiny and challenge. Something that we are all familiar with, in regard to the history and journey of the Bill, is the practice in the construction sector of setting up special delivery vehicles and then folding them. How will the information be retrieved, in terms of the safety case report, if those organisations no longer exist?

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

I have two points. With regard to the idea that some of this information will be developed as secondary legislation and the idea of scrutiny and challenge, we will use the affirmative procedure, so I strongly suspect that the hon. Gentleman and I might be standing across from each other in a room like this, deliberating on the content of those statutory instruments, in the future.

With regard to the structure of companies that are set up, if the hon. Gentleman is referring particularly to new buildings, the idea of the golden thread that runs through this process means that we will be capturing more information, more or less from conception of the building through to its construction and occupation. It means that we will have better access to information, and safety will have been built in early on and a more rigorous process adopted in order to ensure that safety, given the fact that named people will apply throughout the whole process, so I think assurance will be built in once the Bill is introduced.

The Chair adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.