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Queen’s Speech commits to broad building safety reforms

Government priorities for the next parliament concerning decarbonisation, Brexit and building safety are set out two months after previous Queen’s Speech

The latest Queen’s Speech, the second to be delivered this year, reinstates broad government proposals for air quality legislation, building safety reforms and the future enforcement of environmental standards over the course of the current parliament.

A new parliamentary session has commenced this week after the December 12 General Election that saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson being granted a sizable majority of MPs to push through fresh legislation, as well as his withdrawal agreement from the European Union.

Many of the provisions included building on pledges already set out by previous Conservative administrations, such as a Future Homes Standard to be introduced in 2025 that aims to require new-build homes to have low carbon heating and stricter energy efficiency standards.

The Queen said that the government will publish a range of draft legislation with the express aim of tackling the critical findings of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. Proposed legislation will include both the Fire Safety Bill and Building Safety Bill that will have significant impacts on the HVAC and cooling sectors.

Commitments set out by the government include what it claims will be a new system to oversee the entire concept of the built environment. This will will require national regulators and local enforcement bodies to better work together. A stronger framework will also be introduced for construction products with the aim to ensure performance standards are met.

Specific commitments were made around the issue of fire safety in buildings. These commitments are focused on legal obligations around cladding and resident safety. This will include “issuing amended guidance to restrict the use of assessments in lieu of tests - also known as desktop studies.”

£10m in annual funds will also be provided to support tailored building checks and inspections for ‘high-risk’ residential buildings in England during 2021.

The Queen also said that several environmental principles would be enshrined in law for the first time with regard to air and water quality, as well as plastic pollution.

She stated, “A new, world-leading independent regulator will be established in statute to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action [Environment Bill].”

The Queen’s Speech also committed to ensure the United Kingdom leaves the EU on January 31 – based on the withdrawal agreement previously rejected by the previous parliament earlier this year.

However, there was no timetable given for when, or if trade deals with the EU, currently the UK’s largest trading partner, would be reached.

The government said, “We will secure ambitious new trade deals with our international partners across the world.”

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