Windows/Doors/Buildings Regulations

RED TAPE GONE MAD

Boris Johnson, in his Daily Telegraph column out today, cries out that:

Too much regulation is being foisted on people, with all its fiscal consequences.

See here or below for the text.


It’s enough to make me blow a fuse

I have a distinguished female constituent who can take it no more. She must have heard me speak 50 times, such is her loyalty and dedication to the great cause we both serve. And when I come to the juddering climax of my speeches she knows, with a sinking dread, what I am about to say. I meet her eye. She rolls her eyes. “No, no,” she mouths. Yes! Yes! I say, because of the two golden rules of politics: the first is repetition and the second is repetition.

Ladies and gentlemen, I say, have I told you about the Windows and Doors Regulation of April 2002? “Yeees,” she wails. Never mind, I say, no one is going to leave this room until they have heard it again, and for the next five minutes (if she is lucky; sometimes I spin it out for 15) I tell her about that infamous legal text, and the insane requirements it places on all of us who break our own windows, in our own homes, in the course of a loving affray, and how we are compelled, if we wish to replace that window, to become members of the Society of Window Replacers, called FENSA, provided we can stump up the fee and pass the exam; and if we cannot pass the FENSA exam, how we must go to the council and deposit a plan showing how we propose to replace our own windows, in OUR OWN HOMES, in line with Britain’s commitments under the Kyoto protocol on climate change, and having replaced the window how we must then go back to the council and get a COUNCIL APPOINTED WINDOW INSPECTOR to come out and verify that whatever we have done is in line with those international commitments. And is that not mad, ladies and gentlemen, I demand. Is that not the height of insanity?

And I use the Windows and Doors Regulation as an example of the kind of pointless law – intended to perfect human existence – which ends up being a burden not just on the householder but the taxpayer, because in the end we all have to pay not just to replace our windows, but that we may have the privilege of having them inspected by a taxpayer-funded window inspector, whose petrol, NI, mileage and other perks are covered by the general purse. That is the reason, ladies and gentlemen, I say, going into auto-rant, why there has been a 530,000 increase (some say more) in the number of public sector officials since 1997, because we have such a foaming torrent of new regs issuing from Brussels and Westminster, all of which must be accompanied by inspectors and compliance officers and clipboard-toters, and that is why taxes have gone up so much over the past six years, and the pension funds have been raided, and yet we have not seen a commensurate improvement in public services.

Normally at this stage, while my friend is whimpering for me to stop, I demand again to know whether anyone has heard anything so preposterous as this windows and doors regulation, and it is fair to say that I generally have the audience on my side as I move to a crescendo of abuse of the Labour government…

So you can imagine my astonishment, the other day, when some woman piped up. “That’s nothing!” she said. “You should see what they are proposing to do with these new building regulations.” Eh? I said. “Yeah,” she said, “they are going to make it virtually impossible for you to do any electrical work IN YOUR OWN HOME without notifying the authorities.”

Really? I said, feeling trumped, and also wondering whether this would give me some new material with which to make my economic arguments; so I have gone and looked it up, and in the words of the Prince of Wales, it really is appalling. From January 1 you will not even be able to add a new lighting point IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN unless you are a member of the guild of qualified and competent electricians, called NICEIC/ECA/NAPIT, in which case you can issue a certificate to yourself, for presentation to the Building Control Body (BCB) showing that whatever you have done is in accord with the guidelines.

Or else you can submit a “building notice” to the local authority, saying how you propose to fiddle with the electrics in your kitchen. Now I can see how this is all good news for the electricians and the housebuilders’ federation, and all those with letters after their names. But what drives me nuts is the thought that there must be someone in the council who will be reading all these pathetic applications to change a switch or a fuse, someone who tabulates data about these applications, and has meetings to discuss the implications of this data – someone, in other words, who is a fully fledged bureaucrat, and whose new existence, necessitated by regulation, helps to explain why council tax has gone up by 70 per cent since Labour came in.

Of course a Keynesian would say that it is all economic activity; and all this red tape is generating income and expenditure, and therefore putting bread on the table of that window inspector and that official charged with reading the applications to add a new light in the bathroom, and that is the guiding principle by which Gordon Brown has been running the economy.

The people of Britain have endured it because the economy has not been too bad, because the value of their houses has roughly doubled since 1997. But when it hits people that tax will have to rise under another Labour government, to pay for Labour’s profligacy and waste, and when they see that if we get another Labour government it will probably be led not by Blair but by Brown himself, since Tony will go in the wake of a referendum defeat on the Euro constitution, then I hope people will realise that we need a new approach to government, which doesn’t foist this kind of regulation on people, with all its fiscal consequences.

And if people don’t get the point, then I will simply repeat my windows story, now embellished by light switches, until they do.

24 thoughts on “Windows/Doors/Buildings Regulations”

  1. I feel like I’ve moved to Switzerland all of a sudden, but without the yodelling. Are they mad, these people who come up with these ideas?

  2. i was going to make a comment, but i find myself unqualified. i am waiting for a chap from the council to bring some forms round.

  3. Do the inspectors have inspectors to check the safty of their funding. Or just to fill out forms on the safty of filling out forms? The dark shadow of Kafka make an apperence!!

  4. While it pains me to be in a agreement with one so right of centre, in this matter I could not agree more.
    You are not alone in being unconvinced of the safety argument.
    The accident statistics are far less serious than many less regulated activities, such as car ownership, for one obvious one.
    There is also the issue that nearly 10 times as many electrical accidents involve defective/damaged flexes and extension cables, versus fixed wiring, and encouraging adapters and extension leads, instead of getting a new socket properly fitted, which these rules probably will, is pretty clearly a move in the wrong direction.
    Incidentally the Office of National Statistics in the UK produces figures that suggest you are more likely to be killed falling off your horse, or falling down a well, than electrocuted by fixed wiring.
    Of course there is then the need to separate problems caused by fixed wiring that is dangerous because of bad workmanship (lighting wire used for power or something)that has been done recently, or a previously OK installation, now dangerous because of neglect and decrepitude, or overloading. (multiway adapters, perishing rubber, rusted earthing via conduit &c. &c.).
    I suspect this makes the accident rate for badly done wiring even lower than it appears.

    Cars at ~5000 deaths and 50,000 injuries requiring hospital treatment are far, far more dangerous, and a simple driving test is all that is required. Perhaps the electrical ‘driving test’ or a house’ MOT’ equivalent would be more appropriate.

    I have recently been told, and am in the process of checking the numbers via another route,
    an interesting comparison of electrical accident figures in some countries that do and don’t allow various degrees of unregulated wiring. (Note that here I use DIY/unregulated to mean “not controlled” – this includes those with electrical qualifications, but not members of a nationally approved union or trade organisation – I realise it may also include retired postmen with absolutely no knowledge of electricity, but that’s probably not many of us.)

    The results are interesting as they suggest that good public awareness is the way to safer wiring, and not the alternate view of keeping ‘the magic of how to do it’ the concern of a secret closed shop.
    The compariasons are after I have corrected for the relative poulation size.

    Discounting the developing world, as the figures for India etc, are probably either not available, or too frightenting to consider, and also discounting countries with 110v systems where the risks of fire vs electrocution are very different to the UK, (annually 60,000 reported fires in Japan apparently, but very, very few electrocutions) we can compare coutries with a similar wiring development in Europe and Australasia, and possibly South Africa.

    Australia, where the regulations are by far the tightest – officially you can’t even buy a mains plug or a bulb holder without showing a qualification card, appears to have four times the death rate from electrical accidents relative to New Zealand, where the electrical techniques are similar but regulation wise things are very more relaxed, and certain DIY activities are allowed. Only two years in the last decade do not show this trend, when I presume somthing very nasty happened.

    Indeed there is only one well developed country that allows DIY wiring and then reports a higher death rate due to electrical faults than OZ, this seems to be South Africa, which, as their figures include the 30 to 40 deaths a year that occur as people try to steal the overhead cables to sell the copper, this may affect the figures slightly.

    In Europe tightest regs appear to be in Greece, which officially requires wiring plans of all wiring in buildings to be submitted to central building control for approval. There is some evidence that work is often postponed or never done because of the hassle factor and in practice this reporting doesn’t always happen, although the reported accident rate is similar to the UK.
    Apparently Germany and France both allow DIY wiring, but a property should be inspected and signed off by a member of an approved body before connection to the mains after major works. Accident rates are slightly lower in France than Germany, although some of this may be differences of reporting method.

    The other surprise (to me!) is that despite fused plugs, and a what some other nations see as an unhealthy obsession with earthing anything that doesn’t move, the UK does not have the safest electrics in Europe, by a factor of nearly two relative to everyone else the winner appears to be Holland – a country with similar wet weather, where DIY wiring is allowed, but the ‘how to do it properly’ information is deliberately made readily available. (For interest does anyone know how their rules on gas work too? – I have a suspicion that CORGI doesn’t do that much for our existing installations other than guarantee that old gas pipes stay in the house and rust until they leak, rather than being removed in normal renovation, and that non-monopoly method might have been better)

    In summary however, I think the safety grounds for the introduction of the part P controls are quite doubtful, as they ignore the way accidents will dissapear of one list, but reappear on another, and it is much more likely the real motivation is economic or political lobbying by groups with a vested in interest in a closed shop.
    Oh god, I have gone on rather haven’t I!

  5. mapi1 – you have gone on a bit. I thought this was a comment section – not the place where one write their P.HD on window/door/ and building regulation. Some one’s going to have to get an inspector in the check if this is a safe use of the system. What fun – more forms to fill out.

  6. Boris I don’t often agree with your politics, but I agree with you on this one.
    Its totally absurd.
    People can question my families and my own mental health, but if we want to abuse a door when we’re in a piss,then we should be able to rehinge it afterwards without somebody else prying! OK, its probably not a good idea to take revenge on an innocent object, but it really makes us feel better.Its our door, our property, not hurting the people around us so therefore our business.
    Most people have been doing DIY (sometimes unsuccessful)for years and are just fine. Most people have the sense not to tackle things they don’t have the capabilities for. Some people end up in a pickle, but thats their choice. Its like stopping somebody from crossing the road at their own freewill, its totally ludicrous.

  7. Boris, You are very entertaining, especially when you get the bit between your teeth and start ranting away before putting your brain in gear.
    In the name of freedom, you castigate the authorities for introducing regulations designed to stop people being stupid ( perhaps using moblie phones while cycling, re-wiring their house with no clue how to ) but you forget who has to pick up the bill when they reap their rewards; the tax payer, me and you. You complain – rightly – about rising taxes, but then how do you cut down on disability payments to someone now wheelchair-ridden having brained themselves falling off their wobbling bike or social security handouts to orphaned kids because the parents died in a mysterious house fire ? We do have choices, but sadly allowing people to choose badly ( smoking, eating fatty foods, etc x 1000 ) costs us poor – at least some of us – taxpayers fortunes. ” Its like stopping people crossing the road at their own freewill, its totally ludicrous .” It’s also called jaywalking in America and is an offence in that famed ‘ land of the free ‘ . I know you’re busy Boris but you really must spend more time thinking things through – oh, I forgot, you are a politican . Having said that, I think you’re great !

  8. New Labour are a pain in the butt and everywhere else. When are they going to get off our backs not until we get rid of them).

  9. Regarding the comments about how we all pay – and this is true of hospitals. As regards the electrical stuff at least, the ‘cost benefit analysis’ performed by the ODPM neglects totally the rise in accidents from extension leads and multiway adaptors we can expect, as a price for safer fixed wiring. Consider as an example, people still want to use power tools in their garage, but are no longer allowed to screw fixed sockets to the wall and do a half decent job. We will all pay for this, as the extension lead out of the kitchen window is the cheapest legal way but massively more dangerous, particularly after the kids have cycled over it a few times !!
    Don’t believe the hype,
    this one at least is all about lobby groups pushing to create a closed shop under a ‘safety’ smokescreen – see my earlier comments comparing Australia and New Zealand and feel free to cross check the published mortality figures. I think that one can clearly see the very accident displacement effect described above in action. This one WILL cost us more in both accidents and money.

  10. Boris – Wonderful article, really gets to the heart of how over-regulation can become both uncontrollable and unreasonable.

    Paul Buckland – Did not Gordon Brown lose sight in one eye due to a rugby accident? Should Rugby be regulated to prevent such things happening in the future, perhaps a requirement to wear goggles would swiftly prevent such a costly (both to the nhs and to Mr Brown) reccurance?

    Maybe we could go one step further and say only trained-chefs can cook food, after all the cost of food-poisoning/injury in the kitchen to the nhs must run into millions per year?

    The nhs is a service, it is not a system which should tell me how to live my life. The ‘cost to the nhs’ arguement is increasingly being used as justification for pushing forward un-reasonable, il-liberal laws. ‘Cost to Nhs’ is an easy sell in essence, it plays on the natural conservative desire for low-taxation (ban this it will save you money by lowering nhs costs) and it plays towards the natural labour-party desire for government-control (we help save people from their own stupidity).

  11. I’m just curious; is the government going to restrict sales of paraphenalia for such repairs at places like B&Q? Or will you just have to show your paperwork in order to be allowed to buy, say, a wall socket?

  12. Well said Boz cat (as ever). It’s all very well arguing the toss and I’m sure fat cats in westminster do that a lot whilst being completely removed from the consequences of thier actions (they can pay!). But consequences to peoples lives are important.

    Take my situation for instance: I can’t afford a qualified electrician as is required and so have a 40amp cooker on a 3 pin 13 amp plug. I have no alternative. Also, the door of my fusebox fell off, exposing the analogue and creaky fuse box and meter to the elements (it’s on the side of the house). I have two children under 5yrs old in the house and neither the electricity supplier nor the billing co. want to know. Apparently they don’t do that any more. They wont even change the meter to a digital meter. One fusebox is housed in bakolite!

    Regulations are all very well but they don’t necessarily make everyone safer in the real world. What am I supposed to do?

  13. So after 5 years of gaining electrical qualifications at great expense in both time and money, I am deemed to be not ‘competent’
    What a farce!

  14. And as usual they have got you all mising the most dangerous bit.
    Once we had red (live) black (neutral) & green wires.
    We had to change to European standards Brown (live) blue & green/yellow.
    The new system has changed the colours. I gave up after reading live is now Black.
    In cas you missed it live will become the sam colour neutral used to be – & still is on some modern equipment – this is something akin to changing the traffic light colours around so all new lights will have red for go.
    Stupid it is not. Criminally stupid is what it is

  15. But it took a Tory blog site to let us know, the government wern’t going to! I agree, how incredibly stupid!!

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