Clause 112 - Appeals against compliance notice etc

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 19th October 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

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 clauses 113 to 116 stand part.

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

Clause 112 sets out a right of appeal for accountable persons who have been served with a compliance notice. It makes clear that an appeal of a normal compliance notice will suspend its effect. An appeal of an urgent action notice will not suspend its effect, however. That appropriately reflects the gravity of issues giving rise to an urgent action notice, including imminent danger to people in or around a building.

The provision will enable the Building Safety Regulator and accountable persons to take the necessary steps to ensure that residents are kept safe at all times. Where individuals dispute the continued effect of an urgent action notice, they may apply to the first-tier tribunal for suspension, pending resolution of the appeal. The provision ultimately allows for a degree of flexibility where compliance notices are issued. That enables the Building Safety Regulator to be as proportionate as possible when taking enforcement action against non-compliant work.

Clause 113 creates routes of appeal for decisions concerning the registration and certification of higher-risk buildings. It also establishes a route of appeal where the regulator has given a direction to carry out an assessment of building safety risks. Those are significant decisions with wide impacts on costs and business operations. Where decisions are disputed, it is right and proportionate that there should be a statutory right of appeal.

That is why the clause sets out for part 4 of the Bill what can be appealed, who can lodge the appeal and on what grounds. The Building Safety Regulator may have declined to issue a building assessment certificate for a higher-risk building due to non-compliance with the duties specified in clause 75, for example. In this instance, if the accountable person considered the decision unreasonable, or erroneous on a point of fact, they could appeal to the tribunal. The clause reflects established procedures for access to civil justice.

Clause 114 provides future-proofing for the Government. It will allow the Secretary of State to create, through regulations, routes of appeal for decisions that the regulator makes for higher-risk buildings. The new building safety regime will require time to bed into the built environment. Ministers may want to alter or add requirements in regulations as the regime settles in over future years.

The clause provides a degree of flexibility so that where the Secretary of State creates new regulations, there is also a corresponding route of appeal for those directly affected. As such, the regulatory system can adapt to regulatory needs in the future. A decision by the regulator to treat an application for registration of a building as withdrawn will be in regulations under clause 73(5), and there may need to be a right of appeal against such a decision, for example. The clause relates to part 4 only, and also provides that regulations may prescribe who can make the appeal and on what grounds.

Clause 115 relates to appeals to the tribunal regarding decisions made by the regulator under part 4. It provides supplementary detail on what the tribunal can do on determining an appeal, and what evidence can be heard at an appeal. The clause also creates a provision so that the Secretary of State can, in regulations, stipulate what happens in the event of a specific appeal, including whether the appeal should suspend the effect of the regulator’s decision. For example, the regulator may decide to remove a higher-risk building from the register. On appeal, regulations may specify that the building remains on the register until the appeal decision is reached. Other decisions may not be suitable for a suspensive effect, and the clause allows the Secretary of State flexibility in that regard.

The first-tier tribunal has been given a significant role in underpinning not only the new building safety regime but the existing regime under the Building Act 1984, as the new chamber for nearly all building-related disputes in England. However, as the tribunals do not currently hold powers to enforce their decisions, apart from ordering the payment of sums, this provision enables the enforcement of tribunal decisions with the permission of and through the county courts. It follows existing practice, as it is usual to insert a provision in legislation to enable the county court to enforce tribunal decisions. As such, the clause ensures that the tribunals are able to sufficiently deliver on building safety-related disputes, and thereby support the effective functioning of the building safety regime for both building control authorities and service users.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 112 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 113 to 116 ordered to stand part of the Bill.