Clause 91 - Residents’ engagement strategy

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 19th October 2021.

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Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 2:00 pm, 19th October 2021

I beg to move amendment 13, in clause 91, page 99, line 20, after “management” insert “and ownership structure”.

This amendment would ensure that residents of buildings receive information about the ownership of a building.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause stand part and clause 92 stand part.

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

The amendment would strengthen the provisions laid out in clauses 91 and 92 by bringing the ownership of the building, as well as its management, under their scope. This issue has been raised by residents and leaseholders going through that ping-pong of building safety remediation. The amendment would enhance transparency and, ultimately, the building safety regime. I know that a number of colleagues will want to interject and contribute to the broader debate about residents’ engagement, drawing on my earlier comment on what makes a good residents’ engagement strategy.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Labour, Luton South 2:15 pm, 19th October 2021

It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate under your chairship, Mrs Miller. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale for pointing out vital it is that we understand the ownership structure. For example, I have been having talks with leaseholders in Luton South who live in buildings with dangerous cladding.

Residents often do not have much time to investigate complex ownership structures because they have jobs to hold down. It is absolutely right, however, that they should know who owns their building and how they can follow that golden thread of ownership when there are issues. It is important that the proposed resident’s engagement strategy hears their voices on every aspect that matters to them.

Constituents living in the Point Red building in Luton have told me of their difficulties in finding out where they need to go when issues become apparent, particularly given that the entity that built the property no longer exists. They have spent a lot of time trying to find out who now owns it, but that information has proved difficult to come by. Members on both sides of the House know how important our residents’ voices are—we hear them loud and clear.

I fully support the amendment, but, at the same time, the voices of residents and leaseholders are equally important to the overall engagement strategy.

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

I thank hon. Members for raising this important matter, but I am afraid that the Government are not able to accept the amendment. However, having listened to the hon. Member for Luton South speak, I now understand more fully the intended purpose of the amendment. Personally, I feel that the role of the accountable person fulfils the intention that she seeks.

As we have touched on, ownership of buildings can be complex. We need to be able to point to the person or entity that residents can go to if they have the kinds of concerns mentioned by the hon. Lady. The accountable person fulfils that purpose and will be a useful addition to the needs of her constituents. Our assessment is that this amendment would not deliver improved building safety protections for residents in high-rise buildings.

Clause 91 requires that the accountable person must prepare strategy “for promoting the participation” of residents in decision making about building safety and decisions relating to the management of the building or performance of the accountable person’s duties. Inserting “ownership structure” in the clause would not require residents to be provided with information on the ownership of the building, but it would require an accountable person to include in their strategy ways to promote the participation of residents in decisions related to the building’s ownership structure.

I assure hon. Members that their intention of ensuring that residents have information on and are able to hold to account those responsible for their safety has been met by the Bill. Information about accountable persons will, by virtue of clause 73, be publicly available on the register of higher-risk buildings, which will be published by the Building Safety Regulator.

In addition, clause 77 requires important details about the identity of those responsible for managing building safety to be displayed in a conspicuous position in the building by the principal accountable person. This will further ensure that residents have information about key people responsible for their buildings. Clause 90 provides that where there is a change in accountable persons, the regulator must be notified and residents given updated information about their accountable person through the notice displayed conspicuously in the building. This ensures that when there are changes to who is responsible for a building’s safety, this is captured and residents will be informed. Therefore, I respectfully ask the hon. Member for Weaver Vale to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 91 and 92 ordered to stand part of the Bill.