Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the requirements for fire safety information for occupants of certain buildings, including high-rise residential buildings.
Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, a great deal of attention has rightly been focused on the urgent need to improve fire safety, including the materials used for construction, the effectiveness of building regulations, and the need for sprinklers. The safety of residents of high-rise buildings is the overriding concern, and our efforts should be concentrated on ensuring they are afforded the best protection. To that end, the setting up of the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was a vital step, and we look forward to seeing her report and recommendations, which are expected in the spring.
In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, like many other Members, I made inquiries about the high-rise residential buildings in my constituency, in respect of both their physical safety and the extent to which residents knew what to do in the event of fire. I put on record my gratitude to Hampshire fire and rescue and the excellent work that it did, carrying out inspections of high-rise buildings, making home safety visits and, importantly, responding fantastically to residents’ concerns at that time.
However, it became clear to me that one of the issues that was causing concern among residents was the lack of transparency about who was responsible for fire safety in their building—their home—and the lack of information made available to them. That lack of information and transparency was first raised with me by a constituent in Basingstoke, who was renting a flat from a leaseholder in a privately owned high-rise residential block. My constituent, quite understandably, was seeking to satisfy himself about the safety of the building in which he lived, but he had found it incredibly difficult to access such information.
In the first place, it was not clear who was responsible for fire safety, and indeed the managing agents would not even tell him who owned the freehold of the building. It transpired that the managing agents were the “responsible person,” but they refused to give him access to fire risk assessments, on the basis that they did not routinely make them available to residents.
When I eventually secured a copy of the fire risk assessment and sent it to my constituent, he was very concerned. He was concerned to discover that a number of fire risks had been raised in the report, including serious faults on the vent control panel, which the report identified as a hazard for “escape routes and evacuation”. He tried to find out whether remedial actions had been taken, but received conflicting information.
One way for my constituent to raise those issues would be for the managing agents for the building—the responsible person—to hold a residents meeting, to enable occupants to receive information and scrutinise what action had been taken. However, the managing agents did not feel it necessary to hold such a meeting, and instead issued correspondence, which in practice was with the leaseholders of the individual flats, not the actual occupants.
I then worked with my local authority, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, to try to find out how other high-rise buildings in my constituency were managed with regard to fire safety. The borough council is very supportive of the proposition that the responsible person should hold an annual meeting to clarify the fire safety strategy for the building, and to allow residents an opportunity to raise any queries. From the council’s inquiries it was clear that practice in my constituency varies greatly; indeed, one managing agent told us that it held an annual general meeting with residents, and that the issue of “fire safety arrangements” was on the agenda. In fact, a meeting had been held just prior to the Grenfell Tower fire. Other organisations, including for the building where my constituent lives, did not see the need for such a meeting.
The main purpose of the Bill is to require the responsible person for all high-rise residential buildings to hold an annual meeting for all residents to inform them of the fire risk assessment and to address all fire safety issues that might be raised. Currently, the responsible person for any high-rise building is required to have fire risk assessments of the building carried out “regularly”. Those will identify any fire risks in the building and require remedial works to be carried out. However, there is currently no requirement for those fire risk assessments to be shared with residents—no transparency that might help improve the safety of people living in high-rise accommodation.
From the experience in my constituency, I have learned that there is some good practice, but it is not necessarily widespread. I believe that residents have a right to know whether fire risks have been identified in their building, and be allowed to come to their own conclusions about the level of fire risk that they are prepared to accept. My Bill would ensure that the responsible person holds an annual residents meeting to go through the fire risk assessment, and to review and report on the measures being taken to address any risks identified. In this way, progress on rectifying problems would be transparent to residents. An annual residents’ meeting would also be a useful forum for communicating about fire safety with residents, who may not necessarily be the owners or leaseholders of those flats.
When Dame Judith published the interim report of the independent review of building regulations and fire safety in December 2017, she recognised in it the need to reassure residents that an effective system is in place to maintain safety in the buildings that are their homes. The Bill will ensure that the responsible person holds an annual meeting for residents to share with them the fire risk assessment and to make sure that residents are aware of how fire safety is being managed in their own home. That should be very much in line with the direction of travel of the independent review, but goes a step further, in providing residents of high-rise buildings with more information and a greater degree of transparency than has been the case to date.
Everyone who lives in a high-rise building has a right to know whether any fire issues have been identified and how they are being tackled and, most important of all, what they should do in the event of a fire. At the moment, there is no transparency and patchy good practice. Residents deserve better. I recommend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Mrs Maria Miller, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, Stephen Hammond, Eddie Hughes, Sir Mike Penning, Theresa Villiers, Sarah Champion, Ms Harriet Harman, Mr David Lammy, Jess Phillips and Lucy Powell present the Bill.
Mrs Maria Miller accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 October, and to be printed (Bill 185).
Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill (Business of the House)
That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Northern Ireland Budget (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill:
(1) (a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings up to and including Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting in accordance with this Order.
(b) Notices of Amendments, new Clauses or new Schedules to be moved in Committee of the whole House may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.
(c) Proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
(d) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings up to and including Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put
(2) When the Bill has been read a second time:
(a) it shall, despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;
(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.
(3) (a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.
(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.
(4) If, following proceedings in Committee of the whole House and any proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, a legislative grand committee withholds consent to the Bill or any Clause or Schedule of the Bill or any amendment made to the Bill, the House shall proceed to Reconsideration of the Bill without any Question being put.
(5) If, following Reconsideration of the Bill—
(a) a legislative grand committee withholds consent to any Clause or Schedule of the Bill or any amendment made to the Bill (but does not withhold consent to the whole Bill), and
(b) a Minister of the Crown indicates his or her intention to move a minor of technical amendment to the Bill, the House shall proceed to consequential Consideration of the Bill without any Question being put.
(6) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (1), the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply—
(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;
(c) any Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and shall not put any other questions, other than the question on any motion described in paragraph (17)(a) of this Order.
(7) On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(8) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (6)(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.
(9) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (6)(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.
(10) (a) Any Lords Amendments to the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.
(b) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.
(11) Paragraphs (2) to (11) of Standing Order No. 83F (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (10) of this Order.
(12) (a) Any further Message from the Lords on the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.
(b) Proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.
(13) Paragraphs (2) to (9) of Standing Order No. 83G (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (12) of this Order.
(14) Paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order No. 83H (Programme Orders: reasons committee) apply in relation to any committee to be appointed to draw up reasons after proceedings have been brought to a conclusion in accordance with this Order.
(15) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.
(16) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.
(17) (a) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken, to recommit the Bill or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order.
(b) No notice shall be required of such a Motion.
(c) Such a Motion may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.
(18) (a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.
(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
(19) No debate shall be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) at today’s sitting after this Order has been agreed.
(20) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(21) (a) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at a time falling after the commencement of proceedings on this Order or on the Bill on a day on which the Bill has been set down as taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders or by any Order of the House, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.
(b) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business so far as necessary for the purpose of securing that the business may be considered for a period of three hours.—(Karen Bradley.)