Clause 93 - Complaints procedure operated by principal accountable person

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 19th October 2021.

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

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 94 stand part.

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

The Government are committed to making sure that residents’ safety concerns and views are never ignored by those responsible for managing the safety of their building. Residents need to be able to hold the accountable person to account when things go wrong, and be confident that prompt, effective action is taken. Clause 93 places an obligation on those responsible for managing a high-rise building to establish and operate an internal complaints process to handle and resolve residents’ complaints about their building’s safety. This process should be clear, quick and effective.

In buildings that are managed by multiple accountable persons, a single complaints system will be established. Each accountable person will be responsible for safety concerns raised by residents in the area of the building for which they are responsible. The complaints system will provide residents of all tenures and owners of residential units in high-rise buildings with a clear process to raise safety concerns, and with a right not to have those concerns ignored. Residents will be able to further escalate their concerns to the new Building Safety Regulator.

The independent review found that residents did not have a strong enough voice in matters about the safety of their homes, and that residents struggled to get their complaints addressed. The Bill addresses this by placing an obligation on those responsible for managing high-rise buildings to establish and operate an internal complaints system for residents to raise their safety concerns.

In addition to an internal complaints system, residents will be able to further escalate complaints relating to building safety to the new Building Safety Regulator. This will be available where the accountable person has not resolved the safety concerns. We intend that secondary legislation will set out how the complaints process will operate, and what subsequent action the regulator must consider in response. The new Building Safety Regulator will consult the residents panel before establishing its complaints system and, subsequently, before any significant change is made. The accountable persons’ and Building Safety Regulator’s complaints processes are vital in increasing transparency. Strengthening building safety complaints handling in high-rise buildings is critical to providing residents with a strong voice.

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

I seek clarity on clause 93(2), which says:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about the establishment and operation of complaints systems under this section.”

Should that be “will” rather than “may”?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

Can I check that no one else wants to speak? In that case, can I bring the Minister in to respond?

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

You can, Mrs Miller, now that I have phoned a friend. I am delighted to inform the hon. Member for Weaver Vale that this is standard legal language. However, as we have set out, there will be an obligation on the Building Safety Regulator to provide that complaints process anyway, so that is mandated. It will also be mandated that accountable persons, or principal accountable persons, have a complaints process. Regardless of the semantics of the interpretation of that word, the hon. Gentleman can be assured that complaints processes will be in place for both those entities.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 93 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 94 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

We are going to have a vote in the Chamber shortly. We will start to consider the next clause, but I alert Members to the fact that when we have a vote, we will suspend the Committee for 15 minutes.