HC Deb 04 February 1981 vol 998 cc278-9
6. Mrs. Reńee Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to publish a Green Paper on the administration of the building regulations.

Mr. Stanley

My right hon. Friend expects to publish a Command Paper by the end of this month.

Mrs. Renée Short

That answer will be welcomed by everyone. However, can the Minister give an indication on how he intends to enforce the regulations, bearing in mind that there could be complications if responsibility is given to private organisations and taken away from local authorities?

Mr. Stanley

As the hon. Lady will understand, I cannot anticipate the proposal which will come forward in the Command Paper. However, I assure her that while we wish to see and explore the possibility of a significant measure of self-regulation by the building and construction industry in this area, we also see a continuing important role for local authorities.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is nearly 14 months since the Secretary of State spoke to the National House Building Council and launched the consultation process on this matter? Are we not past the stage of Green Papers? Should not we be getting on with decisions and action?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend will see from the answer which I have given that I referred to a Command Paper, which denotes something between a Green Paper and a White Paper. I assure him that we shall want to combine some specific proposals with elements of this new scheme, which we wish to expose to further consultation.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Will the Minister take into account that no matter what kind of building regulations we have, some builders will build faulty houses, even for owner-occupiers? There have been two such cases in my constituency. Will the Minister ensure that builders who build faulty houses and go into liquidation must, before being allowed to build, put money into a special fund so that owner-occupiers will be compensated if necessary and not be dependent on local government?

Mr. Stanley

As the hon. Member will be aware, extensive cover is provided through the NHBC guarantee scheme. As building societies will not normally advance, except on properties covered by that scheme, virtually all new building falls within the scope of that scheme.

Mr. Chapman

As well as dealing, it is to be hoped, with matters relating to unifying and simplifying the building regulations, will the Command Paper include the crucial matter of dealing with the law of liability which is overdue since the Anns v. Merton case?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend will be aware that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has specific responsibility for reviewing the law in this area. I assure my hon. Friend that the issue of liability and indemnity, which is one of the central questions involved in any change of the existing system of building control, will be covered in the proposals that we want to put forward.