The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governments has established a new national regulator to ensure homes are built from safe materials.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the regulator for construction products will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk, and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety. This follows recent testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry that shone a light on the dishonest practice by some manufacturers of construction products, including deliberate attempts to game the system and rig the results of safety tests.
Accordingly, the regulator will have strong enforcement powers including the ability to conduct its own product-testing when investigating concerns. Businesses must ensure that their products are safe before being sold in addition to testing products against safety standards.
The move is said to mark the next major chapter in the government’s fundamental overhaul of regulatory systems. The progress on regulatory reform includes the publication of a draft Building Safety Bill, which is described as representing the biggest improvements to regulations in 40 years, and a new Building Safety Regulator that is already up and running in shadow form.
Robert Jenrick said: ”The Grenfell Inquiry has heard deeply disturbing allegations of malpractice by some construction product manufacturers and their employees, and of the weaknesses of the present product testing regime. We are establishing a national regulator to address these concerns and a review into testing to ensure our national approach is fit for purpose. We will continue to listen to the evidence emerging in the Inquiry, and await the judge’s ultimate recommendation – but it is already clear that action is required now and that is what we are doing.”
Business Minister and Minister for London, Paul Scully, said: “We all remember the tragic scenes at Grenfell Tower, and the entirely justified anger which so many of us in London and throughout the UK continue to feel at the failings it exposed. This must never happen again, which is why we are launching a new national regulator for construction materials, informed by the expertise that already exists within the Office for Product Safety and Standards.”
Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, said: “This is another really important step in delivering the new regulatory system for building safety. The evidence of poor practice and lack of enforcement in the past has been laid bare. As the industry itself starts to address its shortcomings I see a real opportunity to make great progress in conjunction with the national regulator.”
The regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) which will be expanded and given up to £10 million in funding to establish the new function. It will work with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards to encourage and enforce compliance.
The government has also commissioned an independent review to examine weaknesses in previous testing regimes for construction products, and to recommend how abuse of the testing system can be prevented.
It will be led by a panel of experts with regulatory, technical and construction industry experience and will report later this year with recommendations.