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General Committees

Debated on Wednesday 22 February 2023

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Higher-Risk Buildings (Key Building Information etc.) (England) Regulations 2023

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Laurence Robertson

† Anderson, Lee (Ashfield) (Con)

† Benn, Hilary (Leeds Central) (Lab)

David, Wayne (Caerphilly) (Lab)

† Davison, Dehenna (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

† Eastwood, Mark (Dewsbury) (Con)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Fuller, Richard (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)

† Gardiner, Barry (Brent North) (Lab)

† Grant, Mrs Helen (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con)

Hardy, Emma (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)

† Johnston, David (Wantage) (Con)

† Osborne, Kate (Jarrow) (Lab)

† Pennycook, Matthew (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)

Wallis, Dr Jamie (Bridgend) (Con)

† Wheeler, Mrs Heather (South Derbyshire) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Redcar) (Con)

Jack Edwards, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Sixth Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 22 February 2023

[Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

Draft Higher-Risk Buildings (Key Building Information etc.) (England) Regulations 2023

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Higher-Risk Buildings (Key Building Information etc.) (England) Regulations 2023.

The regulations set out the high-level information to be provided to the Building Safety Regulator and clarify for which parts of a building individual accountable persons are responsible. The regulations are part of the new building safety regime created by the Building Safety Act 2022. They are a fundamental part of our ongoing reforms to ensure that all residents’ homes are places where they are safe and can feel safe.

I will provide some context and background to these important regulations. After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government appointed Dame Judith Hackitt to conduct an expert review of the building safety regime. Her review showed that there are significant issues in the industry. She identified that cultural and regulatory change was needed in order for the industry to be fit for purpose.

Dame Judith recommended a new approach to managing fire and structural safety risks in higher-risk buildings. She advised that a new, strengthened regulatory regime should be brought forward to improve accountability, risk management and assurance for higher-risk buildings. She also identified the lack of information about higher-risk buildings as an issue. In her report, she set out that access to up-to-date information is crucial for higher-risk buildings. Her report sets out that the new regulatory regime needs to provide closer, more robust and more expert scrutiny of higher-risk buildings. To do that, the regulator will need accurate and up-to-date information about such buildings.

The Government accepted Dame Judith’s recommendations and brought forward the Building Safety Act, which received Royal Assent in April 2022. The Act establishes the new regime, which creates stronger oversight of higher-risk buildings and puts stronger legal duties on those responsible for the safety of higher-risk buildings throughout their lifecycle. It also brings forward stronger enforcement and sanctions to deter and rectify non-compliance.

The regulations set out requirements for occupied higher-risk buildings. In particular, they set out the high-level building information—that is, the key building information—that will need to be provided to the Building Safety Regulator. This key building information will help the regulator to fulfil its duties under the 2022 Act.

The Building Safety Act sets out that all occupied higher-risk buildings will have at least one clearly identifiable accountable person. The accountable person will be responsible for assessing, managing and mitigating building safety risks. If an occupied higher-risk building has only one accountable person, they will automatically become the principal accountable person. Where the building has two or more accountable persons, the one responsible for the repair of the structure and exterior of the building will be the principal accountable person. The regulations clarify which accountable person is responsible for different parts of a building in cases when there is more than one accountable person.

The regulations are split into two parts. First, they establish the key building information that must be provided to the Building Safety Regulator by the principal accountable person.

Before the Minister moves on from the business of accountable persons, does she share the concern of many of my constituents that, by appointing the accountable person, the Government are doing one important thing and setting out that someone is actually responsible? The problem has been that the buck has been passed all around. But in doing that, the Government are passing to the residents—the commonhold association itself—the responsibility that should properly lie with the developer of the building, whose responsibility it was to ensure that the building was constructed properly in the first place. In many cases, it was not.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that one of the key issues is the clear line of accountability. That is something that the regulations and the Building Safety Act seek to rectify. I am happy to write to him with further clarity on the role of developers, if that would be helpful, but the key point is to ensure that a person in the building now is responsible for the building now and has that clear line of accountability. However, I will follow up in writing to provide more clarity.

Paragraph 6.3 of the explanatory memorandum talks about the principal accountable person providing the information alongside “their application for registration”. Is that the same as an application for a building assessment certificate, which is mentioned in paragraph 7.3? I ask that because the explanatory memorandum goes on to say that the regulator will require early applications for buildings deemed to be at higher risk. How will the accountable person know that their building is in the higher-risk category when deciding whether they should provide information early, as opposed to later?

Secondly—

Order. Interventions need to be brief, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The Minister will get the opportunity to wind up at the end. Can we just take that one point?

The one point is: how will the accountable person know whether there might be missing firebreaks in the building they are responsible for if it has never been peeled apart and examined?

I will come back to that towards the end, if that is all right. I will follow up in writing later if my answer does not satisfy the right hon. Member.

Let me return to the key building information that will be provided. The data we are seeking, along with other sources of intelligence, will support the regulator’s initial triage of the potential risk factors in existing higher-risk buildings. That will allow the regulator to determine which buildings should be required to apply for a building assessment certificate as a priority, allowing a review of wider risk management and safety arrangements.

The information will also be used by the Building Safety Regulator to analyse trends and risks in higher-risk buildings. If an issue emerges in a number of higher-risk buildings, the regulator will be able to use the information it has acquired through the key building information to identify similar buildings or systems and contact the relevant persons.

The regulations set out what information must be included as part of the key building information. The principal accountable person must inform the Building Safety Regulator of the current uses of the higher-risk building and whether the principal use of the building has ever changed. They must inform the regulator about the structural design of the building, the number of storeys it has, the number of staircases, the pitch of the roof, the energy supply and energy storage, and whether the building has a structural connection to any other building.

My hon. Friend mentioned the number of storeys. I am fortunate, given the legislation that applies at the moment, that there are no high-rise blocks in my constituency. Paragraph 7.3 of the explanatory memorandum states that there are 13,000 higher-risk residential buildings. Will it be possible—not now, but in the future—for the Minister to say how many are in my constituency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I will of course ask the Department to identify said information and pass it on to him, if that is something he wants specifically for his constituency. May I say what a great way that was to garner information?

I have outlined a few of the things that the regulator must be informed of. It must also be provided with information about the materials used in the building—that is, the materials used in the external walls, the external wall insulation, the roof, and any fixtures attached to the external walls and roof. Information will also have to be provided about the type of evacuation strategy for the building, such as “stay put” or simultaneous evacuation, and the fire and smoke control equipment in the building. All that information will be pivotal in helping the Building Safety Regulator to go about its day-to-day functions and duties, understand typical features and trends in the existing stock of buildings, and identify safety concerns in the future. Guidance will make clear exactly what information is required to meet the legal obligation.

Clearly, the building regulator will accrue a huge amount of information. Will the Minister set out how many building regulators there will be? Will there be only one? If so, what facilities and resources will be made available to the regulator to enable it to cope with the influx of information and sift it so that the safety end is achieved?

Of course we want to make sure that the regulator is properly resourced in order to fulfil its vital functions and, again, I will follow up with further information in writing.

It is important that key building information is provided to the Building Safety Regulator at an early stage so that prioritisation can happen quickly. Under the new system, principal accountable persons responsible for existing buildings will be required to register with the Building Safety Regulator, to identify themselves, before applying for a building assessment certificate at a later point. The regulations require that the principal accountable person must provide key building information to the regulator within 28 days of applying to register their higher-risk building or buildings. The Government will shortly lay regulations setting out the registration requirements in more detail.

The principal accountable person must also notify the Building Safety Regulator of any changes to the key building information. If there is more than one accountable person for the building, then each accountable person will be responsible for providing information for their part of the building to the principal accountable person. The principal accountable person can then submit an accurate return to the regulator for the whole building. That information, when submitted, must be in electronic form, and the Building Safety Regulator will issue a direction setting out the precise format in which the information must be submitted.

The regulations also assign responsibility for building safety duties in part 4 of the Building Safety Act to specific accountable persons for the parts of a higher-risk building for which they are responsible. That will help accountable persons work together to achieve a whole-building approach to managing fire and structural safety.

Dame Judith Hackitt recommended that a clear model of risk ownership for the whole building would be required to achieve the effective management of building safety. However, building ownership and land law is complex, and some tall buildings will have multiple entities involved in their ownership, with varying degrees of responsibility for the building’s safety. That is why section 72 of Building Safety Act makes it clear who is responsible for the fire and structural safety in a higher-risk building: the accountable person.

To mirror how building ownership operates in practice, there can be multiple accountable persons, and where there is more than one, section 73 of the Act provides that the person who is responsible for the exterior and structure of the building is the principal accountable person. Where only one accountable person is involved in the building ownership, the regulations state that that person is responsible for their building safety duties in relation to the exterior and structure, common parts, any balconies attached to the exterior and structure, and the residential or commonhold units.

While the regulations set out that the accountable person is responsible for the residential unit or commonhold unit, if the accountable person has no control over that unit—for example, if it is a leasehold flat—they will be responsible only for mitigating or preventing the building safety risks within the flat in so far as they impact on the common parts and other flats in the building.

The regulations also set out a framework for determining responsibility when there are multiple accountable persons in a higher-risk building. The regulations assign responsibility to the parts of a building, with reference to the accountable person’s repairing obligation for that part under a lease. Where the entity responsible is not an accountable person—for example, if there is an intermediate landlord for a flat who does not meet the definition of accountable person—the regulations assign responsibility to the accountable person with responsibility for the common parts adjoining the front door of that flat. That will ensure that an accountable person is always responsible for all residential parts of a higher-risk building. The accountable person can look to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to aid their interpretation of whether their part 4 responsibilities extend to a specific part of a building.

To summarise, the regulations are key to setting up the new regime for building safety and bringing about the systematic, lasting change we know is needed to help people be and feel safe in their homes. I hope that members of the Committee will join me in supporting the regulations.

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Robertson. I thank the Minister for that explanation of the statutory instrument and the policy context.

We welcome the regulations, which, as the Minister made clear, serve to specify key information about higher-risk buildings that must be provided to the new regulator as required by the Building Safety Act and to set out the framework for accountable persons in relation to their part 4 statutory obligations. The instrument is largely uncontroversial, and we will not oppose it, but I have three questions that I trust the Minister may be able to answer to provide greater clarity about the Government’s thinking.

The first relates to which information it will be mandatory to provide the regulator with. As the Minister will know, when the Government consulted about proposed changes to building regulations under part 4 of the Act in the summer of last year, it was suggested that provision of information relating to the type and date of any significant building work carried out and to fire safety design standards would be mandatory. The Government subsequently decided that the provision of information in relation to both should instead be optional. The reason given is that feedback from the sector suggested that making the provision of that information mandatory was not possible within the proposed timeframes without significant cost.

The Minister will appreciate, I hope, that there is some concern that the Government have rowed back on perfectly reasonable and sensible proposals under industry pressure. I will be grateful if she could expand on the Government’s reasoning as to the change. Specifically, what evidence was shared by the sector that convinced Ministers that a mandatory requirement in those two areas was too onerous? We would also welcome an explanation of how the Government will encourage duty holders who do have the relevant information about significant building work and fire safety design standards to voluntarily submit that information, given that there will now be no obligation for them to do so.

My second question relates to the issue of reporting to the regulator on internal fire safety measures. The regulations require duty holders to report on external wall composition, structure and firefighting equipment present in a higher-risk building, but they seemingly contain no requirement for duty holders to report on internal fire safety measures such as fire doors. Will the Minister confirm that that is indeed the case, or is it rather the case that fire doors and other internal fire safety measures are covered by the definition of

“fire and smoke control equipment”

in the instrument? If the former is the case and internal fire safety measures are not covered by that definition, what is the Government’s reasoning for not obligating duty holders to report to the regulator on such internal fire safety measures?

My third and final question concerns timescales for the submission of mandatory information. The regulations make it clear that the information that duty holders will be required to provide to the new regulator must be submitted within 28 days of an application to register. The Government have made it clear that registration of existing buildings is expected to begin in April. Will the Minister confirm that, and will she tell us what the Government will do in the event that some higher-risk buildings do not register or provide the necessary information by the deadline? In short, what are the penalties for non-compliance?

It is a pleasure to serve under your rigorous chairmanship, Mr Robertson.

I share the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich. Here we have huge responsibilities being placed on individuals or commonhold associations without the necessary power to do what is being obligated. Those who have engaged with leaseholders over many years know that communications between residents in a large tower block often take huge lengths of time. They are not instantaneous. The idea that within 28 days the appropriate person will be able to ensure that they have all the information from other residents is fanciful. Communications just do not work like that in tower blocks.

That will discourage leaseholders from taking over the management of their building. Many of them are labouring under problems with their existing managing agents, such as huge increases in their service charges or often completely inappropriate items billed to them erroneously. They therefore want to be enfranchised and to take on the responsibility as managing agents themselves. With that, however, will come the new responsibilities, which are incredibly onerous.

My hon. Friend was absolutely right to ask about penalties. Those who exercise those responsibilities, or try to, have to know what will happen to them if they fail to do so—not wilfully or through negligence, but because it is simply not possible to secure all the appropriate information in the timeframe. There is then the question of what happens if they cannot access the information. As my hon. Friend said, this is about not just fire doors, which are at least there physically and can be seen, but internal fire stopping, which may not have been put in during construction. That is one of the things that makes a building most susceptible to fire, yet it is not mentioned in regulation 8. That is essential if people are to fulfil the duties that the Government are placing them.

Ultimately, this issue goes back to where responsibility lies. It is great that we are trying to nail that down, and I appreciate what the Government are trying to do, but there are real, practical constraints. We need to know what the penalties are and how the regulations will be enforced.

I am grateful to all Members for their contributions, and to the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich for indicating that we have cross-party consensus and support for these important regulations. I will do my utmost to cover all the questions and points raised; if I miss anything, I will follow up in writing.

On the points raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, registration is separate from applying for a building assessment certificate. Registration is required first, and then the regulator will ask for a building assessment certificate to follow. Other duties in part 4 of the Building Safety Act will ensure the production of a safety case and that building safety risks are properly managed by the appropriate person, and we will be bringing forward regulations later in the year on those points.

On the very relevant questions about what will happen when people do not register in time or do not register at all, from April this year it will be a requirement on the principal accountable person to register, and from October 2023 it will be a criminal offence, with either a fine or imprisonment as a sanction, not to register or come forward to register. We will lay regulations on that shortly, and the House will have full scrutiny of them.

The Minister is more than welcome to follow up in writing, but she has just clarified, in response to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central, that there is a difference between registration and certification. Will she address the specific point—in writing if need be—about what happens if a duty holder comes forward to register but does not provide the necessary mandatory information in time?

I will follow up on that point in writing after the Committee rises, because I have a few other points to cover.

The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich asked whether fire doors, for example, are included in the fire and smoke equipment referred to in regulation 18. They are included. I hope that provides him with some reassurance.

We have set out a 28-day period for providing the key building information. It is important that that information is provided quickly so that the regulator can prioritise the call-in of building assessment certificates. For many existing buildings, accountable persons may not know whether there has been significant building work, so the Government are enabling accountable persons to say that they do not know on that point. For the fire standard, it was decided that the build date would provide enough information.

I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the difference between registration and the assessment certificate application. The regulations require the regulator to decide whether a building among the higher-risk buildings is particularly higher risk. Do we take it from that that the regulator will write to the accountable person to say, “I have assessed, based on the information, that you are a priority for an application, and therefore I would like to see your information sooner rather than later”?

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again; she is being generous in engaging in debate. In answering the question that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich asked about fire doors, she referred to regulation 18, which talks about

“fire and smoke control equipment”

and specifically excludes that which is

“provided by a resident for their own use.”

“Equipment” does not sound as if it includes fire stopping. Will the Minister please clarify where responsibility lies for fire stopping in a building?

As I have highlighted, guidance will be provided, and we hope that it will provide the clarity that is needed. Again, though, if we have more information, I will follow up in writing to provide the hon. Gentleman with further assurances.

I am grateful to hon. Members for their engagement, and I am particularly grateful to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich, for his constructive approach. Right across the House, we recognise how crucial this issue is, and I am grateful that we are moving forward to tackle it together. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Radio Equipment (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2023

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Dame Maria Miller

† Ali, Tahir (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab)

† Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Bacon, Gareth (Orpington) (Con)

† Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Fabricant, Michael (Lichfield) (Con)

† Hollinrake, Kevin (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade)

† Johnson, Gareth (Dartford) (Con)

† Lord, Mr Jonathan (Woking) (Con)

† Morrissey, Joy (Beaconsfield) (Con)

† Onwurah, Chi (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)

† Penning, Sir Mike (Hemel Hempstead) (Con)

† Penrose, John (Weston-super-Mare) (Con)

Ribeiro-Addy, Bell (Streatham) (Lab)

† Stevenson, Jane (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)

† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)

† Wakeford, Christian (Bury South) (Lab)

† Yasin, Mohammad (Bedford) (Lab)

Abi Samuels, Beth Goodwin, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(2):

Stafford, Alexander (Rother Valley) (Con)

Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee

Wednesday 22 February 2023

[Dame Maria Miller in the Chair]

Draft Radio Equipment (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2023

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Radio Equipment (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2023.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. The purpose of the instrument is to give effect to Commission delegated regulation (EU) 2019/320 in Northern Ireland and enable it to be legally enforced. The radio equipment directive is an EU directive that requires that radio equipment placed on to the EU market or put into service in the EU must meet specified essential requirements. The directive also allows the Commission to put additional essential requirements on manufacturers of radio equipment.

Radio equipment is defined as any electrical product that emits or receives radio waves for the purposes of radio communication. That includes products such as mobile phones and smartphones. The UK’s Radio Equipment Regulations 2017 implemented the radio equipment directive in UK law, and they have been amended to reflect the fact that we have left the European Union. The Radio Equipment Regulations 2017 apply across the UK, but some of the provisions apply differently in Northern Ireland because, as we know, it remains subject to EU law for radio equipment under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol.

In December 2018, the Commission issued delegated regulation (EU) 2019/320, which added to the essential requirements in the directive and required that smartphones must be able to transmit their location data in calls to emergency services. The instrument will therefore put in place the additional requirement for smartphones, as required under the delegated regulation in Northern Ireland, and enable it to be legally enforced there. The amendment is required under the terms of the protocol.

I will explain what the SI does in more detail. It adds the caller location requirements of EU regulation 2019/320 to the essential requirements in the Radio Equipment Regulations 2017 as they apply to Northern Ireland. The essential requirements set the overall objectives for how radio equipment must be constructed before it can be placed on the market. Because the SI adds to the essential requirements, it extends the scope of an existing offence in the Radio Equipment Regulations for manufacturers in relation to non-compliance with the essential requirements when placing products on the market.

Failure to comply with the new regulatory requirement will be a criminal offence in Northern Ireland. However, we envisage that it will be only in very rare circumstances. Enforcement authorities will continue to take a proportionate approach to compliance and enforcement activities. They will prioritise working with businesses to help them understand their obligations and support them to comply.

The European Commission’s assessment in its explanatory memorandum published in 2018 was that a technical solution incorporating global navigation satellite systems, or GNSS, and wi-fi signal-based information has already been anticipated by the market, and is now available in over 95% of all smartphones. The Commission’s assessment was that the impact on smartphone manufacturers was therefore anticipated to be minimal, as nearly all new smartphones have the required capability. The EU Commission engaged with industry during the development of the regulation. It has been adopted by the EU since 2019, and we are not aware of any concerns from smartphone manufacturers in relation to these regulations.

My excellent officials in the Office for Product Safety and Standards will be providing online industry guidance to ensure businesses have all the information they need on how to comply with the regulations. They are also liaising with the Northern Ireland district councils that are responsible for enforcing the Radio Equipment Regulations there, and ensuring they have all the necessary information to do so.

We are not currently considering introducing a similar requirement for Great Britain, for two main reasons. First, as the European Commission’s assessment for the regulation shows, nearly all new smartphones currently on the market already have the technical capabilities that it requires. Given the existing widespread adoption, we see no reason to mandate this requirement through legislation. Secondly, now that we have left the European Union, we will make our decisions on product safety regulations based on what is in the best interests of the UK.

We note that the Commission’s policy for this regulation is to provide better information to the EU’s emergency services and to promote the EU’s global navigation satellite system. Given that, we do not think there are strong policy reasons for implementing this change across Great Britain, but we will keep this position under review.

The UK is required to implement this regulation in Northern Ireland under the current terms of the Northern Ireland protocol. The SI does that by amending the UK’s Radio Equipment Regulations 2017 and enabling it to be legally enforced, so I urge the Committee to approve the SI.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship for the first time, Dame Maria, and I hope it is not the last. I am sure Members will welcome me saying that we will not oppose this delegated legislation, and therefore I will not detain the Committee longer than is necessary. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] That met with approval on all sides. Having spent 23 years in the telecoms industry designing and rolling out networks of this type, this subject is of great interest to me, but I recognise that that is not shared to the same extent by the entire Committee.

The effect of this instrument is to implement an EU regulation on requirements for smartphones in Northern Ireland, as per the terms of what I note the Minister referred to as the “current” Northern Ireland protocol. Attempts by the Government to renege on this agreement and unilaterally change the protocol have risked Britain’s reputation as a dependable country that plays by the rules. Three years after we left the European Union, the Government’s progress on fixing the protocol that they negotiated has been woeful. We are pleased to understand that there may be a deal on the table, but the Prime Minister refused to be drawn on the details of that deal at Prime Minister’s questions today and could not confirm that the deal being negotiated will see Northern Ireland continue to follow some EU laws, such as this statutory instrument, in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The Leader of the Opposition made it clear that, despite the poor implementation of the deal by this Government, we welcome attempts to make the protocol work more effectively, and we are committed to working with all parties to ease tensions and find a way forward. By supporting this statutory instrument, we are fulfilling a treaty commitment and working to ensure that Britain is a country where international laws are respected and followed. However, that is not to say that we do not have questions or concerns arising from the introduction of this statutory instrument, and I will briefly go through them.

The regulation that this instrument intends to implement was introduced by the EU via secondary legislation in 2018. That regulation imposes an additional essential requirement on smartphone manufacturers to support technical solutions for the reception and processing of location data derived from wi-fi signals and data from GNSS for the purpose of making emergency communications more effective.

According to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, one of the biggest challenges facing the emergency services is determining the location of mobile callers. Ambulance service measurements show that, on average, 30 seconds per call can be saved if a precise location is automatically provided. Several minutes can be saved where callers are unable to describe their location verbally, which can happen due to stress, injury or simple unfamiliarity with the area.

Historically, caller location was based upon identification of the coverage area of nearby cell towers. Tests carried out by the European Union found that GNSS location accuracy ranged from 6 metres to 28 metres, a significant improvement on the 1.5 km to 5 km precision range of cell ID. Furthermore, a hybrid system based on a combination of GNSS, wi-fi and cell-ID positioning will increase reach in environments where radio signal is compromised, such as urban canyons or narrow streets, where buildings obstruct visibility of satellites. It is no overstatement, therefore, to say that this technology saves lives. The faster a patient’s location is identified, the faster the emergency services can reach them and the faster they can receive treatment.

The question must therefore be asked of the Government is why the legislation has not been introduced in England, Scotland or Wales. I note that the Minister said that 95% of all smartphones already meet the requirements, but I wonder what assessment he made of the incremental cost of introducing the legislation. The response provided by the Government to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee highlighted this draft instrument as of interest. The Department—then operating as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, before the shuffling of the deckchairs—told SLSC that it thought the requirement unnecessary, as hybrid positioning technology is already widely adopted in new smartphones in the UK. Indeed, I understand that advanced mobile location, a technical solution endorsed by the EU, has been fully deployed in Google and Apple phones in this country.

Given that a legal requirement would have a minimal impact on manufacturers—because the technology is already widespread, and does not require any hardware, as discussed—can the Minister assure me that his Department has made a thorough assessment of the potential of placing this standard on a legal footing in the rest of the United Kingdom? Those on the Conservative Benches tend to see regulation as a dirty word, but it can enable and shape effective markets. Given that hybrid positioning technology is literally life-saving, will the Government keep their word that they will keep the matter under review?

Another pertinent issue raised by the draft statutory instrument is its relationship to the GNSS that is owned by the European Commission—Galileo. The EU regulation introduced by this instrument requires that all smartphones are compatible and interoperable with the Galileo system. That requirement is unlikely to have practical implications within Northern Ireland, as all mobile phones produced by major manufacturers are already capable of operating Galileo. However, it does raise questions concerning the UK’s technological sovereignty following our expulsion from the Galileo programme.

In 2018, the Government threatened to spend the entire UK science budget on duplicating Galileo, because the Government had bungled negotiations on Galileo with the European Union. Four years on, the Defence Committee has reported:

“with tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money spent…the Government appears no closer to coming to any conclusions about development of the UK’s own space-based Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) capabilities.”

The result is that our critical national infrastructure within the UK is now dependent on a foreign-owned GNSS over which the Government have no influence. That includes our emergency services.

In outlining the rationale for requiring Galileo compatibility in smartphones, the European Commission argued for the importance of securing the independence and resilience of emergency services within the European Union. I hope that the Minister understands and agrees with that objective. May I ask him what work the Government are doing to ensure that emergency services within the UK are similarly resilient?

I am following this absolutely gobsmacking, extraordinary speech. Apart from the fact that the Galileo programme has absolutely nothing to do with this particular SI, does the hon. Lady not recall that the United Kingdom Government decided that we would use the GPS system? The Galileo system is not as accurate as GPS and, moreover, is simply an EU vanity project.

Before I call the shadow Minister to respond to that intervention, I remind everyone that the draft legislation is very tightly drawn. I thank Mr Fabricant for drawing that to everyone’s attention. Gently, perhaps the shadow Minister will come back to her point.

Thank you for that guidance, Dame Maria. I am just trying to establish that the Minister believes that the emergency services, which will now be subject to different regulatory requirements, have the technical capacity. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Lichfield is gobsmacked, but I am often equally gobsmacked by his contributions, so perhaps that is not surprising.

Does the Government recognise the resilience issue, given that that is part of the reason why the SI was introduced by the European Commission?

Thank you, Dame Maria. Why has it taken the Government four years to introduce the draft SI? Might there be implications for the UK space sector in location applications being unable to be supported by UK sovereign capability?

I hope the Minister will address the longer-term implications of the divergence and the resilience of, and support for, the emergency services, which we all wish to be—

On a point of order, Dame Maria. It may save the Committee time to know that the emergency services do not use Galileo, they never intended to use Galileo and they continue to use GPS. There is no resilience issue.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. I am not sure it was a point of order, but I am sure that his comments were heard by those sitting on the Front Benches.

In response to the point of order, I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Lichfield is saying that there is no issue with our emergency services, even though this delegated legislation, the draft SI, specifically states that it is a requirement to improve the resilience of the emergency services. He might need to discuss that with his Minister, if they have a difference of opinion.

The hon. Lady is misunderstanding the whole issue. She claims that she worked in the telecommunications industry; I set up radio stations in 48 countries around the world, so I also know a teeny bit about it. She will know that Galileo is not an issue.

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Lichfield is as amusing as he always is—even if he is not as accurate as he should be.

The debate has been much livelier than was anticipated—

And longer than was anticipated—thanks to so many contributions from the hon. Member for Lichfield.

I hope that the Minister will address seriously the concerns about the difference in requirements within the United Kingdom because of this delegated legislation. What are the implications for smartphone market resilience and national sovereign capability in the future?

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. I am sure that Members will be pleased to hear that, unlike some, I will be brief. The Minister said that criminals would face criminal circumstances in exceptional circumstances. Could he expand on what those exceptional circumstances will be?

I will try to go through the points raised as quickly as possible. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central asked whether Government Members consider “regulation” to be a dirty word. The answer is absolutely not. What we do believe, though, is that we should regulate and intervene in markets only when absolutely necessary. That is our position. The rest of the time, the best thing we can do for consumers is allow business to deliver solutions. Competition is the best thing for consumers.

On the incremental increase in cost and the 95% to 100%, I do not know the figure.

I am happy to speak to the OPSS to see whether we have a number. Of course we will keep it under review, as I said in my opening speech.

The principal point raised by the hon. Lady related to resilience, and my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield also made some points. In addition to the EU’s Galileo system, the other main global navigation satellite systems are the United States global positioning system, Russia’s GLONASS and China’s BeiDou navigation satellite system—GNSS is a generic term—so there is resilience. Whenever we in this place are spending taxpayers’ money or deciding whether we should do so, we need to be very careful. Any duplication of spend is an unnecessary and inappropriate way of spending taxpayers’ money. We believe that there is resilience in the system and that manufacturers are already providing a solution in terms of the 95% already covered.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central asked why this has been delayed. She will have noticed that quite a lot of legislation has been brought to this place over the past few years, and there are other factors, not least parliamentary drafting time, that have delayed some of the issues we would like to bring forward. But we are here now—that is the important thing.

To respond to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale, the maximum penalty is three months in jail. He asked about exceptional circumstances. This is about consumer detriment and I think that those are the kinds of serious concerns that could be raised. As I have said, we expect enforcement agencies to deal with those in a proportionate manner. It is very difficult to specify the exact situations in which a case may be brought forward, but I think that such cases would be very serious and very rare and that they would relate to consumer detriment.

If the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central does not mind, I will not be drawn on the Northern Ireland protocol, other than to say that we need to make sure that we maintain the delicate political balance in Northern Ireland, about which there are concerns, as she knows.

I will not, because I am going to conclude.

I thank the Committee for its consideration of this SI and the very valuable contributions to the debate. I commend the SI to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.