Building Safety Bill: Bishop of St Albans speaks in debate

On 4th April 2022, the House of Lords debated the Building Safety Bill in its third reading. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of changes to the Bill:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I do not want to delay the House for too long, but I also add my word of thanks to the Minister. I share the concerns of other noble Lords: I hope that this is going to be given enough time for proper scrutiny and debate in the other place and that the really key amendments will not be overturned.

Many positive changes have been made, particularly reducing the cost for non-cladding remedial work to zero and the extension of this support to all buildings, not just those over 11 metres. But I remain concerned by the definition of a qualifying lease and its failure to protect those receiving a state pension who rely on rental income from a lease to sustain themselves. I am not entirely certain how these pensioners who do not qualify will pay for non-cladding remedial costs, but that is a hurdle that the Government may face in the near future.

Furthermore, I continue to think that the Government have taken a rather London-centric view when defining a qualifying lease. I personally find it odd that someone with three leases worth, say, a total of £2.7 million, or £900,000 per dwelling, would qualify to pay nothing as per the latest amendments, but an individual with, say, five leases totalling £500,000, or £100,000 per lease, would be liable for the entirety of their non-cladding remedial costs on four of those leases. Again, I can only speculate as to how this might play out once the Bill passes.

I hope that the Minister shares these concerns and might perhaps look at a fairer way to define qualifying leases in respect of buy-to-let landlords, but I do not want this sticking point to hold up what has been a very positive debate around this Bill. I reiterate my thanks to the Minister for his co-operation and willingness to listen to and work with us.


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