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UK government brings in national regulator for building materials

George Sell Uploaded 22 January 2021: UK: Housing secretary Robert Jenrick says that a new regulator for construction products will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute companies who break safety rules.

The regulator will have the ability to conduct its own product-testing when investigating concerns.

The announcement follows the recent testimony heard at the inquiry in to a fatal fire at the Grenfell Tower residential block in London, which revealed that some construction product manufacturers rigged the results of safety tests and deliberately attempted to cheat the system.

The original government investigation looked at buildings with similar cladding to Grenfell Tower and initiated repairs. However, last January the government extended the remit of the safety inspections to include all buildings over 11 metres with a combustible cladding system. It is now estimated that there are at least 839,000 leasehold flats and 58,000 apartment blocks with potentially unsafe cladding.

The regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), which will be expanded and given £10 million in funding. It will work with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards to encourage and enforce compliance.

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 authority to test and regulate the safety of construction materials, informed by the expertise that already exists within the Office for Product Safety and Standards.”

Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulation and Fire Safety Dame Judith Hackitt 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.”

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