ESC at the centre of Part P debate

Last week the issue of electrical safety in the home was the topic of a Westminster Hall debate on Gas and Electrical Building Regulations, following the DCLG report that came out in March and the government’s response to it early in the summer.

Central to the discussions was the work of the Electrical Safety Council (ESC). As the ESC is a charity dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents, many members expressed feelings that it was vital to moving forward with the regulations and raising awareness.

Clive Betts MP (Lab, Sheffield South East) said he felt that the regulations had improved standards and his committee was clear the scope should not be cut. He added:

“The whole industry, including the Electrical Safety Council which expressed concern about watering down the regulations, should be involved. We must raise awareness.”

While the main decisions of Part P are yet to be revealed, the responsibilities of retailers to promote the requirements of Part P came to the fore in discussions.

Nick Raynsford MP (Lab, Greenwich & Woolwich) quoted a note sent to him by the ESC raising concerns over the limited promotion of Part P by DIY retailers due to the adverse affect it can have on sales, and asked:

“What more can be done to alert members of the public to their responsibilities and to the risks of undertaking electrical DIY work without ensuring that it is checked as compliant with the requirements of Part P?”

However, he did praise Part P for increasing the number of electricians being inspected and felt that it was a good plan to legislate so that retailers had to include labelling of risks on products.

Speaking for the opposition, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (Lab, City of Durham), spoke firmly against any possible watering down of the regulations. She said:

“All Members will have received an important briefing from the Electrical Safety Council. More than any other information I received, it highlighted that the result of the regulations being in place is an excellent safety record. That is a very strong argument for keeping them as they are.”

Ms Blackman-Woods added her voice to the calls to apply pressure to retailers, and asked for there to be a plan to ensure retailers committed to promoting Part P if the initial voluntary route did not succeed.

The newly appointed Building Regulations Minister Don Foster MP (lib Dem, Bath) spoke on behalf of the government and was unconvinced that making it a legal requirement for retailers to label products was the right path to go down, but one he would consider if other routes were to fail.

Commenting on the debate, ESC Director General Phil Buckle was categorical on the need for Part P not to be diminished, saying:

“Building regulations are vital to ensuring the safety of consumers and helping them to select contractors who they can be confident will do a good job. We are delighted to see so many MPs coming out in support of these views, and are committed to doing all we can to highlight to householders the scope of the requirements and their importance for securing the safety of their families.

“We congratulate Mr Foster on his appointment and welcome his comments that no decisions have yet been made to reduce the scope of Part P. We hope to work closely with DCLG over the coming months to ensure the electrical industry and others are coordinated in their efforts to bring about greater awareness of the requirements.”

A revised Part P document is expected to be published this October, with any change in requirements due to come into force next spring.

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