HC Deb 03 February 1982 vol 17 cc440-1


  1. '(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) below, where plans for the erection or extension of a building are deposited with a district council in accordance with building regulations, the district council shall reject the plans unless after consultation With the fire authority they are satisfied that the plans show—
    1. (a) that there will be adequate means of access for the fire brigade to the building or, as the case may be, to the buildings as extended; and
    2. (b) that the building or, as the case may be, the extension of the building will not render inadequate any existing means of access for the fire brigade to a neighbouring building.
  2. (2) No requirement concerning means of access to a building or to a neighbouring building shall be made under this section in the case of a building to be erected or extended in pursuance of a planning permission granted upon an application made under the Act of 1971 unless notice of the provisions of this section is endorsed on or accompanies the planning permission.
  3. (3) Section 64(2) and section 65(2) to (5) of the Act of 1936 (notice of rejection or passing of plans and enforcement of requirements) shall apply as if this section were a section of the Act of 1936.
  4. (4) Any person aggrieved by the action of the district council in rejecting plans under this section may appeal to a magistrates' court.
  5. (5) In this section references to the adequacy or inadequacy of means of access for the fire brigade shall be construed as references to a means of access adequate or, as the case may inadequate for use for fire fighting purposes by members of one or more fire brigades and their appliances.'.—[Dr.Summerskill.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This clause is also of concern to fire authorities, arid a similar clause was recently included in the Iancashire and Hampshire consolidation Bills and is in force in 17 counties' private legislation.

The clause was discussed between the local authority associations and the Home Office in 1979 and the associations were persuaded that it was not necessary to pursue the clause, as it would be dealt with by way of regulation. However, it has not apparently been dealt with in that way. For the benefit of the fire authorities, will the Minister say when the amending regulations will be implemented? Instead of introducing private legislation, the authorities are waiting for those regulations.

Mr. Macfarlane

The hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) has raised an important paint and I note the comments that have been made. I shall point the background as quickly as possible.

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 provides for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to make building regulations governing means of access to, and egress from, new buildings and extensions of buildings. It is considered that such regulations should form part of a comprehensive package of requirements for means of escape in case of fire. They would be more widely drawn than the existing limited means of escape requirements in part E of the building regulations which apply selectively to certain types of buildings. Widespread consultations have been carried out on proposals to introduce such an extended package, and these have generated a large volume of comment.

I hope that I can allay the hon. Member's anxiety. My right hon. Friend is reviewing the building control system. Cmnd. 8179, published in February 1981, set cut the Government's proposals for change. Whilst it has not proved possible to introduce legislation in this Session, my right hon. Friend has confirmed that he is still firmly committed to the principles in the Command Paper, and the general review is being pressed forward.

Means of escape requirements, including access for the fire brigade, are seen as important elements in the review. It would be unsatisfactory to deal with them piecemeal. We are therefore taking the opportunity to pursue the proposals afresh within the overall context of the review, examining methods of extending the scope of the existing means of escape requirements, but without imposing unjustifiable and unnecessary bureaucratic controls.

The Association of County Councils and the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association were advised in April 1980 that the review of building control provided this opportunity. They are aware that a working group, set up by my Department with the assistance of other Departments, the associations and specialist fire interests to examine the former proposals, is in abeyance.

Perhaps the hon. Members who tabled the new clause will withdraw it for the sake of speeding the passage of the Bill, on the understanding that the matter will be effectively dealt with as part of a comprehensive set of building regulation requirements on means of escape, which is currently being studied in the context of the overall review of the building control system and in the light of the extensive earlier work in this field.

I hope that the hon. Lady will see fit to withdraw the new clause.

Dr. Summerskill

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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