The Board expects to begin to enter into formal contracts with manufacturers in October. When certificates can be issued will depend on the length of time required for testing and assessment.
The Board was appointed at the end of last year, so that rather less than a year has gone by. The Board has been fully occupied in the meantime in arranging staffing, accommodation and organisation and going into the legal and procedural problems of starting a completely new operation. I think that it has made reasonably good progress. I hope that on both sides of the House there will be a general welcome for what it is beginning to do and that hon. Members will wish it well in its efforts.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the work of the Board could become immensely valuable and that it should press ahead. Will he give it every encouragement?
Yes, Sir. In the interim period, applications from manufacturers have been accepted and the Board is arranging for the Building Research Station to undertake testing in suitable cases. Although the formal contracts will not begin until October, some preliminary work is going ahead which will expedite matters after that date.
The Agrément Board will make technical assessments of all building innovations, including new products, techniques, or systems. It will issue certificates based on its findings. At the suggestion of my predecessor, the Chairmen of the National Building Agency and of the Agrément Board have already met and agreed on a basis for mutual co-operation.
When did that take place? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that only a fortnight ago a new director said that there had not been time to co-operate with the agencies? How can he reconcile those two statements?
I am advised that they have met to discuss this, although I do not have the dates in front of me. Certainly, the advice given to my predecessor was that they should have these discussions in order to see that there is no overlapping. I do not think that there need be any overlapping. I believe that there is a fairly clear division of function between the two.
The name was settled before I took over this office. The advantage of the name is that it is the name used in many other countries. It has a very important international aspect, in that British materials which get an Agrément certificate will thereby be helped in export markets, particularly in the setting up of an Agrément Board between countries—the Union d'Agrément Internationale.
There is a separate function here, in that the Agrément Board will be looking at materials and components. In so far as both may be looking at building systems, the Board will be looking at the technical aspects of the components used, whereas the agency will be looking at the commercial and architectural aspects and so on. These are different functions.