Clause 134 - Amendment of Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 21st October 2021.

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

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Welcome to the Chair, Mr Davies. I am pleased to see that you are putting the Government’s heat and buildings strategy into full effect in the Committee.

The Government are committed to strengthening the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in order to better protect people’s safety in all regulated premises. Clause 134 delivers on 10 proposals that received significant support from respondents to the 2020 fire safety consultation, to address weaknesses that were commonly reported by stakeholders and to better align the order to the new building safety regime. New duties on responsible persons, informed by best practice, will support greater compliance with the order and its effective enforcement, mainly through the improved recording and sharing of fire safety information.

For all multi-occupied residential buildings, the owner or manager will be required to provide relevant and comprehensible fire safety information to residents, as will be specified in the order and may be set out in regulation. That will reassure residents that fire safety is effectively managed and will empower them to hold responsible persons to account. For higher-risk buildings, responsible persons will be required to identify the accountable persons and to co-operate with them. The co-operation duties in this clause and clause 118, with which we dealt on Tuesday, will support a co-ordinated approach to safety in higher-risk buildings between those duty holders, subject to either the building or the fire safety regime.

For all regulated premises, responsible persons will be required to record their fire safety risk assessment in full, including measures taken in response to risk. When appointing a person to assist them with making or reviewing a fire risk assessment, they will be required to ensure that that person is competent to do so. We also need to strengthen the existing co-operation duty between responsible persons sharing premises by requiring them to identify themselves to each other, provide United Kingdom contact details, explain the parts of the premises for which they consider themselves to be a responsible person and record that information. Where responsibility for fire safety changes hands, the outgoing responsible person must provide critical information for the incoming responsible person, as will be specified in the order and as may be set out in regulation.

Our amendment to article 50 of the order will enable the courts to consider a responsible person’s failure to follow all statutory guidance issued to support compliance with their duties as tending to establish a breach of the order. We will also increase the maximum financial penalty available to the courts from £1,000, which is level 3, to unlimited fines, level 5, for offences of impersonating an inspector, breaching requirements imposed by an inspector or in relation to the installation of luminous tube signs, which brings the measure in line with the fire safety order.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 134 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.