The Fire Safety Bill: Greater clarity on the duties of the Responsible Person?
The final report identified the key issues underpinning the system failure as:
Hackitt went on to describe how these issues have helped to create a cultural issue across the sector which could be described as a "race to the bottom" caused either by ignorance, indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice, describing "insufficient focus on delivering the best quality building possible, in order to ensure that residents are safe, and feel safe."
She went on to outline key recommendations including:
The full list of recommendations can be found in the Final Report.
So two years on- what progress has been made? Following on from the publication of the Final Report, the government agreed with all of the recommendations and later published an Implementation Plan in December 2018. On 6 June 2019 it launched a consultation on proposals for reform of the building safety system (‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation) with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (“MHCLG”) releasing a response to the consultation in April of this year. The government had sought views on its proposals for reform of the building safety system following on from Dame Hackitt’s review. On 28 October 2019 it was announced that Dame Hackitt would provide independent advice to the government on how best to establish the new Building Safety Regulator, which she admitted in February of this year, would not likely be up and running until 2021. The regulator will initially operate as a shadow body under the umbrella of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) until legislation giving it statutory powers is passed.
The Building Safety Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech at the end of 2019 but no date has been set for its second reading. It was announced that the Building Safety Bill would “put in place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, and ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system.”
The Fire Safety Bill had its second reading on 29 April 2020 and is now being considered by a Public Bill Committee which is expected to report to the House by 25 June 2020 (see my recent blog here). The Government proposed that the Bill will “implement the relevant legislative recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry Phase 1 Report” and “put beyond doubt that the Fire Safety Order will require building owners and managers of multi-occupied residential premises of any height to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and fire doors.”
Both Bills are a step in the right direction and it is hoped will provide greater clarity, but it remains to be seen how Dame Hackitt’s recommendations are implemented and how these will work in practice.
Hannah Eales is an experienced advocate and a regulatory, health and safety and criminal law specialist. Hannah has a particular expertise in Fire Safety law having prosecuted on behalf of Fire and Rescue Authorities in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts and the Court of Appeal.
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