Yesterday (19th March), the  government announced the introduction of a new Fire Safety Bill. Following the proposal  from Boris Johnson at the end of last year, yesterday’s confirmation will see some major changes to the Fire Safety Order 2005.

The Bill, fuelled by the tragic fire in Grenfell Tower, sets out to strengthen the whole regulatory system for building safety with added focus on safety in high-rise residential buildings. This includes tougher regulations on  construction products and ensuring clear responsibility and accountability for the safety of the a buildings residents.

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

The new bill sets out to clarify that the duty-holder for multi-occupied residential buildings must manage and reduce fire risks for:

  • The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies, and windows
  • Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts

The bill will also 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.

These include:

  • 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

Minister for Security James Brokenshire said: “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.

“Today’s bill will help bring about meaningful change to improving building safety.”

According to an official statement, the Bill will also give Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick powers to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order by way of secondary legislation.

Alongside today’s bill, a number of actions are being taken across government to improve building and fire safety including:

  • the announcement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 20 January 2020 of a new Building Safety Regulator
  • introduction of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Bill, which will provide clearer accountability and stronger duties on those responsible for high rise buildings
  • £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
  • a new Building Safety Bill to bring about further changes to building safety
  • the relaunch of the government’s Fire Kills campaign

A consultation will be held later in the year on proposals and next steps.