'Change public procurement rules in response to heatwaves'

Public procurement rules in the UK should be altered so money is not spent on infrastructure that is not heat resilient, according to MPs.

In a report on heatwaves, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said “extreme temperature events” in Europe were now 10 times more likely than in the early 2000s. In 2010 5m UK staff days were lost to overheating above 26C, resulting in economic losses of £770m.

“The government should make businesses aware of the developing threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences,” said the report.

“The government should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort.

“Procurement rules should be updated so that schools and the NHS do not spend public money on infrastructure which is not resilient to heatwaves.”

The EAC said only half of England’s strategic road network was “surfaced with the most heat resilient material” and the cost of repairing roads in Oxfordshire during a 2003 heatwave was estimated at £3.6m.

“During the hot weather in June 2018 roads across the UK, from Cumbria to the south, were at risk of melting, and the A543 in Wales had to be closed,” said the report.

“Highways England should ensure that resurfacing of roads in at-risk areas is a priority, as heatwaves have become increasingly common.”

MPs said heatwaves could have “negative effects on critical national infrastructure such as transport, digital systems and water supply, leading to economic and public health consequences”.

The EAC said hot weather could bring benefits from increased tourism and demand for services, but this was outweighed by lost productivity.

“Research on the economic consequences of heatwaves concluded that there was a more significant cost to the economy than benefit,” said the report.