Furniture Flammability Regulations update ‘imminent’ says minister

The furniture industry can expect an update to the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 ‘imminently’, according to Ms Kelly Tolhurst MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Ms Tolhurst made the statement at the annual Confederation Lunch, organised by the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) and The Furniture Makers’ Company, which took place on Tuesday 21 May at the Palace of Westminster – although to date no announcement has yet been made.

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. Since 1988, the industry has seen huge changes, not only in materials and processes, but also to the risks within the home environment.

The industry has been seeking a full revision of the regulations since 2008 and has fully cooperated with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in its efforts to reform the legislation.

Speaking to delegates at the Confederation Lunch, Ms 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: “For the past decade, the industry has been seeking a revision of the regulations so they are fit for modern purpose and has been cooperating fully with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 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, Ms Tolhurst 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 3,000 SME manufacturers.

Also in attendance at the Confederation Lunch was Ms 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 back in January 2019. Ms Throup also spoke about the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.

Speaking about Brexit, Ms Throup said: “I know that the Government is listening to industry, including those SME’s 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.”

Government research published in 2009 estimates that the Regulations saved approximately 54 deaths per year and prevented over 1,000 house fires, which could have resulted in 780 non-fatal injuries.

Maggie Throup, MP and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Furniture and Interiors Group, with Kelly Tolhurst and Dids Macdonald, Master of the Furniture Makers’ Company at the furniture industry Confederation lunch, Palace of Westminster

Editor’s Notes:

1. UK furniture, bed and furnishings manufacturing is a substantial growth industry for the UK. Latest verified government figures from 2017 put total consumer expenditure on furniture and furnishings at £17.5 billion (a rise of 7.9% from 2016), supporting 327,000 jobs across 50,000 registered companies in the wider furniture and furnishings sector, including specialist retail but excluding general retail.

Manufacturing turnover for the sector rose 4.8% in 2017, to £11.83 billion, emanating from 8,489 companies employing 120,000 individuals. Furniture manufacturing is one of the top three divisions driving manufacturing growth in the UK according to official statistics.

Export performance, albeit on a smaller scale, has also continued to improve, increasing by 12.4% from 2016 to 2017 to £1.19 billion, with provisional estimates for 2018 suggesting a further 7% increase to £1.27bn

2. The British Furniture Confederation is an executive body chaired by Jonathan Hindle and made up of representatives from the UK’s leading furniture, furnishings and bed trade associations:
 British Contract Furnishing Association (BCFA)
 British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM)
 Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA)
 National Bed Federation (NBF)
 The Furniture Makers’ Company
It also has affiliations with other trade associations including: the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF) and Anti-Copying In Design (ACID).

The British Furniture Confederation (BFC) maintains regular dialogue with Government and other influential stakeholders in an effort to ensure that its policies and initiatives support a thriving furniture, furnishings and bed sector. Many of its activities are done in partnership with the All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group (APPFIG), chaired by Maggie Throup MP.

1 Statistics taken from FIRA’s Statistics Digest December 2018, a compilation of published statistics and market information which has been sourced primarily from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), HM Customs and Revenue, The Bank of England and the Communities.

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