19 January 2022
Aldous tables amendment to the Building Safety Bill

Speaking in the debate on the Second Reading of the Building Safety Bill, Peter Aldous tables an amendment to add “the protection of property” to the role of the new Building Safety Regulator; as property protection measures, such as sprinklers, would provide greater safety for people, including firefighters, and more sustainable buildings.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con)

New clause 2 and amendment 1, which stand in my name and are kindly supported by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), add “the protection of property” to the list of purposes for which building regulations may be made under the Building Act 1984, and require the Building Safety Regulator to carry out its work

“with a view to furthering the protection of property”.

In many respects, in terms of drafting, these are tweaks to the Bill, but they could have far-reaching and positive consequences. Modern methods of construction and the increasing compartmental sizes of industrial and commercial buildings are leading to more challenging and larger fires, which put lives at risk and also cause enormous social, economic and environmental consequential damage. That is exactly what happened at Wessex Foods in Lowestoft 11 years ago, in July 2011. If adequate property protection measures—in the form of sprinklers, in that instance—had been in place, a huge amount of disruption would have been avoided, and the firefighters would have been back at their station in four minutes.

If the consideration of “property protection” were added to the Building Act and the building regulations, we would secure a significant double dividend: greater safety for people, including firefighters, and more sustainable buildings. It is far better to be preventing fires than to be putting them out. I should therefore be grateful if the Minister gave serious consideration to accepting new clause 2 and amendment 1, so that the Building Act can be amended to provide for the protection of property. These proposals have the support of professionals across the fire sector: the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Fire Sector Federation, the Fire Brigades Union, the Fire Protection Association and the Institution of Fire Engineers.

The new clause and amendment would provide an appropriate framework for the future fire safety of building design, and we would therefore know that homes, schools, care homes, student accommodation and all industrial and commercial buildings had adequate property protection and fire prevention measures built in at the start, so that we were not putting people—including firefighters—and property at risk. As I have said, I should be grateful if the Minister considered these proposals.