I propose to take Questions Nos. 403 and 404 together.
In the area of furniture fire safety, there are no harmonised EU standards. The Irish standards and regulations were introduced to protect consumers by preventing the rapid spread of a fire started on or near furniture. These standards are in line with those introduced in the UK, which is particularly relevant given the cross-border trade in furniture on the island of Ireland and the presence of furniture manufacturers along the border area.
The UK has undertaken two consultations (in 2014 and 2016) on the suitability of the UK regulations but has yet to amend its regulations. In view of the similarity of the regulations in both jurisdictions, my Department has liaised very closely with the relevant department in the UK and continues to monitor the situation to keep abreast of developments in that jurisdiction. My Department also liaises, both formally and informally, with other stakeholders in Ireland on the issue.
Having similar regulations in place on both sides of the border gives consumers clarity and certainty that uniform safety standards apply, while manufacturers have certainty that their products can be sold in both jurisdictions without going to the added expense of manufacturing furniture according to different standards and legislation. Any change in existing regulations, or replacement thereof, will have to provide a robust level of safety when it comes to furniture going on fire.
My Department is conscious of the need to ensure that if replacement regulations are to be introduced, they must be effective and evidence-based, bearing in mind the tension between short term effects (in relation to flame retardant chemicals providing time to escape a fire and the impact on fire crews’ operations) and possible long-term health considerations. There is also a need to ensure that if the Regulations are to change there will be no reduction in safety for the consumers of Ireland.