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.

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Building Safety Bill: Bishop of St Albans speaks in debate

On 29th March 2022, the House of Lords debated a report on the Building Safety Bill, and amendments to the bill. The Bishop of St Albans tabled amendments and spoke in support of other members’ amendments. Lord Blencathra spoke on behalf of the Bishop in the first part of the debate:

Lord Blencathra (Con): I rise to comment on the disabled amendments that the Government have laid, including the one that was just moved. I will also comment briefly on Amendments 46 and 47, which have not yet been spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, and speak to Amendments 39 and 40 on behalf of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, since he is unable to be with us at this time of the morning.

I commend the Government for listening to my noble friend Lady Grey-Thompson in Committee and on all the amendments that they have brought forward today. Having been bored on the train when I was heading up north last week, I counted on the Order Paper more than 220 government amendments and 50 proposed new clauses. That is an extraordinary achievement and shows the extent to which my noble friend the Minister has been listening, as well as what he has been able to drive forward—principally because the Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Michael Gove, gets it and understands what needs to be done. So, although my noble friends and I may move a few amendments today, and perhaps force them to a vote, I do not want the Minister to think that we are being churlish. We appreciate the huge distance that the Government have travelled; we just think that there may be one or two more gaps that we need to fill.

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Building Safety Bill: Bishop of St Albans asks about leaseholder protections

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question on property leaseholders during a debate on building and fire safety on 15th March 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I join other noble Lords in thanking the Minister for the considerable progress he has made and his very collaborative approach as we work through the Building Safety Bill. He will be aware that the definition of a qualifying lease in the Bill is set to exclude many small private landlords. We are not talking about the big commercial set-ups but people who have one, two or possibly three flats which they bought simply to provide themselves with a pension. Do Her Majesty’s Government intend to look at that definition of a qualifying lease again? Many of those people are deeply worried at the moment.

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Building Safety Bill: Bishop of St Albans urges proportional approach

On 2nd March 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Building Safety Bill in Grand Committee. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in favour of a proportional approach to new safety regulations, balancing the need for remediation of risk with the potential effects on leaseholders:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will add a few extra words to this. I apologise to the Committee; I am struggling, as I think a number of us are, as there are so many Bills going through that we are bobbing in and out of various Bills. It is frustrating for us that we cannot necessarily sit and follow everything through, but I think this probing amendment touches on some really important issues for us.

Not surprisingly, after the absolute horror of Grenfell, we are rightly trying to think about how we offer maximum safety for everybody. But safety comes at a cost, as we are all aware. As we work on a Bill that we hope will do its job for many years, we need to take an objective view on some of these areas, particularly on what the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, said about proportionality.

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