Clause 118 - Cooperation and coordination

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

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Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:30 pm, 19th October 2021

I beg to move amendment 40, in clause 118, page 118, line 39, at end insert—

“(5) In the event that one or more accountable person or responsible person considers that another accountable person or responsible person is in breach of any requirement or duty imposed by this section then that dispute shall be determined in accordance with such arrangements as the Secretary of State may direct by order.

(6) For the purposes of subsection (5), a ‘breach’ includes—

(a) any failure to act on the duties imposed by this section; and

(b) any dispute about the extent of steps taken, or said to be required, pursuant to the duties imposed by this section.”

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to arrange a resolution in a dispute between accountable or responsible persons.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke

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

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

This is a simple amendment, the reason for which has arisen in the oral and written evidence given by housing lawyer Justin Bates, which addresses what happens when the duty to co-operate between two accountable persons, where the accountable person is not the same as the responsible person, reaches an impasse. Our proposed solution is simply that the Secretary of State would arrange a resolution in a dispute between accountable and responsible persons—something that is currently missing from clause 118.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 3:45 pm, 19th October 2021

I thank the hon. Member for raising this important matter. The amendment would give the Secretary of State the power to make arrangements by order to resolve disputes between accountable persons, or between accountable and responsible persons, in relation to the co-operation duties provided for in clause 118. Our assessment is that the amendment would not achieve the intended effect of formally resolving such disputes more than would be achieved through the provisions already in the Bill. The amendment would therefore not deliver improved building safety.

I must point out that the policy of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel sets out that an order made by the Secretary of State would no longer be the suitable way to deliver the outcome sought by the hon. Member’s amendment; rather, it should be done by regulations. I must also point out that the primary objective of the Bill is to ensure that building safety duties, including duties to co-operate, are delivered through the robust regulatory powers that we are creating. Where a lack of co-operation will have, or is likely to have, a negative impact on building safety, we are confident that there are already sufficient provisions in the Bill to deal with that.

The hon. Member’s amendment would require the Secretary of State to create a further mechanism to deal with disputes regarding failures to co-ordinate and co-operate. This would not only undermine the power of the regulatory functions upon which we will rely, but might have the unintended effect of adversely impacting on building safety, through delays caused by adding another layer to the regulatory and enforcement functions that we are already providing for. I must therefore tell the hon. Member that the Government cannot accept the amendment. While we consider the policy intent of his amendment to be sound, I would like to assure him that we believe it is addressed elsewhere.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 118 ordered to stand part of the Bill.