20th July 2021

The Building Safety Bill will have its 2nd reading in the House of Commons on 21 July 2021.

The 2nd reading stage involves the following:

Debate on general principles of the Bill

Second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill.

It usually takes place no sooner than two weekends after first reading.

What happens at second reading?

The Government minister, spokesperson or MP responsible for the Bill opens the second reading debate.

The official Opposition spokesperson responds with their views on the Bill.

The debate continues with other Opposition parties and backbench MPs giving their opinions.

At the end of the debate, the Commons decides whether the Bill should be given its second reading by voting, meaning it can proceed to the next stage.

It is possible for a Bill to have a second reading with no debate – as long as MPs agree to its progress.

What happens after second reading?

Once second reading is complete the Bill proceeds to committee stage – where each clause (part) and any amendments (proposals for change) to the Bill may be debated.

So the 2nd reading is unlikely to involve a debate on the many legal issues raised by the Bill. Rather, it is likely to amount to a debate on the main political issues arising in relation to the Bill, like whether it means that leaseholders will be spared the costs of carrying out remedial works to improve fire safety and whether buildings will be safe in the future.

From a legal perspective, it is worth noting the following points:

  • The Bill does not purport to fund fire safety measures for leaseholders. It gives building owners a longer limitation period in which to bring claims against contractors and professionals involved in the construction of the building.
  • Building owners and leaseholders still face the real risks of litigation, including the important issues of whether developers, contractors or professionals are still solvent; and whether they have insurance which will respond to any claims.
  • Equally, those facing potential claims need to consider their position if the Bill is enacted and limitation periods are extended. Do they have insurance cover? What steps should they take now to consider their position?

On the 4 Pump Court website we have useful articles from Luke Wygas on amendments to the Defective Premises Act and James Leabeater QC and Clementine Makower on human rights issues arising from a retrospective extension of limitation periods. Further articles will continue to appear as the Bill moves forward.

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