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BESA gives mixed response to Queen’s Speech commitments

Key building service body welcomes government formal commitment to transform building safety and environmental regulations; but expresses concern at lack of payment reform pledge

BESA has welcomed some of the broad initiatives outlined in this week’s Queen’s Speech as a step towards much needed reforms for the HVAC and building services sector. However, the organisation said it was disappointed about a lack of clear commitments to ending poor payment practices in the legislative agenda for the new parliament.

The new parliamentary session began this week (October 14) with the Queen’s Speech setting out some broad details on the government’s ambitions in a range of areas such as building safety reforms and energy infrastructure transformation.

A new Environmental Bill was also unveiled during the speech, which outlines the government’s key commitments for the upcoming parliamentary sessions. Enforcement of both environmental and building standards are among the key provisions.

BESA chief executive David Frise said that proposals for a new regulator that would have fresh powers to enforce standards and issue criminal sanctions for breaches was potentially transformative for industry if properly consulted on.

He said, “If done right and in close consultation with the industry, the proposed new building regulation regime could cement a better culture of competence and compliance within the industry, and crucially, save lives.”

Mr Frise said that the announcement of a new Environment Bill that further formalises several key targets in areas such as decarbonisation and air quality was also important.

However, BESA’s chief executive once again urged caution about effectiveness of the government provisions, which did not carry any specific mention of indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ remains largely misunderstood by both government and public over the significant dangers to public health from existing industry practice and standards that are viewed as insufficient.

Mr Frise said, “We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors so it’s essential more support is given to making sure our buildings are safe havens from outdoor air pollution.”

“Indoor air is often at least five times more polluted than outdoor air due to the range of sources and greater concentrations in confined spaces – this is a point that successive governments have failed to grasp.”

Political reality

With a General Election expected to be announced potentially before the end of the year, questions were also raised about the viability of the current government’s ability to deliver the stated ambitions set out in the Queen’s Speech.

Mr Frise said that despite welcoming a number of the initiatives in the proposals, it was uncertain if the current government would be able to deliver them.

He also warned about the lack of any mention in the speech of payment reforms that have been a key longstanding concern of the wider HVAC and building services sector. These concerns have been further exacerbated by the collapse of Carillion in early 2018.

The recent H&V News Future of HVAC Summit had seen speakers expressing hope of a clear legislative focus in areas around payment performance and reforms of existing policy on cash retentions.

Mr Frise argued, “If this is the starting gun for an election,’ said Mr Frise, ‘both sides of politics should take note that for thousands of owners and workers of SMEs, who have suffered too long from poor payment practices, this would be a vote winner.”

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