Ministers 'failing' to learn from Grenfell tragedy and must act urgently, MPs warn
The Government has been "far too slow" to react to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and has failed to learn the lessons from it, MPs have warned.
In a damning report the ongoing delay to remove and replace combustible material from other high-rise buildings was slammed as “unacceptable”.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee also warned the £200 million fund allocated to the efforts would “fall far short” of what is needed to secure the safety of the towers.
The cross-party group of MPs urged the Government to extend its operation and fully fund the removal of all forms of dangerous cladding as a “moral duty”.
In the assessment, released two years after the west London tower block fire that killed 72, the committee also heard from survivors who were living in “very poor” permanent housing and had still not received health screenings to establish any long-term health effects from the blaze.
HCLG committee chair Clive Betts said: “We are two years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and the Government is far behind where it should be in every aspect of its response.
“Further delay is simply not acceptable. The Government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding, but not others. It should immediately extend its fund to cover the removal and replacement of any form of combustible cladding – as defined by the Government’s combustible cladding ban – from any high-rise or high-risk building.
“We would like to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, and thank them for giving evidence to our inquiry. We have a duty to learn the lessons of the failures that had such a devastating impact on so many lives. As of yet, the Government has failed to do so.”
The MPs also vented its frustration over the Government’s slow progress on setting up a regulatory system to boost building safety in the long-term.
Mr Betts added: “Much more progress should also have been made on developing a comprehensive building and fire safety framework. This is simply not good enough.
“It has been over two years since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and more than a year since the publication of the Final Report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and yet the Government has only just published a consultation into its proposals for reform of the building safety regulatory system.
“The Government must pick up the pace of reform, before it is too late.”
‘NOTHING TO PREVENT ANOTHER GRENFELL’
The Fire Brigades Union said the committee’s report backed up its own concerns over the Government’s “half-hearted” response to Grenfell.
The union’s general secretary, Matt Wrack, warned “virtually nothing” had been done to prevent another devastating building fire made worse by the prescence of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding from happening as things stand.
He said: “Time and time again, we have raised the issues in this report, but the silence from Government is deafening. This is a national emergency which is being met by the government with utter complacency.”
Mr Wrack added: “The removal of flammable ACM cladding has been painstakingly slow – only one building had its ACM cladding removed last month. The Government’s approach has also abandoned the tens of thousands of people in buildings covered with other flammable materials.
“Grenfell should have seen root-and-branch reform of the UK’s fire safety regime, yet we have seen nothing but delay and inaction from this Government.
“We are campaigning on a number of straightforward steps that the Government can take, from establishing national structures to coordinate and set standards for fire and rescue services, to increasing the number of fire safety officers to catch risks before they become tragedies.”
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said if the report's findings: “For two years, government action has been too slow and too weak.
“Ministers must now step in and set a hard deadline to replace all dangerous cladding, toughen sanctions against block owners that won’t do the work and fund the retrofit of sprinklers in all high-risk social housing blocks.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “Public safety is paramount and within days of the Grenfell Tower fire a comprehensive Building Safety Programme was put in place to ensure residents of high-rise properties are always kept safe.
“We have committed up to £600m to fund the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise social and private residential buildings.
“Ultimately building owners are responsible for the safety of their building and we expect them to carry out work quickly – anything less is unacceptable.
“At the same time, we are supporting the support the bereaved, survivors and their families of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and have already committed over £100 million.”