Friday, May 20, 2005

'Nanny' Prescott wants to control the temperature of your bath

By Tony Freinberg, London Telegraph

There is a new danger coming to your bathroom: John Prescott is getting into the plumbing.

Under plans to be decided in detail with industry leaders this week, the Government is preparing to control the maximum temperature of Britain's baths.

Regulations will require that devices limiting the temperature of water available from bath taps be fitted in all new homes. The law, which the Government says is "essential" to prevent scalding, is expected to take effect in 2006.

The measures brought criticism from both the Conservatives, who spoke of "nanny state interference", and plumbers, who called the plan "bathwatergate".

When the Government first aired the proposals in January last year, Phil Hope, the minister in charge of building regulations at the time, said: "Safe water temperatures are essential since most accidents occur with the young, elderly or infirm getting or falling into baths that are too hot - or when they are topping up with hot water."

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for building regulations, confirmed that the plans were moving forward and suggested the changes might gradually be introduced for existing homes as well.

"The expectation is that it will gradually happen on a voluntary basis in existing homes, but it is primarily aimed at new homes," he said. "The introduction of temperature controls on hot water taps is just one of many suggestions for amending part G of the Building Regulations."

The policy was derided by the Conservatives as an expensive exercise in bureaucratic excess. A spokesman said: "This is more nanny state interference from John Prescott's department which will only serve to increase the costs of renovating and improving people's homes. It's more red tape that will push up the costs of DIY, house building and home improvement."

Richard Nissen, a London plumber, struck a similar note. "This really is legislation gone mad," he said. "As far as the average plumber is concerned, this is going to mean a lot of angry customers because of the cost of installing these valves and then carrying out the mandatory annual inspections. In the future, when your bath gets cold, you won't be able to warm it up again with a little hot water, as the temperature will all be regulated by the valve. It's so ludicrous it should be called 'bathwatergate'."

Howard Porter, the director of the Thermostatic Mixing Valve Manufacturers Association, said that excessively hot bathwater caused several hundred injuries each year. "Around 20 children per year die from scalding, and using a mixing valve will eliminate that," he predicted. "The typical limit that we've been discussing is 45C (113F), which seems higher than what most people use."

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