Housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, has announced a new regulator to monitor the manufacture of dangerous building supplies like those used in the cladding at Grenfell Tower. Companies that make these materials can now be prosecuted and have their products banned by the new watchdog.
Evidence presented at the public inquiry into the disaster at the West London housing estate prompted calls for new checks and balances to be put in place for each stage of the building process. Under new legislation, offences could be punished with anything from fines to imprisonment and are designed to encourage and ultimately enforce compliance with building standards regulations.
It isn’t just the products being manufactured under the microscope either; there were several instances of unacceptable practices and behaviour from employees of the companies cited at the inquiry. The Government are looking into ways to exclude companies who have been deemed to ‘play the system’ when cutting corners in manufacturing or performing business in unethical and legally dubious ways.
Some of the companies quoted in the initial inquiry have claimed that it is not the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that materials are compliant with building standards regulations, however did admit unacceptable conduct from a number of their employees. While building inspectors are and have been ultimately responsible for the approval of the use of materials, this new regulator wishes to exist as a safeguard to stop dangerous practices at the source.
While the implementation of the new regulator has been largely met positively, it has its detractors. Some experts doubt that the funding for the scheme won’t be sufficient, citing that some fire safety tests can cost up to £60,000 each, questioning whether the £10m quoted will be enough. Campaigners for victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster have also criticised the scheme and ministers for simply being too late to effectively enact action to prevent similar incidents.