Fire Brigades Union calls for renationalisation of Building Research Establishment
18 May 2022
THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has called for the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to be renationalised. A motion on this issue was passed at the Trade Union’s recent Annual Conference, which stands as the first in-person conference to be run by the organisation since the pandemic took hold.
The FBU claims that the BRE’s private ownership has realised “failures of competency” and has seen the organisation “going too far to please the corporate clients” whose products it has tested and whom it has “relied upon” for income.
The BRE is involved in the testing and certification of materials for the construction industry and was responsible for testing several of the key materials used in Grenfell Tower’s refurbishment, including cladding and insulation materials, in addition to conducting fire safety tests.
The BRE was privatised back in 1997 and continues to test building materials as a private company.
In the motion, the Trade Union describes this privatisation as a “disastrous decision, opening the testing regime to commercial pressures and commercial interests”. Further, the FBU asserts that renationalisation would “ensure greater accountability, including a clear obligation [for the BRE] to act in the public interest and without pressure from business and commercial interests”.
Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry
In its submissions to the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry, the Trade Union has previously expressed the view that “errors and oversights” at the BRE “contributed” to the Grenfell Tower fire, and that BRE testing allowed manufacturing companies to persuade others that their products were regulation-compliant. According to the FBU, these “errors and oversights” were caused – at least in part – by the BRE being privately owned.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, commented: “Private ownership of the Building Research Establishment has been a complete disaster. Corners have been cut and building safety compromised as the BRE bowed down to the building material companies which pay its wages. There is even information that suggests BRE failures may have had a role in [the] Grenfell [disaster]. It’s time to end this utter mess now.”
The Annual Conference motion specifies that: “Oversight of this restored public testing and research facility should be [conducted] by a Board which is representative of tenants and residents, local and national Government and Trade Unions representing workers in the Fire and Rescue Services and the construction industry.”
In full, the Annual Conference motion reads as follows:
Building Research Establishment – Public Ownership
“The Grenfell Tower disaster has exposed multiple failings in the building safety regime in the UK, including in the development, testing and certification of materials for the construction industry. The privatisation of the Building Research Establishment (BRE) has been exposed as a disastrous decision, opening the testing regime to commercial pressures and commercial interests.”
“Conference instructs the Executive Council to lobby for the BRE to be returned to full public ownership. This shall ensure greater accountability, including a clear obligation to act in the public interest and without pressure from business and commercial interests.”
“Oversight of this restored public testing and research facility should be [conducted] by a Board which is representative of tenants and residents, local and national Government and Trade Unions representing workers in the Fire and Rescue Services and the construction industry.”