The furniture industry can expect an update to the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 "imminently", according to Kelly Tolhurst MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who made the statement at the annual confederation lunch organised by the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) and The Furniture Makers' Company on 21st May at the Palace of Westminster.
Around 70 senior-level employees from companies representing the domestic and contract furniture trade attended the event, which provides industry the opportunity to hear first-hand from Government and communicate issues.
The BFC is a strong supporter of fire safety in the form of the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended), but has long been concerned that the regulations have not been updated in the 30 years since they were first introduced. The BFC has been seeking a full revision of the regulations since 2008, and has fully co-operated with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in its efforts to reform the legislation.
Speaking to delegates, Kelly Tolhurst said: "I recognise the need to update the regulations to respond to developments in furniture design, innovation and manufacturing process, and the environmental and health concerns that have widely been spoken of. My priority is to maintain product fire safety protections. Consumers need to have confidence that products in their homes are produced to rigorous safety requirements.
"Updating those regulations is complex and it has required careful consideration of evidence and close engagement with diverse stakeholders to ensure we find the right way forward. I am pleased to be able to tell you that I will be publishing the Government's response to the 2016 consultation, setting out the way forward, imminently."
The chairman of the BFC, Jonathan Hindle, commented: "The BFC has worked tirelessly on this issue and we welcome the news of an imminent response. The BFC is and always has been committed to maintaining high levels of fire safety in the home, and has constantly encouraged meaningful consultation on current regulations. This has been to ensure that environmental concerns are met, as well as updating the regulations to reflect modern materials and manufacturing techniques."
During her speech, Kelly also spoke of new funding measures the Government had implemented to support companies, innovators and entrepreneurs, including investing up to £120m in the Made Smarter Digital Manufacturing Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, and providing £20m to the Made Smarter North West Pilot, which will support up to 3000 SME manufacturers.
Also in attendance was Maggie Throup MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG), who updated delegates on the efforts that have been made to raise awareness of the industry, which included a Westminster Hall debate last January. She also spoke about the challenges and opportunities of Brexit: "I know that the Government is listening to industry, including those SMEs who have voiced concerns, specifically with regards to standards and regulation once the UK leaves the European Union. These are issues that do need to be addressed to both ensure we do not see an erosion of manufacturing standards and more importantly to protect the British public from foreign imported furniture that may not meet the same high standards as we manufacture here in the UK."
Pictured: Kelly Tolhurst addressing industry representatives at the confederation lunch