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This Bill is part of a series of changes to fire safety and building safety the Government is taking following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, with further primary and secondary legislation to follow.

Current Fire Safety Legislation

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 brought together different pieces of fire legislation. It applies to all non-domestic premises, including communal areas of residential buildings with multiple homes. The Order designates those in control of premises as the responsible person for fire safety and they have a duty to undertake assessments and manage risks. The Order is enforced by Fire and Rescue Authorities.

What does the Fire Safety Bill do?

The Bill clarifies that for any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises the Order applies to the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts, including the front doors of residential areas.

It also clarifies that references to external walls in the Order include “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).” These amendments to the Order aim to increase enforcement action in these areas, particularly where remediation of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding is not taking place.

Where does the Bill apply to?

This Bill applies to England and Wales. Separate fire safety legislation is in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Fire Safety is devolved in Wales, but the Bill amends the shared legislation, with the same delegated powers applying to English and Welsh Ministers.

The Bill also provides English and Welsh Ministers with a regulation-making power to amend the type of buildings the Order applies to in the future.

The Bill has been welcomed. Public and industry bodies expect more enforcement action by Fire and Rescue Authorities as a result of the Bill’s clarifications, and that it will impose greater burdens on the responsible person in multi-occupancy residential buildings.

Progress of the Bill

The Bill passed House of Commons stages without amendment on 7 September 2020. House of Lords consideration of the Bill was completed on 24 November 2020 and the Bill was passed back to the Commons with five amendments. One of these amendments seeks to restrict the passing on of remediation costs to leaseholders, supplemented by further proposed amendments in the Commons on the same issue, known as the ‘McPartland Smith’ amendments. This relates to ongoing concern about the cost to leaseholders of cladding removal from high-rise residential buildings.

The Commons accepted two Government amendments when the Bill returned to the Commons on 24 February 2021, but not other amendments including the one relating to remediation costs. Further consideration of the Bill took place in the Lords on 17 March and the Bill was returned to the Commons with amendments relating to remediation costs. The Commons will consider the Bill again on 22 March 2021.

The progress of this Bill and the Building Safety Bill appear to be linked to the ongoing issue of cladding remediation costs; on 10 February 2021 the Secretary of State announced an increase in the funding available for high-rise leasehold residential buildings with unsafe cladding.

Further changes to fire safety law are expected to follow. The Government responded to the consultation on changes to the Fire Safety Order on 17 March 2021.

 

Help for Members of Parliament and their staff  

In addition to writing and updating published papers as bills go through Parliament, the House of Commons Library can assist Members of Parliament and their staff with individual enquiries about bills, particularly on the policy background.  


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