It becomes rather tiresome to point out that this statement, like all the others from BEIS in recent years, is not only full of untruths, it offers absolutely no evidence or facts in support of its claims. Note, too, what it doesn’t do, e.g. provide any links to the relevant documents such as BEIS’s own 2014 proposals on a new match test with the accompanying research and scientific proof of the Technical Annex. Why? Well, almost certainly because anyone reading those will immediately see this statement for what it is: a ghastly, unfounded, self-justification for keeping the entire country at risk from toxic poisoning in their own homes.
A BEIS spokesperson said:
“We have sought views, consulted and proposed ways forward but there is not yet consensus across the sector and Government will not take risks with people's safety. (1)
“The UK has the highest furniture safety requirements in Europe and we are committed to improving environmental outcomes and reducing toxicity but need to do so in a clear, well evidenced way which also improves fire safety.” (2)
- The Government considers the safety of consumers to be a priority, and consumers should have confidence that the products in their homes are produced to rigorous safety requirements. (3)
- We are committed to improving environmental outcomes and reducing toxicity but need to do so in a clear, well evidenced way that also improves fire safety. (4)
- UK furniture safety requirements are acknowledged as being the highest in Europe. We are committed to reviewing these regulations to ensure that the highest levels of fire safety are both maintained, and improved, for UK consumers. (5)
- Revision of the regulations is complex, with a broad spectrum of views expressed by respondents from industry, fire services, charities and regulators. (6)
(1) There wasn’t consensus when they proposed exactly the same changes (as in 2016) back in 2014 but the Minister, Jo Swinson and the next Minister, Anna Soubry ordered that the new test should come in regardless – which was also agreed by the fire sector. BEIS’s own Better Regulation unit advised – rightly – that you’ll never get consensus when some parties will lose out financially, and that consultations are not intended to get consensus over a matter of public safety. And the government IS taking risks with people’s safety! It’s refusing to put right the unsafe situation that Richard Hull’s paper (and other works) proves is in place, e.g. that a UK sofa is more dangerous than an EU sofa.
(2) No it doesn’t – because BIS proved they don’t work! The UK government is currently being challenged by European furniture makers, via the EU Commission, on the basis that the Regulations are an unjustified barrier to trade, because they’ve been proven not to work. There is no proof at all that these regs save any lives – but we do know they’re putting millions of lives at risk through toxic poisoning. The BIS 2014 condoc and technical annex was ‘clear’ and ‘well evidenced’ – since then they haven’t produced a single piece of evidence for anything they’re saying now – 21 months since the 2016 consultation closed and still no change: this hardly constitutes a ‘committed’ approach.
(3) The furniture products in our homes are NOT safe – they’re poisoning us, both in their normal state and especially when they burn.
(4) BIS’s own 2014 consultation document and technical annex (widely praised by the country’s leading test experts) proved in a ‘clear, well-evidenced’ way that there are big safety problems with these regulations. Since then, BEIS has replaced its in-house regulations experts with a couple of people who recently demonstrated that they do not even know the requirments in these regulations are based on British standards. The Grenfell Fire Forum has not been able to find any evidence at all that BEIS officials have done any work on ‘improving environmental outcomes’, other than adopting a deflecting tactic in recent months. This is to keep back their Furniture Regulations officials and instead send Jon Elliott of their Science Unit in the Office of Product Safety and Standards to attend meetings and say things like, “We needto look at environmental outcomes” [my emphasis]. At the same time he tells people that the issues with the match test (that fails in most cases in practice) were ‘then; this is now’, etc.
(5) Actually, they’re not; now that the EU knows the truth about how they don’t work.
(6) The same views were expressed by the same respondents in 2014 and dealt with. No evidence at all that they’re consulting anyone on these ‘complex’ regs. The first time in nearly two years that BEIS officials actually went out to visit a stakeholder was a few weeks back, when they booked themselves a trip to IKEA in Almhult, Sweden.
The bottom line is simple: if BEIS puts these regulations right – either by implementing a new match test or by changing to just a smoulder test like the rest of the world – the former producing fire safety, the latter producing FR-free products, which the Grenfell Fire Forum and others believe is the better option) – the following industries will lose out big time financially:
- Flame retardant industry
- Chemical treatment industry
- Furniture industry (by losing its coveted trade barrier to the rest of the world)
- Testing industry (less testing required)
Given that all four work together closely – the core group often referred to inside the business as ‘The Skipton Mafia’ – and blocked the 2014 changes despite offering no evidence at all to support their complaints; and given that back then BIS had two full-time national experts working on the regulations, but now has none . . . there is absolutely no chance of these regulations being put right any time soon. The likes of Jon Elliott know this of course and are simply covering their backs until we get to Brexit which they somehow hope will sort everything for them.
Meanwhile, Jon, I advise that you buy your sofas and mattresses from outside the UK, if you care about your family being poisoned while they sleep.