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Meeting date: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee 17 May 2022 [Draft]

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Affordable Housing, Subordinate Legislation


Contents


Subordinate Legislation


Building (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2022 (SSI 2022/136)

The next item on our agenda is evidence on the regulations from Patrick Harvie, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, and from the Scottish Government officials David Blair, programme director on cladding remediation; Steven Scott, head of the technical unit for building standards; and Dr Stephen Garvin, head of building standards.

I welcome the minister and his supporting officials to the meeting. At last week’s meeting, we had an interesting discussion about the regulations with stakeholders in which we touched on a number of issues relating to fire safety in buildings more generally, along with challenges in respect of access to insurance. Members will be aware that, on Thursday 12 May, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government made a ministerial statement providing an update on the single building assessment programme.

Before I open up to questions from committee members, I invite the minister to make a short opening statement.

Thank you, convener, and good afternoon.

I am happy to address the committee to update members on the progress of the Scottish Government’s work on fire safety and energy regulations. I will first cover fire safety and then energy.

In late 2020, a fire safety review panel was convened to examine how to ban the highest-risk cladding materials from taller buildings and the role of BS 8414. Last week, the committee heard from Peter Drummond of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, who chaired the review panel. I am grateful for the valuable contribution that was made by all members of that panel.

The review process was rigorous and lengthy, and the panel needs to consider a range of issues thoroughly before we undertake a public consultation. The outcome of the review was that regulations have been made to ban the highest-risk metal composite materials from any further use as cladding or internal linings in all buildings. They also ban combustible cladding from residential and other high risk buildings that are over 11m in height.

We have also introduced regulations to ensure that all replacement cladding should meet the new standards. Those changes are the latest in a series of changes that have been introduced since the tragedy at Grenfell tower, including the introduction last year of sprinklers in all new flats, social housing and certain shared multi-occupancy residential buildings. We had previously set requirements for two staircases as well as effective floor signage and fire-service activated evacuation sounders in buildings over 18m.

As the convener mentioned, we are also taking action on unsafe cladding on existing buildings, on which the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government made a statement to Parliament last week. I do not intend to cover that in my opening remarks—if the committee wants to ask questions, I will try to deal with some aspects, but others may be for the cabinet secretary to deal with.

The energy improvements that we are introducing in October will deliver another step towards improved energy and emissions performance in our buildings, and new homes in particular, with a strong focus on a fabric-first approach and on practical ways to reduce energy demand. We will be going further on that in 2024, with more significant changes to require new buildings to use zero-emissions heating systems. The current changes support that intent by future proofing installed heating systems in advance of those further regulations.

I am also keen that we continue to understand how we can achieve outcomes that are equivalent to those resulting from very low energy standards such as passivhaus. Again, I acknowledge the contribution of the review panel on energy standards, which was chaired by Stephen Good of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. We had more than 170 responses to the energy consultation and, although some concerns were expressed about the pace of change, there was no doubt that there was overwhelming agreement that change is needed.

I am happy to take questions from the committee.

Thank you for your opening statement. I will begin by asking a few questions. Can you assure the committee that fire safety will be a key consideration in any Scottish Government programme to retrofit existing homes with insulation? What practical steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that new fire hazards are not being introduced to existing homes?

The current standards resulted from a specific review of the type of cladding materials that have been causing the most significant concern since Grenfell, and the specific changes in this set of regulations will address those issues. Nonetheless, it is clear that the wider transformation of the energy performance of our homes needs to be undertaken in a way that is not only safe in terms of fire risk, but which contributes to healthy air quality in buildings and addresses direct energy issues. I do not know whether Steven Scott or Stephen Garvin wants to add anything from an energy or fire perspective.

We have made changes to the requirements so that any replacement cladding needs to meet the current standards from 1 June. That would include a requirement for non-combustible materials to be used in the cladding system for buildings over 11m.

With regard to the safety of the cladding system itself, that would include what I would describe as an overcladding system, which would need to go through a building warrant process. If existing cladding is being replaced with a more efficient system, it has to meet the current standards. That is the key point in the current changes that will affect existing buildings and their safety.

Thank you for the confirmation. What are the practical implications for developers of the new building regulation 3.28, which requires buildings to be designed to reduce the risks to occupants’ health from overheating, and what impact might the regulation have on home owners’ use of their property?

12:30  

The standard introduces a requirement to mitigate the risk of summer overheating in new homes and new residential buildings that are used in a similar way. We are aware that that is a lower risk in Scotland than in other parts of the UK, but it is important that we establish that overheating can be considered a risk in new build, and that we examine how to mitigate the likely impacts of our future climate.

The initial provisions take a fairly simple approach, focusing on the issues of heat gain through windows and the removal of heat build-up through effective ventilation. There is also an option to model the risk for more unusual or highly glazed building types. Designers will address that by limiting excessive heat gained through the location and specification of windows and by improving the ventilation of buildings. Those measures will provide occupiers with more assurance that their homes are warm and easy to heat, but also comfortable in the summer months.

I have a question about direct emissions heating. What practical impact might the requirement to design and construct buildings with direct emissions heating systems that are capable of reducing the building’s energy demands have on the design and use of new homes?

Our proposal is that, under the 2024 new-build heat standard, direct emissions heating systems will no longer be permitted in new buildings. A further consultation this summer will set out details of plans to remove gas, oil and biofuel boilers as options from 2024. The 2022 regulations still permit the construction of new homes with those heating systems, but they set more challenging overall emissions and energy performance targets. The 2022 standards will ask for any building with a direct emissions heating system to be designed for a simple future retrofit and the installation of a zero direct emissions source, with information on that option to be provided to the owner.

From this year, wet heating systems in all new buildings should be designed to operate at lower temperatures to optimise the efficient operation of zero direct emissions systems such as heat pumps in the future.

Thank you for your responses. Mark Griffin has a few questions.

The regulations set the height from which non-combustible cladding materials must be used at 11m. I welcome that, as it seems to be a robust approach, but what was the rationale for choosing the height of 11m? Will that decision be kept under review?

The new building regulations are broadly in line with the proposition that was consulted on, and the response to the consultation was supportive of the general approach that we are taking.

Dr Garvin might wish to add something about the origin and why 11m was considered as part of the development of the proposal.

The height of 11m came in from October 2019, from the work of the review panel in 2018 and 2019. The rationale was to align with firefighting from the ground—put simply, in the vast majority of situations, the fire service can comfortably get a jet of water on to the side of a building up to a height of 11m. That is the rationale—it is a trigger height.

We have now made a further change to the regulations requiring non-combustible materials above 11m. That requirement will come in on 1 June, but the rationale for 11m is about firefighting from the ground.

There is further consideration. The UK Government and counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland have set a height of 18m before their regulations kick in. We are all considering what is the right thing to do on trigger heights and we are exchanging information on that so, if further evidence or research emerges on the right trigger height, we will of course come back to the matter. With Local Authority Building Standards Scotland and others, we monitor the introduction of the new standard and how effective it is in practice.

It is worth reinforcing the point that the 11m height does not apply to the most highly combustible cladding materials, which are banned from all new build. Other types are permitted up to 11m.

Will you outline why the ban on using highly combustible metal composite material is limited to material with a thickness of up to 10mm or a gross calorific value of more than 35 megajoules per kilogram? Will you set out why those values were chosen?

Again, as that is a highly technical matter, I will rely on officials.

The fire safety review panel considered the matter in some detail. The intention was to address the metal composite materials that were used at Grenfell tower and have been used on other buildings. We have seen from the evidence of that event and from subsequent testing the extent of fire spread that can happen.

We looked into the market for that type of material and we think that the overall thickness is generally thinner than 10mm, so the ban covers the range of products that we have. The important thing to note is that, if manufacturers begin to try to game the system, we will introduce further change. We did not want to capture a wider set of products that, when used in the right location and for the right purpose, are perfectly acceptable materials.

If people are still using such material or if, in the future, some of the corporate memory begins to fade around it, we can regulate to keep it out of the market to close off the matter. If there is evidence that things are not being done properly, we will bring it back to ministers for further consideration.

The Scottish Government, UK Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are taking a similar approach to the definition of the materials that we are talking about. A degree of consensus seems to have emerged as each Administration has undertaken reviews since Grenfell, and there seems to be general agreement on the definition that is being used.

That is reassuring. We heard from witnesses last week about concerns that manufacturers might try to game the system, so it is helpful to know that that will be kept under review.

We have heard concerns about the application of BS8414 as a route to compliance for cladding on buildings. I know that the situation has changed so that any application to use it must be notified to the Government’s building standards division. Is that robust enough, given the concerns? Does the minister have concerns about BS8414 being used as a route to compliance?

Following the work of the review panel, we are satisfied that the approach that we are taking will give adequate safety. If I recall rightly, the European Commission is working with colleagues to look at alternative approaches to large-scale testing. I suspect that practice will continue to develop with regard to how fire safety tests can be used. Until that work bears fruit, the approach that we are taking on implementing a ban is the one that will give confidence to building occupiers and the construction sector that their safety is guaranteed.

I just add that the regulations prevent the use of BS8414 above 11m for housing blocks and other relevant buildings. An applicant could come forward with a BS8414 test to support a building warrant application below 11m, although we would be notified even of that.

One thing to note is that, through the building standards futures board, we are developing a compliance plan approach for higher-risk buildings. That will include a role of compliance plan manager, who will actively manage compliance and gather information during the design and construction process. We are looking to improve that process to reduce the opportunity for non-compliance, so that, in this case, the system that has been tested and is intended for use in the building is the one that actually ends up there.

We will move on to wider issues.

Good afternoon, minister. In the evidence that we took last week from a range of experts, there was strong support for the Scottish Government’s single building assessment. Can you provide an update on the single building assessment pilot, please?

Yes, although some of those issues were dealt with by the cabinet secretary in her statement to Parliament last week.

The single building assessment is intended to overcome a difference between the UK and Scottish tenure systems, in that in Scotland there is not a single building owner.

The committee will be aware that the single building assessment is about the safety of buildings and the people in them, and it includes a generic fire risk assessment as well as an external wall appraisal. It needs to be carried out in a professional and rigorous manner, and only by undertaking that work can we identify where changes to existing systems might need to be made. There is a fairly high degree of confidence that the majority of buildings will be found to be safe, so the mere conducting of an assessment should not give people cause for severe anxiety. However, the work needs to be undertaken to identify where those changes have to happen.

Training of surveyors to undertake the external wall appraisals is under way. We expect that to improve the capacity of the sector to deliver the assessments that are necessary. Reducing the level of competence of those who are undertaking the work is really not an option, so we have to work with the sector to increase the supply of competent professionals who can undertake that work. I think that the committee will understand the need to work with the sector to increase capacity but also to make sure that those assessments are conducted to the required standard.

It is also an important principle that the assessments come at zero cost to home owners, and the Government has ensured that they will.

12:45  

Good morning to you, minister, and your officials—or I should say good afternoon. We are all a bit behind—it has been a long meeting.

How many buildings in Scotland have had combustible cladding removed or remediated since the Grenfell tragedy of 2017?

As I said in my previous response, the committee will be aware that the single building assessment process needs to be undertaken to identify where we believe changes need to be made. David Blair might want to come in here and say whether there has been any assessment of the numbers.

Building on what the minister has said, I point out that we do not collect data on the country’s entire stock for that purpose. Instead, we focus on the most high-risk buildings. We have the high-rise inventory, which is a published data set identifying buildings of all tenure above 18m, and we are continuing to refine that.

As for the number of buildings that have been assessed, we are kicking off our pilot programme with 26 under active consideration. As the cabinet secretary said last week, we are looking to expand that rapidly. Over the course of the next few weeks and months, we will be writing to the balance of the expression of interest group that applied last year, which will take the number of buildings in the pilot—the most high-risk buildings, if you like—from 26 to more than 100. From next April, we will be expanding that by approximately another 100 or so.

We are taking a methodical approach to finding, assessing and working with the most high-risk buildings, but we do not collect data on the whole of the housing stock. Part of the work that is under way is to improve the quality of the data set, particularly for mid-rise buildings, where there are more unknowns.

How many of the 26 buildings identified in the single building assessment pilot have received payments to enable the assessments to take place?

With regard to the status of the SBA—and to be consistent with what the cabinet secretary said last week—I should say that, of the 26 buildings in the pilot, 16 are in the review phase and 10 are undergoing active survey work or are in a state of completion. I do not have the exact data, but the number of payments that we have made is in the single digits. We published our spend data last week and, if it would be helpful, we could refer you to that offline.

I note that the UK Government has passed on a budget of £97 million to ministers. Why has more progress been made by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in getting that money out there than there has been in Scotland?

Throughout all this—and I am afraid to say that this happens quite often—it has been difficult to get clarity from the UK Government in a timely way either on the consequentials that are available or, indeed, on other ways in which we might have worked together more closely and more collaboratively to address this entire issue. Miles Briggs will recall the frustration that the cabinet secretary expressed in the statement about the inability of not just the Scottish Government but the Welsh Government to successfully make the case for the UK to work constructively and around the same table with us on a shared and coherent response to this situation. I also point out that some of the approaches that the UK Government is taking for England alone make use of the availability of UK-level reserve powers. There is a great deal in this entire situation about which one could have made a very strong case for collaborative working between the Governments in the UK, and it is not for want of trying that that has not happened.

As for the work that needs to happen now, we clearly have to continue with the single building assessment to identify where specific changes need to be made and to work not only with home and building owners but with the developer community to ensure that this activity can be funded.

It is worth bearing in mind that the English tenure system has a fundamentally different structure. There is a particular in-built advantage in having a legal owner of the skin of a building, and it has made designing a programme of intervention based on a funding model a degree easier than it has been in Scotland, where we obviously have to transact with home owners collectively. The existence of factors accelerates the process of development a bit, but only up to a point, and it is not a comprehensive solution for the many blocks in Scotland that have no factor. That is one of the reasons why it has been somewhat easier—though not easy—to start work in England.

I heard what the cabinet secretary had to say, and the minister has repeated it today, but I would point out that a lot of progress has been made in Wales on things on which we have not really seen work begin—and I am thinking specifically of the Welsh Government’s proposals for buying out owners. There just seems to be an issue with progress in Scotland compared with that in Wales, even though the same devolved powers are available.

Finally, would the Scottish Government consider underwriting professional indemnity insurance for surveyors and fire safety assessors?

Again, I will ask David Blair to respond.

Nothing is off the table at this point. One of the lessons that we have learned from working closely with our colleagues across the UK—as far as that has been possible—is that there is no one-size-fits-all or perfect solution to any of these issues, many of which overlap. With regard to PI insurance, the UK Government’s primary intervention is in the form of a state-backed scheme that we understand is continuing to face some delays and difficulty. Nevertheless, it has been welcomed by the sector, and we will consider what will be eventually delivered.

We have to use the tools that we have as an organisation, a body and a devolved Administration, but as I have said, nothing is off the table. We have a number of options with their own different risk profiles, including hiring our own fire engineers or self-insuring providers, and we will evaluate all of them very rapidly as we move towards a new delivery model for the SBA that is more about direct commissioning. How those choices are brought to bear will become clearer to us, and we will be thinking these things through over the next few months.

Good morning, minister—I mean, good afternoon. I have fallen into the same trap.

At last week’s meeting, we heard about people being trapped in zero-value homes and having issues with accessing affordable buildings insurance. Can the Scottish Parliament offer any practical help in that regard?

The presence of potentially unsafe cladding—and I stress the phrase “potentially unsafe”, because, as I have said, we are confident that the assessments will find the majority of buildings to be safe—has had a significant impact on people. Indeed, I have met people in my region who are in that situation—I am sure that other members will have had the same experience—and we in the Government get regular correspondence from people who are unable to move.

However, I come back to the point that this is the fundamental reason for carrying out the single building assessments, and the progress on that was reported in the cabinet secretary’s statement. We are taking action to roll the approach out faster and to more buildings. We fully expect that most buildings will be found to be safe; however, where any risk is found, it should be remediated, and the Government has always made it clear that developers have to play their part and step up to remedy buildings with unsafe cladding. Even some of the people to whom I have spoken who are in this extremely difficult situation are not making the case—or, at least, have not made the case to me—that the taxpayer should effectively bail out developers in meeting a cost that it is believed they ought to bear. There is a general acceptance that the developer community needs to play its part in ensuring that that work takes place.

I understand the point that you are making, but what about those developers who do not comply? What are the next steps that can be taken in that respect? As you will have seen, there are some developers who are more compliant and quicker to move on things than others, and I just wonder whether in the meantime until developers are actually complying, the Scottish Government can do anything through legislation or some other approach to push things forward.

Some of the relevant powers here are reserved to the UK Government, particularly around insurance. The regulation of insurance is not something that we are able to intervene in through devolved powers. Insurance premiums are obviously a matter for individual insurers. We are working with the Association of British Insurers through the cladding stakeholder group and, through that forum, we are seeking fair treatment for home owners by the insurance industry.

The answers to all the issues lie in working together to reach solutions that will work for people, and that will include insurers and lenders. As for what we believe would help people most, where developers or others step up to carry out remediation work, the insurers should trust the single building assessment process to deliver a safe building and return the market to acceptable premium levels.

I was pleased to hear from the committee’s meeting last week that the ABI and many of its member companies welcome the single building assessment approach and what it can deliver.

I have a follow-up question. Last week, we heard calls for the single building assessment form to form the basis of a building MOT system, with the creation of a central repository of information on buildings as they are constructed. Would the Scottish Government support that? Does it have views on that?

I ask Stephen Garvin whether that is being explored in those terms.

The idea of an MOT is being considered. We are looking to create a register of safe buildings, harnessing the data that is gathered in the single building assessments and presenting it in a format that is usable by the building owner, the factors, insurers and lenders. That is a development that we want to see, and we will develop it further from the current high-rise inventory.

I have a supplementary to Paul McLennan’s question about zero valuation, which we discussed last week. We think that it was based on the EWS1 standard—using external wall systems form 1—which, we discovered, disnae have any legal basis in Scotland. We think that it is not a statutory process. We were left wondering how people in Scotland can have a zero value attached to their property from a scheme that is not a regulatory standard in Scotland, and that potentially does not legally apply. Could you offer the committee any clarification on that issue?

The cladding stakeholder group meets regularly to explore such issues, engaging with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, UK Finance, the Law Society of Scotland and other organisations. The responsibility for the buying and selling of property needs to involve a proportionate approach, only requiring EWS1 for blocks that fall within the guidance from the RICS.

The system was put in place by the lending industry. Although we understand why that approach was taken, we believe that it must be applied proportionately. In Scotland, it is being applied flat by flat, rather than in relation to whole blocks. That is a result of the common ownership model that we have here, which David Blair was describing earlier.

However, we are working with stakeholders to try and ensure that they will accept a whole-building EWS1 as an output from the single building assessment process.

What would happen in circumstances where a home owner disagrees with a zero-value assessment of their property and chooses to challenge it? As I say, our understanding is that that assessment does not have any legal basis in Scotland.

I ask David Blair to jump in again.

I am more than happy to.

I have had a number of conversations along these lines with people at UK Finance, and they are always at pains to try and educate us on this. I will try to convey my understanding of it.

The EWS1 form does not provide a valuation in itself because—I do not say this in a critical way—it is a simplistic way of answering a complicated question about the risk of a building for lending purposes. It is probably unfair to name them, but at least one lender takes quite a nuanced view of it: whatever the weighting is, they have a process that means a property has zero value if it gets a B rating that suggests that there is combustible cladding, which acts as a trigger for the lender to refer it to their specialist team so that they can think about it and gather more information on the suitability of that block.

13:00  

In Scotland, the EWS1 form is based on the flat, rather than a whole block. That requires lenders to be a bit more responsible and think it through and gather evidence about the rest of block, so that they can revisit their valuation. In practical terms, no property that is classed as zero valuation is truly worth nothing. What that valuation means is that it is very difficult to get a standard mortgage on standard terms. It makes it much more difficult because the risk is perceived to be much higher. The problem is that the level of risk is very difficult to price and that compounds the issues in the buildings insurance industry, which has had difficulty pricing the risk for blocks. Where that feeds in, we get some really difficult dynamics.

The single building assessment process, which will consider including an EWS1 on the whole block, will give a more solid answer and then a plan can be agreed for the whole block. That is the start of the assurance journey for UK Finance and other stakeholders; from our perspective, that is the start of getting the green light for that block, whether that is a green light to start with or after a process of remediation.

Nevertheless, are people not in a position at the moment where their houses or properties are valued at £0 unless and until the remediation can be carried out? We heard examples last week of people being told that their properties are valued at £0.

The short answer is yes. As we have said, the work that needs to happen in order to address the situation that those people are in is the SBA process and the subsequent actions, where the assessments determine that that is necessary.

I have three more questions. What commitments have house builders made to fund remediation and mitigation works under the Scottish safer buildings accord? What happens if a developer chooses not to sign up to the accord?

Once again, I turn to my officials for support on the detailed aspects of that question.

It is a fast moving agenda. Our approach to the Scottish safer buildings accord has partly been to borrow from what the UK Government has been able to achieve with large-scale developers, but we have also cast the net wider in terms of the types of developers and stakeholders involved—we want homeowners, UK Finance and others to be part of the process. That is in response to a very powerful message from all stakeholders that they wanted a collaborative approach to be taken to solving the problem.

On progress, we have met seven or eight of the leading developers; we prioritised meeting developers that have signed the UK pledge. That is so that we can try to determine the appetite for extending their responsibilities to Scotland, on a common basis. We feel that that is a reasonable expectation; the cabinet secretary was quite clear about that in her statement.

I will keep this at a general level. The feedback so far has been more or less universally positive about the appetite to remediate buildings on a common basis. To be clear—I am borrowing from the wording of the UK pledge—that is an agreement to remediate buildings from the last 30 years to current building standards. That is the standard that has been set already in England; we are asking for the same thing.

We are working with Homes for Scotland on the mechanism for engaging not just the Homes for Scotland members—the 60 biggest players—but a much broader sector of small and medium-sized developers. We will develop a process and take it forward in the next few months.

What is the Scottish Government doing to support training of surveyors and fire safety assessors to ensure that there is a sufficient pool of qualified staff to deliver the single building assessment programme within a reasonable timescale?

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, we are working with the industry to ensure that capacity grows to meet demand for assessments, as they come through. I am not sure whether we have any more recent updates on the work that has been done to our ensure that skills and capacity are growing to meet demand.

David Blair

I do not have more on that. Can you comment on the RICS funding for training, Stephen?

We meet the RICS and the Institution of Fire Engineers regularly and we are working with them on that. The RICS has a course for training surveyors on appraisal of the external wall systems of buildings. That will help us with capacity. I am afraid that we do not have up-to-date numbers, but we know that people are already progressing through that course. We are working with the RICS on a bolt-on to that training, so that the single building assessment process will be added to it, and so that surveyors will be aware of the expectation in that regard, of how to deal with building owners—I say, “deal with”, but I hope that you know what I mean—and of the outputs and standards that are required for a single building assessment. That is in progress.

We can provide information for the minister to come back to the committee with an update on that training and how it is progressing.

Thank you very much. Finally, the committee heard calls for greater independent monitoring and assessment of building work through use of clerks of works, which is something that our predecessor committee called for. What is the Scottish Government doing to require or facilitate use of clerks of works?

Again, I will turn to officials for an answer to that question.

My answer is not so much about the clerk of works but is to reiterate the point about our approach in the building standards system and the work that we are doing through the building standards futures board, which builds on the earlier—post-Edinburgh schools and post-Grenfell—review of compliance and enforcement. The review panel was chaired by Professor John Cole. One of its key recommendations was on a compliance plan that would, for high-risk buildings, begin at the pre-application stage.

Recently, we have consulted on bringing in the role of compliance plan manager, who would have oversight of compliance throughout the process. We are still working through the detail of that. We want to trial it through cladding remediation programmes. We are also working on a pilot with a local authority on a new-build school campus project. That will give us greater robustness around the compliance plan.

Generally, on the public side of things and in social housing, having a clerk of works would be the norm in any case. However, the compliance plan manager role would apply in the case of any high risk building, regardless of whether it was in public or private ownership.

On that point, who will ultimately certify that a new-build house is compliant with all the standards? Will it be the compliance plan manager, a clerk of works or the person who issues the building warrant? Who is going to look at the fabric and construction of the new build to say whether they meet all the standards for fire safety and other regulations that apply to the construction process? Who will sign on the dotted line to say that the building is compliant?

The compliance plan manager would have responsibility for all aspects of compliance—not only for the fire safety issues that we have talked about, but for wider compliance with building regulations

It might be worth our while to write to the committee with an update on the pilot that Stephen Garvin mentioned, and to let members know how it is developing and when we expect to be able to evaluate it more fully.

That would be very welcome. Thank you.

On the same point, Dame Judith Hackitt’s review—which applied to England—was quite robust in pointing out that building regulations were not fit for purpose. Has the Scottish Government looked at that review? Are we likely to see a review in Scotland and could that review form the basis of a building safety bill or something similar?

I am not aware of any suggestion that we need an entire bill on the matter, but committee members will be aware that the changes that we are making are just the latest in a series that we have made, since Grenfell, relating to fire safety issues. We are planning more changes on the energy side of things. Our approach is to have more continuous development to address existing concerns and future challenges that our building stock will face, rather than to take a single big-bang approach.

Stephen—do you want to add anything to that?

I can add a little bit. I referred to the review of compliance and enforcement. The review panel concluded that Scotland’s system is not broken in the way that Dame Judith Hackitt concluded it was broken in England, but that it could be improved. To approach that improvement, we created the building standards futures board and its workstreams, with a focus on compliance enforcement. However, a number of aspects contribute to that—including a workforce strategy for building standards verifiers, digital transformation and other things.

The concerns that were outlined in the English report point towards Scottish building standards potentially needing a wider review. Do you accept that, given that it is likely to happen in England with the Building Safety Act 2022?

It is pretty clear that building standards are continuously under review and evolving. Since I have been a member of the Scottish Parliament, there have been regular updates and continuous incremental improvements to building standards.

As Stephen Garvin indicated, there are differences in context between Scotland and England. We need to ensure that we hear from the widest range of stakeholders about the Scottish situation, and we need to continue to develop and improve based on the challenges and requirements here, rather than to echo actions that are taken in England, for the English context.

I thank the minister and his officials for that helpful discussion. As we agreed at the start of the meeting, we will take the next item of business in private.

13:14 Meeting continued in private until 13:25.