BBC Panorama revealed last night how ministers were repeatedly warned that fire regulations were not keeping people safe in a programme about the Grenfell Tower fire.
It also revealed that firefighters had extuingished the fridge fire which is thought to have started the blaze only to see flames rising up the side of the building when they went outside.
- January 22, 2021
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The programnme also showed new footage filmed by firefighters driving towards the burning building which one described as a “towering inferno”. Another fireman said: “How is that even possible?”
The BBC reports that a dozen letters, sent by the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group in the aftermath of a 2009 fatal fire in Lakanal House, south London, warned the Government “could not afford to wait for another tragedy”.
The parliamentary group wrote in March 2014: “Surely … when you already have credible evidence to justify updating … the guidance … which will lead to saving of lives, you don’t need to wait another three years in addition to the two already spent since the research findings were updated, in order to take action?
“As there are estimated to be another 4,000 older tower blocks in the UK, without automatic sprinkler protection, can we really afford to wait for another tragedy to occur before we amend this weakness?”
After further correspondence, then government minister Liberal Democrat Stephen Williams, replied: “I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward.”
The group replied: “We’re at a loss to understand, how you had concluded that credible and independent evidence which had life safety implications, was NOT considered to be urgent.
“As a consequence the group wishes to point out to you that should a major fire tragedy, with loss of life, occur between now and 2017, in for example, a residential care facility or a purpose built block of flats, where the matters which had been raised here, were found to be contributory to the outcome, then the group would be bound to bring this to others’ attention.”
Former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles received a letter about fire regulations from the parliamentary group in February 2014, according to the BBC.
In December 2015, the all-party group wrote to the former Conservative minister James Wharton, and warned about the risk of fires spreading on the outside of buildings with cladding.
“Today’s buildings have a much higher content of readily-available combustible material. Examples are timber and polystyrene mixes in structure, cladding and insulation.
“This fire hazard results in many fires because adequate recommendations to developers simply do not exist. There is little or no requirement to mitigate external fire spread.”
Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell, who was recently appointed Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief of staff, received further calls for action in September last year.
In November 2016 Barwell replied to say his department had been looking at the regulations, and would make a statement “in due course”.
In April 2017 Barwell wrote to say he did “acknowledge that producing a statement on building regulations has taken longer than I had envisaged”, according to the BBC.