The Code of Practice Scam Set to Replace the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988
At the time of writing (late March 2017) the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has yet to release its official government response to the 2016 consultation*. There is no time limit for government responses to consultations, because of course their complexity can vary enormously. However, in this instance, there should not have been (so far) a nearly five month delay with the response. After all, BEIS proved in its 2014 consultation that the public is at severe risk (of death, injury and house fires) until the Regulations are put right. The September 2016 consultation published an identical proposed new match test to 2014's, therefore there is no reason for the long delay.
But the head of the Fire Industry Research Association (FIRA)** recently told me that he has informed the industry that he does not expect anything to result from this latest consultation, because it was badly put together and because there is no one currently in the BEIS policy team who understands the Regulations. I agree. BEIS completely screwed up the 2014 consultation response and that was when they had a bomb-proof new match test on their hands. It had been thoroughly proven and not a single piece of counter-evidence was supplied by consultation responses to suggest otherwise.
*Update: as of December 2017, there has still been no BEIS response to the September 2016 consultation. They are telling anyone that asks that the reason for this is they received a lot of consultation responses; it's a complex issue; and in light of Grenfell Tower, they must be absolutely sure they get things right. Even though the fact that they have been keeping things wrong played a strong part in fire spread and toxic poisoning in the Grenfell tragedy. A couple of months ago, Jo Swinson, former Minister for these Regulations, raised a PQ about what is happening and received exactly the same response. I raised a Freedom of Information request with BEIS, asking, for example, how many meetings have they had with stakeholders about the Regulations over the past year (the evidence suggests little to none) but I have just heard back that they can't answer any of my questions because, apparently, it would cost too much.
Update on the update: as of May 2019 - guess what: they're still saying the same things! Check blog entries for April and May 2019 for more information.
The FIRA head also told me that the secret panel meetings that BEIS officials held in early 2016 were purely about those officials desperately trying to find excuses for the delays they had caused so far to the implementation of the new match test. But they failed to do so. (Which of course should have meant they immediately set about implementing the new test. Instead, they went out to another, unnecessary, consultation several months later then all deserted their posts, leaving the mess to the new team.)
As it is, FIRA and FRETWORK*** are each working on a code of practice (although I suspect they'll combine them at some point). This is no doubt in anticipation of BEIS producing a consultation response eventually that will in effect do nothing, or not producing one at all. FIRA/industry will probably then approach the government along the following lines:
BEIS will be only too pleased to agree, e.g. because:
FIRA, FRETWORK and their chemical industry buddies will be delighted because:
The only downside is:
**FIRA - Fire Industry Research Association. FIRA is both a commercial test house and a trade association for the furniture industry (which of course means many potential conflicts of interest). It sees itself as being at the centre of the industry as its chief adviser and representative. However, its motives are sometimes somewhat questionable, e.g. it was behind the BBC 'Fake Britain' programme broadcast in early 2014, which showed FIRA's own furniture retailer/manufacturer members' products failing fire tests, as tested by FIRA. Why? Well, let's just say the head of FIRA phoned me after the programme was broadcast to boast about all the additional testing work FIRA was getting from his own members!
***FRETWORK - trade association for flame retardant producers and chemical treatment companies. Their draft code of practice in effect recommends just that their members establish clear methods of production and keep to them!