The establishment of a new national construction products regulator was announced by UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on 19 January, in response to the revelations from the Grenfell Inquiry that manufacturers were knowingly ignoring safety rules.
The regulator “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”.
In the announcement, the Government directly referenced the fallout of the Grenfell Tower Fire Inquiry, which “shone a light on the dishonest practice by some manufacturers of construction products”.
The comments relate to the revelations that executives at the manufacturers involved with the cladding refurbishment process (Arconic, Celotex and Kingspan) of the Grenfell Tower “deliberately misled customers about the performance of their products and circumvented regulations with clever marketing”, as reported in The Guardian.
The new national construction products regulator will have “strong enforcement powers”, and will be able to carry out its own product-testing if concerned. The role will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) which will be given up to £10million in funding to establish the new function – also working in conjunction with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards.
“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.”Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP 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.A panel of experts with regulatory, technical and construction industry experience will lead the process and are set to report “later this year” for the first time.
Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt, added: “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 move has been dismissed as “too late” by campaigners, however. Those who represent the hundreds of thousands of leaseholders trapped in homes that they are not able to sell due to the use of dangerous construction materials in use, believe that while it’s good news for future buildings, “it does literally nothing for the buildings that already have the materials on them”.