Government department overseeing introduction of new certification rules accused of ‘radio silence’

The boss of an industry trade body has told housing secretary Michael Gove to scrap the new certification regime for construction products and said the plans have “absolutely no benefit”.

Chris Yates, chief executive of the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA), said there is a “lot of scepticism about the real value” of the UKCA mark, a post-Brexit system which is set to replace the existing Europe-wide CE mark.

“Get rid of it. It’s doing everything that Brexit was supposed to not do, and that’s increase costs and increase red tape for industry,” he said.

The comments come amid confusion over whether a two-year delay to the full implementation of the new rules announced by the government this week will apply to construction products.


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Michael Gove has been urged to scrap plans to make the UKCA mark mandatory for new construction products

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said on Monday it was pushing back the 1 January 2023 deadline for making the regime mandatory to give businesses the “freedom to focus on growth”.

But the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), which is led by Gove and is responsible for how the UKCA system applies to construction products, has said it is taking its own approach and has not yet confirmed a delay.

Under the original timeframe, which had already been pushed back by 12 months, new or updated construction products which had not obtained the UKCA mark would be illegal to sell on the UK market in less than seven weeks’ time.

Yates said it is “disappointing to say the least” that DLUHC had not coordinated with BEIS, a move which has thrown the sector into confusion.

Tom Garrigan, technical director at the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), said there does not seem to be “any sort of clear communication” between the two government departments.

“BEIS gives a webinar explaining what will happen, and then you don’t hear anything from DLUHC for two or three months.”

While he described BEIS as being relatively quick in providing guidance, he said the response from DLUHC was often “radio silence”. 

The rules previously required thousands of construction products to be retested at UK facilities before the deadline at a cost of up to £50,000 per test. 

This had caused considerable anxiety in the industry due to a severe shortage of testing capacity in the UK for some key products, including glass, sealants and radiators.

But the lack of clarity from DLUHC on what the new rules required had resulted in BSRIA ignoring its instructions.

He said BSRIA, which operates the UK’s only testing facility for radiators, had been told by ministers to expand its capacity but had “opted not to because we didn’t think there was a plan and that’s transpired to be the case”. The organisation had calculated that testing all radiators on the UK market to the new regime would have taken approximately 64 years.

After business secretary Grant Shapps announced the two-year delay, one chief executive of a major contractor told Building: “Common sense has prevailed. The focus must be on where value can be added through a change, rather than a focus on a wholesale change.”

Former chief Brexit negotiator David Frost also welcomed the move, calling it a “very sensible decision”. 

Frost, an influential figure in the Brexit-supporting wing of the Conservative party, said there “is no reason at all, and never has been, why we should not continue to accept EU-approved good in most areas for a long time to come”.