As the UK finally cut its regulatory ties with the EU on 1st January 2021, this was marked by the introduction of new national regulations to ensure the continuation of the UK’s Quality Infrastructure. In particular, the regulation that governed accreditation within the European Union was amended by the Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/696) (as amended), which, together with the existing Accreditation Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 2009/3155) confirmed UKAS’ continued status as the UK’s sole National Accreditation Body (NAB).
To underpin this new UK framework, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), on behalf of the UK Government as a whole, published its revised policy on conformity assessment and accreditation in the UK. This document sets out the government’s policy principles which are as follows:
- Accreditation is applicable to both the regulated and non-regulated sectors.
- Accreditation being at the topmost level of control should provide an authoritative statement of the technical competence of CABs.
- The legislative framework for accreditation in Great Britain is GB RAMS and in Northern Ireland is RAMS NI (refer to Section 3.1 of the Policy document for details).
- The NAB (i.e. UKAS) shall operate in accordance with GB RAMS and RAMS NI as relevant.
- Accreditation is considered to be a public authority activity and should therefore operate in the public interest. It should be self-supporting but run as a not for profit activity.
- Accreditation should be operated with integrity; independent of the organisations it accredits and impartial, and free from commercial pressure. UKAS shall operate to recognised standards or other transparent criteria and be compliant with applicable technical requirements, demonstrated, where appropriate, through peer evaluation.
BEIS has committed to work with UKAS to ensure that UK accreditation continues to operate in the public interest and meets the obligations imposed by the Regulations on accreditation as they have effect in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Central to this Government policy is the requirement that “where a UK CAB* requests accreditation, it shall do so from UKAS as the sole NAB for the UK”.
In addition, it recommends UK businesses, government and local authorities requiring third party conformity assessment services to source such services, where they exist, from conformity assessment bodies accredited by UKAS.
Finally, for conformity assessment bodies established outside of the UK, it recognises the equivalence of their accreditation where delivered by accreditation bodies that are members of the European or international multilateral agreements (i.e. those operated by the European cooperation for Accreditation (EA), International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and International Accreditation Forum (IAF).
The publication of this revised policy is a very positive move by the UK Government in protecting the integrity of conformity assessment in the UK. It provides assurance that accredited services delivered by UK bodies take into account the needs of UK business and society, ensuring a Quality Infrastructure that continues to operate in the public interest.
*CAB: Conformity Assessment Body – a body undertaking conformity assessment activities including testing, calibration, inspection, certification and validation/verification.