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Building Regulations/Standards

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the impact of Part M of the Building Regulations on the design of new housing. [130981]

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recently commissioned research to evaluate the impact of the changes to Part M introduced in 1999. The work is expected to begin before Christmas, and to report in two years time.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance he has given local authorities to ensure the consistent application of Part M of the Building Regulations by building control officers. [130982]

Each Part of the Building Regulations consists of a, usually small, number of functional requirements. Guidance on the application of the requirements is provided by a statutory 'Approved Document'. Each such document states that it is intended to provide guidance for some of the more common building situations, but recognises that there may well be alternative ways of achieving compliance with the requirements, and advises builders and developers that "… there is no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in an Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement in some other way."Every building in its site context is different and there must therefore be room for discretion and adaptation to local circumstances. Nor is it possible in a usable guidance document to illustrate an acceptable solution for the almost infinite variety of building situations. Absolute consistency of application of any part of the Building Regulations is thus neither achievable nor desirable, and reliance must be placed on the professionalism and competence of the building control community.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many instances there have been of enforcement action against builders for breaches of Part M of the Building Regulations in the last three years; and with what results. [130983]

Responsibility for enforcement of the Building Regulations rests with local authorities. Data on enforcement action are not collected centrally, and could not be provided at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what amendments he proposes to make to Part M of the Building Regulations. [130984]

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects to announce the publication of amendments to Part M of the Building Regulations relating to buildings other than dwellings shortly. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued a consultation document on the proposed amendments in November 2002, and officials have since then, with the assistance of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, been finalising the new Approved Document. The amendments will extend the application of Part M to work to existing buildings, reflect the contents where appropriate of British Standard BS 8300:2001 'Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people—Code of Practice', and complement the objectives of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 relating to accessibility of goods, facilities, services and premises.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will extend the period in which a builder can be sued for poor workmanship. [131305]

I have been asked to reply.The period within which a civil action must be commenced against a builder for poor workmanship is subject to the Limitation Act 1980 (unless the terms of an individual contract specify otherwise). In July 2002, the Government announced its acceptance in principle of the recommendations for reform of the 1980 Act contained in the Law Commission report "Limitation of Actions", subject to further consideration of certain aspects. Legislation will be introduced when an opportunity arises.The Commission proposed a core limitation regime that would apply to the majority of claims for a remedy for a wrong or the enforcement of a right. In broad terms, a claim would have to be brought within a primary limitation period of three years from the date on which the claimant knows (or ought reasonably to know) the facts giving rise to the claim, the identity of the defendant, and that any injury, loss or damage was significant. No claim could be brought after the expiry of a 10-year "longstop" period, which normally would run from the date on which the cause of action arose. At present in a simple contract claim the limitation period is six years from the date the cause of action arose.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received in the last 12 months on the buildmark warranty scheme operated by the National House-Building Council. [1313061

Over the last 12 months, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has received about 50 letters from hon. Members and from members of the public raising points about the Buildmark warranty scheme. This is a non-statutory scheme ran by the National House Building Council (NHBC), which is an independent company, limited by guarantee. Officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister inform NHBC senior management of the key points raised in correspondence, to assist them in their monitoring of the scheme.