Fire Safety Bill

The fire at Grenfell was a tragedy and we owe it to the victims to make sure it never happens again. I fully realise that people are eager to see changes to fire safety legislation – as am I – and for these reforms to happen quickly. I would not want political point-scoring or disingenuous claims to detract from that.

It is the Government's clearly stated intention to follow through on the recommendations of phase one of the Grenfell fire inquiry and this Bill is part of that process. To suggest otherwise is misleading. 

The Fire Safety Bill sets the foundation for implementing the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which we all want to see set in law. I am glad that the Bill has now progressed in Parliament, paving the way for more accountability from building owners and enforcement from fire and rescue authorities to hold irresponsible owners to account. 

I voted against the Opposition motion for two reasons. The first is that the subject of the amendments is already included in an on-going public consultation on fire safety that ends on 12 October. The amendment would not speed up the process for the necessary changes to be made to legislation. In some areas, not only is the consultation proposing to implement the recommendations as set out by the Inquiry but to go further still. 

The second reason is that significant legal and regulatory changes need public scrutiny, input and transparency, which is what a public consultation provides. Indeed, changes under the Fire Safety Order must be consulted on. Under the defeated amendments, regulations would still have had to have been drafted. 

Major technical changes should not be drafted in haste, but no time is being wasted. There are stages that we need to go through to make sure that we get the measures right and to ensure that the changes made to building safety will be cultural as well as legislative and structural. These stages are being worked through without delay. My ministerial colleagues have assured me that fire safety is an absolute priority and the Government will move quickly to act on the feedback from the consultation once it is concluded. 

As soon as the Fire Safety Bill has passed the Government will move with all pace to see that the regulations are put in place as fast as possible. 

Finally, please see below for a statement from the Minister during the debate on the Bill, which clearly sets out the Government’s position.

 

The Minister for Security (James Brokenshire)

Turning to the new clauses and amendments, I will start with the lead amendment, new clause 1. I say to the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Sarah Jones) that I recognise her intent and desire behind new clause 1 to create that sense of certainty and of getting on with things at the earliest possible opportunity. I just observe that it obviously contemplates that the measures would be brought forward by subsequent changes to the fire safety order. That is precisely the approach that the Government are already taking, as reflected in the consultation that concludes on 12 October. Therefore, her proposal—and I appreciate that she seeks to hasten—actually does not hasten any more than what the Government are already intending and proposing in respect of the regulations that this Bill provides the framework and foundations for, and that is the sequencing we intended.

The hon. Lady will know that we are consulting on the detail. Indeed, under the regulations themselves, we are obliged to do that. I understand the timing issue, and I assure her that when the Bill is on the statute book—that has to come first—we will move with all pace and expedition to see that the regulations are put in place as fast as possible, because that is the sequencing.

On the new clause on the specifics—I agree that, as already stated, the Government’s principal intention is to follow through on the phase 1 recommendations, and we are not resiling from that one jot—I say to the hon. ​Lady that expressing it in that way might allow further legal challenge and create uncertainty. Therefore, I ask her to reflect carefully because we share her intent absolutely to proceed at pace.

I hope the hon. Lady will reflect further and, indeed, reflect on the words of Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who noted that it was important that his recommendations

“command the support of those who have experience of the matters to which they relate.”

That is precisely what we are seeking to do through the consultation, which extends, yes to the hon. and right hon. Members we have in this House, but also to residents, responsible persons, the fire sector and enforcing authorities to ensure that we get this right. That is what all Members across this House want to do, and that is what we want to do. I ask the hon. Lady to reflect on whether there is a need to divide the House when our approach is absolutely aligned and we want to get on with the matter.

 

Attachments

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