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On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential housing block in North Kensington, London. The subsequent blaze led to the deaths of 72 people. The Fire Safety Bill 2019-21 forms part of the Government’s response to the Grenfell tragedy. It is among a range of measures intended to reform building and fire safety to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again.

Specifically, the Fire Safety Bill will amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:

  • the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows
  • entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts

The Government contends such measures will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant. The Government is also currently undertaking a consultation on the Fire Safety Order 2005, due to conclude in October 2020. The results of that exercise will be taken forward via a process separate to the Fire Safety Bill 2019-21. These are likely to include provisions in the Building Safety Bill (currently published in draft); amendments to the Fire Safety Order; amendments to Building Regulations; and through updated guidance.

The Fire Safety Bill is short, containing only two substantive clauses (though it does include regulation-making powers). It has completed its passage through the House of Commons, where opposition parties were broadly supportive of the legislation. However, opposition amendments were proposed at both committee and report stages aimed at encouraging the Government to move further and faster with the implementation of the Grenfell Public Inquiry Phase 1 report recommendations; on the issue of the availability of qualified fire risk assessors; the prioritisation of inspections; and on liability for interim and remedial fire safety measures such as waking watches patrolling at-risk premises. No amendments were made to the bill at either stage.

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