Hackitt brushes off Cabinet reshuffle as new building safety regulator set to meet

The board chaired by Dame Judith Hackitt and charged with implementing a new building safety regulator is set to meet for the first time next week.

Dame Judith told Construction News the purpose of the first meeting is to clarify when exactly the new regulator will start its work. She said: “One of the first things on our agenda is to look at the possible timeline for setting things up in shadow mode, and what we can achieve and how we can get this up and running as quickly as possible.

“Then we can start to remove some of the uncertainty that is being reflected back at us from the industry and start to break down some of that reluctance to change because [the industry] are awaiting further detail on what the regulations might look like.”

When asked by CN whether this week’s Cabinet reshuffle would affect the timescale of the body’s implementation, she said: “I don’t see any reason why it should at all. The government commitment to this should be absolutely clear to everyone, and I don’t think there should be any doubt that it is dependent on ministerial changes, because it’s not [dependent on them]. It’s a commitment to change that goes beyond just the government.”

The creation of the body was announced last year just before the release of the Grenfell Inquiry phase one report. The government previously announced that the regulator would initially operate as a shadow body under the umbrella of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) until legislation giving it statutory powers is passed. This legislation is expected to come in in 2021 at the earliest.

Speaking on a panel at the NBS Construction Product Leaders’ Summit yesterday, Dame Judith said there is “every reason to expect that the body is going to operate in exactly the same way” as the HSE.

She said: “It will be under the HSE umbrella and you know how the HSE operates. They don’t tell you what to do, they ask you to demonstrate that you are doing what is reasonable. You also know how the HSE operates in terms of being a firm but fair regulatory body – and it won’t be a minor rap across the knuckles when you get it wrong any more.”

Dame Judith also confirmed its remit will only cover England once it is in operation.

Earlier this week, MPs called for the government’s £200m fund for the removal of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding to be increased and extended to cover all unsafe cladding. Commenting on this, Dame Judith told CN: “It’s a really challenging question for government and for building owners and for everyone else in terms of how best to fund that and to speed up progress. We cannot ignore that there is a problem [with cladding], but at the same time we have to address the bigger issue of putting in a place a better system for the future that delivers better quality of all buildings, and a better process that can create greater confidence in what we build.”


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