HL Deb 16 July 1996 vol 574 cc754-6

3.48 p.m.

Lord Lucas rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th June be approved [26th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ferrers. The draft order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 will make two amendments to the Building Act 1984 which should ease some of the administrative constraints under which approved inspectors operate. Both amendments relate to the procedures that approved inspectors have to follow when they, rather than local authority officers, are undertaking building control work.

The first change relates to initial notices. These are forms which tell local authorities that the building work described in the notice is to he controlled by the approved inspector rather than by the local authority.

There is at present no formal procedure by which these notices can be amended if there is a change in either the work or the person who is to carry it out. The absence of a formal procedure for amending these notices can lead to a significant increase in the amount of paperwork that is necessary for a relatively trivial change.

The first amendment introduces a new section into the Building Act and provides for the giving of an "amendment notice". This gives a simple mechanism by which an initial notice may be amended where there is a change in the work to be carried out.

Another new section ensures that the amendment notice, when accompanied by the appropriate plans, can also be treated as the deposit of plans. The form of an initial notice is set out in the Building (Approved Inspectors etc) Regulations 1985. It is proposed that the form of the amendment notice will be similarly prescribed, and appropriate amendments to the regulations will be laid before Parliament if your Lordships accept this draft order.

A third new section makes provision for simply giving notice of a change in the person intending to carry out the work.

The second change relates to the giving of final certificates. The amendment removes the requirement for these certificates to be given to the person by whom the work was carried out, whilst retaining the requirement for the final certificate to be given to the local authority.

This draft order has been before all the usual committees and has been approved by them without comment. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th June be approved [26th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].—(Lord Lucas).

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for moving the Motion introducing this order. As I understand it—and no doubt the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—the text of the order was not discussed fully in another place. My researches have detected no debate on this order on the Floor of the House of Commons. Since it is an affirmative order, that comes as something of a surprise. However, I am sure that the noble Lord will be able to explain why that is so.

I notice also that the order does not apply to Scotland nor, indeed, to Northern Ireland. I should be grateful if the noble Lord will explain why it does not apply to Scotland since it appears to be an order for the United Kingdom and not just for England and Wales.

Other than that, this has been the subject of considerable debate in your Lordships' Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will be aware that the local authority associations—the AMA and the ADC—both registered some objections to the order. It was decided by your Lordships' Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee that their objections had been reasonably met by the Government. But it seems to me that to have six pages of new legislation in a deregulation order involves a certain amount of extra regulation. I wonder whether it is in the spirit of the deregulation procedure to have six pages of extra legislation. Having said that, I have no particular objection to the order but I should be grateful if the Minister would respond to the points which I have raised.

Lord Lucas

My Lords, perhaps I may reply first to the first two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. The applicability of this order to England and Wales is in accordance with that of the underlying Act—the Building Act 1984. That applies only in England and Wales.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, I am sorry to intervene immediately. Is there not a similar Act which applies to Scotland under which such an order could be laid?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I am sorry to say that I have not addressed myself to that question. Certainly, my colleagues in the Scottish Office have not requested me to do so. So far as I am aware, amendments are required which apply to England and Wales. If there is anything to add to that, I shall write to the noble Lord. However, I am not aware that there is a problem in Scotland which requires to be sorted out.

As regards discussion in another place, the Motion was moved on the Floor of the House on 3rd July and another place chose to follow the procedures that it did. I have no wish to criticise it for that decision. I am well aware that your Lordships' Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers and the Deregulation Committee of another place have considered the matter in some detail. But in the light of the evidence produced jointly by officials from my department and representatives of the local authority associations, they reached the conclusion that the order is acceptable.

I understand the noble Lord's anxiety that we are seeking to deregulate by adding to the volume of legislation. I do not think that we mind which route we follow so long as the end effect is worthwhile, as I believe this order will be, not in any dramatic or enormous way; but it will make a useful improvement to the regulations as they now stand. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.