Govt introduces new Fire Safety Bill

The Home Office has today introduced a new bill to improve fire safety in buildings in England and Wales -- and one which builds on action already taken following the Grenfell Tower fire.

The new bill amends the Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows; and entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.

This clarification will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.

Minister for Security James Brokenshire said the new bill will help bring about "meaningful change to improving building safety".

"We remain committed to implementing the recommendations made following phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, and the government has already made major reforms to building safety."

The bill will provide a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report, which stated that building owners and managers of high-rise and multi-occupied residential buildings should be responsible for a number of areas including:

-regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local fire and rescue services
-ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated and personal evacuation plans are in place for residents whose ability to evacuate may be compromised
-ensuring fire safety instructions are provided to residents in a form that they can reasonably be expected to understand
-ensuring individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards.

The bill will also give the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the powers to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order by way of secondary legislation, enabling the government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings.

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council Roy Wilsher welcomed the new bill. "I am pleased to see the announcement of the new Fire Safety Bill. We have been calling for additional powers since 2017 and these changes should contribute to the public feeling safer in their homes," he said. "We look forward to seeing additional supportive measures to assist fire and rescue services, identify different types of cladding and take appropriate measures."

The new bill follows the announcement in last week's Budget of a further £1 billion of grant funding to tackle unsafe cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres in both the private and social sectors.

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