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Amendment to Combustible Materials Ban legislation is disappointing says Lords Committee

22 June 2022

Last week, the cross-party House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee considered the Building etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022(SI 2022/603) as part of its weekly report to the House.

These Regulations amend the Combustible Materials Ban that was introduced in England in 2018 following the Grenfell Tower Fire and were laid before Parliament by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The Department explained that the changes made by the new Regulations are informed by a review of the Combustible Materials Ban undertaken in the autumn of 2019 which involved the Building Regulations Advisory Committee and a stakeholder survey on the effectiveness and impact of the Ban.

The Committee expressed disappointment in a number of aspects of the amended Regulations and asked that they be drawn to the special attention of the House on public policy grounds.

The issues highlighted include:

  • Delay in bringing forward the instrument – Although the review of the Combustible Materials Ban was undertaken in 2019, the Committee noted with concern that it has taken several years to bring forward this instrument. The changes will come into force on 1 December 2022.
  • Limited explanatory material – The changes made by the Regulations will only apply to new buildings and existing buildings which are being renovated. This means that a significant number of buildings will be outside the scope of the Ban.  An Explanatory Memorandum (EM) and Impact Assessment (IA) were provided by DLUHC when the instrument was laid; but the Committee was disappointed to note that neither document provides an indication of how long it will take to make safe the existing stock of hotels, hostels and boarding homes which are higher than 18 metres and which under the current law are outside the scope of the instrument.
  • Enforcement – The Committee noted that when the changes come into force in December 2022, for effective safety improvements to occur, they will have to be enforced by the building control bodies which are responsible for checking compliance and monitoring the operation of the Combustible Materials Ban.

Lord Hutton of Furness, Member of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said;

“We have raised previously the importance of having Explanatory Memorandum (EM) that fully explain any changes in the law so as to provide both Parliament and members of the public with a clear understanding of any resulting effects and how they will be practically implemented and enforced.

“In this case, while the EM explains the changes made by the instrument, it would have been helpful for it to also provide an indication of the time it will take under the chosen policy approach to make safe the significant number of existing buildings which fall outside the scope of the instrument and the Combustible Materials Ban, especially given that this is an issue of public safety. The length of time taken to implement the changes to the Combustible Materials Ban and the need to enforce the measures are also issues for concern.

“In the circumstances, we have asked that the Regulations are drawn to the special attention of the House on the grounds that they are politically important.”

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