Building Safety Bill is milestone moment after heartbreak stories of Grenfell and cladding scandal - Lord Stephen Greenhalgh

Lord Stephen Greenhalgh is Building Safety Minister.

Grenfell Tower. Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images.
Grenfell Tower. Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images.

All of us have been moved by the stories of leaseholders being caught up in the cladding scandal, with buildings across Yorkshire affected by issues of unsafe cladding and shoddy workmanship.

As Building Safety Minister, I’ve heard their stories first-hand and cannot begin to imagine how difficult this has been for them – especially as many have struggled to hold their building owners to account. These are people who have done the right thing. They’ve worked incredibly hard to save and to get themselves on the housing ladder, only to then find themselves trapped in a nightmare – unable to sell and move to a new house because of the cladding on their building and shoddy workmanship – something they knew nothing about when they bought it.

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This is unacceptable. Now it is important that we restore confidence to this part of the housing market and ensure that this situation never arises again. I want to bring lasting generational change to building safety, but we must also remember that most buildings in this country, including high-rise buildings, are fundamentally safe and only a small proportion of fires in

high-rise buildings spread beyond the room of origin.

There has been a general downward trend in the number of deaths from fire in people’s homes over the last two decades. At the moment in the market, we’re seeing what’s been described by our expert Dame Judith Hackitt as extreme risk aversion.

We don’t want to see leaseholders being met with high bills for works which may prove to be unnecessary and as a government, one of our biggest challenges is to instil proportionality into this debate.

We recently introduced the Building Safety Bill in Parliament, bringing the biggest improvements to the regulation of building safety in 40 years.

The landmark Bill presents groundbreaking reforms that will bring more rights, powers and protections for residents and homeowners, strengthen the regulation of housing standards and make homes safer across the country.

Following the recommendations of the independent review led by Dame Judith, we are taking bold actions to bring about regulatory change that will hold those responsible to account.

There will be a clear legal duty on those who design, build and manage new homes.

All residents in high-rise buildings will have someone with responsibility for keeping them and their home safe.

We are more than doubling the amount of time, from six to 15 years, that residents can claim compensation for sub-standard construction work.

For new builds, the changes will apply retrospectively – meaning residents of a building which is unfit to live in, completed in 2010, would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025. We are also bringing in new measures which will apply in future to those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which make the home unliveable.

The Bill will also establish a powerful new Building Safety Regulator with robust enforcement powers, to ensure risks are properly managed at every stage of a high-rise building’s life. This includes existing high-rise residential buildings, for which an accountable person will have to demonstrate to residents and to the regulator that buildings are being managed appropriately.

But the Building Safety Bill is about so much more than regulation. It seeks to bring about a fundamental change in culture in the construction industry and a reset of the relationship between those who live in a building and those who own it.

Among the most heartbreaking stories I heard from the Grenfell community was their frustration that no one listened when they raised concerns. That’s why the Bill puts residents’ voices at the heart of the regime, amplifying their voices if they feel they are not being heard by providing them with a route to escalate complaints to the Building Safety Regulator.

It marks a milestone moment that will reshape the way our building safety system operates forever. The introduction of the Building Safety Bill is a key step in delivering a new system that restores public confidence in our housing sector. The UK can be a pioneering nation with a resilient and robust building safety system – a system that places the safety of residents at the heart of everything we do.