HC Deb 30 January 1980 vol 977 cc1325-8
9. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the progress of his consultations with local authorities over the relaxation of building regulations.

20. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received following his invitation on 10 December 1979, to interested parties to put forward suggestions for changes in the building regulations and control system; and what time he proposes to allow for consideration of suggestions received, further consultation and implementation of any changes.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Consultation on possible changes to the building control system has progressed well. Over 120 responses have now been received. After the end of January, my right hon. Friend will consider all the views submitted and will decide upon the next step.

Mr. Waller

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in considering any proposed changes as he has described, the matter of safety will remain uppermost in his mind? Will he assure the House that there will be no relaxation of safety standards?

Mr. Finsberg

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Chapman

Whatever simplifications my hon. Friend finally decides to recommend to the building regulations—I hope that they are substantial—will he assure the House that he will also be seeking to have a uniform set applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom, rather than the present four different and comprehensive sets?

Mr. Finsberg

My right hon. Friend's speech was intended to apply to England and Wales, including inner London. The responsibility for the items in Scotland and Northern Ireland rests with the appropriate Secretaries of State.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the Minister give more strength to local authorities in cases where people engage builders who do an inferior job that costs £1,400 or more and then disappear so that no retribution can take place?

Mr. Finsberg

I am got sure whether there is anything helpful that I can say to the hon. Gentleman. If builders are engaged who do not do a proper job it is more the fault of those who should have ensured that they picked the right builder in the first place. It is also for the appropriate local authority to make certain that, at least, plans that are submitted are in accordance with the regulations.

Mr. Latham

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government see the issue of building control as comingwithin the wider context of the testing of building materials generally, in the light of the recent decision of the Agrement Board? Similarly, will the Government also take decisions on the future of the building research stations, which are inextricably linked to that decision?

Mr. Finsberg

We shall certainly take into account the important points that my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Will the Minister assure the House that any changes he introduces will not reduce the protection that is available to the house purchaser—such as my constituent, Mrs. Anns, and others, who were able to bring proceedings against the local borough council to recover the full loss of investment arising from defective housing that had been approved by the borough architect? Will the Minister assure the House that any changes will strengthen the position of the house buyer rather than weaken it?

Mr. Finsberg

The case of Anns v Mertonis engraved upon the hearts of many. The only assurance that I can give to the hon. Gentleman at this stage is that we have carefully noted the point that he makes. I cannot see this Government introducing any proposals that will reduce the security and safety of householders.

Mr. Marlow

I wonder whether my hon. Friend would be kindenough to look into the problem of a constituent of mine? He discovered that the staircase in his private house was defective and dangerous. He pulled it out and was in the process of putting another one in, which was adjudged by everybody to be a safer one, when a local official said that it did not meet the necessary specifications. He was required to indulge in structural work at great expense, which he could not afford. Does not that sort of nonsense put government, in general, into disrespect? Will my hon. Friend take some action to sort out this ridiculous situation?

Mr. Finsberg

I am not unaware of my hon. Friend's constituent's problem. Indeed, it is a problem that I encountered with a twisting staircase in my own home. The solution that I adopted was not to put in a new staircase.