BSI and UK government sign new Memorandum of Understanding on standards


 June 20, 2002

The British Standards Institution signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on standards with UK government on June 20 2002.
The new MoU further strengthens BSI's relations with Government, acknowledges its place at the forefront of international standards-development, and confirms its success in leading other national standards bodies in responding to the demands of global commerce.

The chairman of BSI, Vivian Thomas CBE (shown right in the above picture) signed the MoU at an official ceremony in London with Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Minister for Science and Technology signing on behalf of the UK Department of Trade and Industry. 

David Lazenby CBE, Director of British Standards, said: "Standardisation is a key factor in support of government policies, including competitiveness, innovation, reduction of trade barriers, fair trading and protection of consumer interests, environmental protection and public procurement. This new MoU clarifies the practicalities of our future activities and the freedom of operations needed in the challenging modern standards world."

The agreement provides the framework for the Government and BSI to work together, from strategic to practical levels. In particular, it confers the Government's recognition of BSI as the National Standards Body (NSB). BSI as a Royal Charter body is independent of Government, but it has a public interest role - including reference in certain European Union legislation as the UK NSB - so an agreement on what BSI and government can expect of each other is required.

The new MoU gives clear encouragement to BSI to develop its standardisation business beyond traditional 'full' standards in response to new technology, globalisation, and other influences, but to couple this with a specific obligation to avoid 'new products' spreading at the expense of full standards in circumstances where the features of full standards are still required.

It also strengthens the international and European context, including a specific reference to standardisation policy developed by the Council of the EU.

The new MoU recognises explicitly that BSI now has significant commercial businesses outside its NSB functions, and in so doing, focus on the relationship between the NSB and non-NSB sides. In particular, this has meant defining the 'ring-fence' both in terms of the use of public funds and in terms of the precedence of the NSB as a whole - however funded - over the rest of BSI.

Used in conjunction with health and safety and environmental legislation, standardisation can also help government promote better regulation.

Pursuing UK policy in a European and international context requires close co-operation between Government and British Standards so that negotiating positions in the standards and intergovernmental arenas reinforce rather than conflict with each other.

The future of standardisation faces some major challenges. Digby Jones, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry has voiced concerns about the present standardisation system and whether it was really addressing the needs of business. So DTI together with CBI and BSI have begun work developing a national standardisation strategy to address those concerns.