The government must improve on the detail if it is to prove that its new Building Safety Bill will drive reform in the industry, according to a new report by the HCLG
A report published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG) has found that in its current form, the Building Safety Bill fails to provide sufficient protection against leaseholders paying the bill for work to remedy existing fire safety defects.
The proposed legislation sets out the framework the government intends to adopt to implement a new building safety regime and to remedy the flaws in the existing system identified in the Hackitt review.
HCLG committee urges more detail
Following pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Building Safety Bill, the committee found an over-emphasis on as yet unpublished secondary legislation and regulation left significant gaps in how the new regime would operate in practice.
It has urged the government to provide much more detail when it publishes the final Building Safety Bill and remove any doubt on the scope of the legislation and the responsibilities on building operators.
The report recommends greater oversight of key professions in the construction and building management sectors, including new roles created by the Bill. The exact responsibilities and competencies of the newly established accountable person and building safety manager positions are not well-defined and should be clarified.
The Bill should also require building safety managers, as well as other professions involved in the design and construction of high-risk buildings, be subject to national accreditation and registration standards.
‘End the ongoing uncertainty’
Chair of the HCLG committee, Clive Betts, commented: “Establishing a new regime to ensure that buildings are made safe will require significant change to how buildings are constructed and maintained.
“It is crucial that from day one those tasking with their design, construction and upkeep have no doubt of the new standards they are to adhere to and responsibilities expected of them.
“As it stands, there are still questions over how the broad framework set out in the draft Bill will operate in practice. Key definitions remain unclear and responsibilities ill-defined. Before they bring the legislation back to the House of Commons these areas must be addressed in full.
“The government must also bring an end to the ongoing uncertainty around who will pay the cost for the historic failures in the building safety regime. Leaseholders should not be expected to foot the bill for failures that were not of their making.
“This has dragged on far too long now and the government must accept that it will have to step in to cover the cost in the short term.
“But we are equally clear in stating that this should be the first step ahead of establishing robust mechanisms to ensure that those who are responsible for fire safety failures finance their remediation.”
‘Increase quality standards, ensure accountability, and raise confidence’
In response to the HCLG report, Michelle Richmond MBE CEng FIET, IET director of membership and professional development, said: “As the largest professional engineering body in the UK, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) welcomes the HCLG report relating to its Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the draft Building Safety Bill.
“We are pleased that the report emphasises that the lack of skills, knowledge, experience and process is a ‘major flaw in the current regulatory system’ (clause 92). The report makes some valuable recommendations to remedy this situation.
“The IET welcomes the report’s call for a national system of third-party accreditation and registration for professionals working on the design and construction of higher-risk buildings (clause 108). In addition, the report calls for a national system of accreditation for building safety managers (clause 163).
“However, to avoid any loopholes, the IET recommends that the Bill clearly enshrines in law such mandatory, individual national accreditation and registration standards for all building professions, throughout the full building lifecycle – from design to maintenance. This would be backed up by a legally binding code of conduct, ethics and behaviours. It would make clear the government’s firm commitment to resident safety.
“In the same vein, the IET believes that those who use the term ‘Electrician’ in the UK adopt mandatory Recognised Standards for particular electrical roles, such as via UK-SPEC, the established Electrician EngTech Recognised Standard. The public needs to be reassured that those who carry out electrical work are competent. Voluntary arrangements simply do not carry enough weight.
“Mandatory accreditation of all building professionals is the most effective way of bringing about the oft-cited culture change in the industry. It will increase quality standards, ensure accountability, raise confidence in practitioners and significantly improve the safety of residents.”