Emma Dent Coad: Two years on from Grenfell, little progress has been made

Posted On: 
3rd June 2019

Ministers must be reminded of how cutting regulations, careless specifying, poor workmanship and bad maintenance can kill men, women and children in truly horrific circumstances, writes Emma Dent Coad

Grenfell Tower, after the fire which claimed the lives of 72 residents
Credit: 
PA Images

Friday 14 June will be the second anniversary of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower that took the lives of 72 of my neighbours, over a long and terrifying night and day.

In the early days of shock and trauma, politicians made numerous commitments, pledges and guarantees – most of which have come to nothing. There is little progress made on the countless issues keeping people awake across London, across the country, and in some instances, worldwide. What little progress there is has been hard won. Why should we have to fight for the basic right not to be incinerated in our beds as we sleep?

A lack of action means this avoidable atrocity could happen again. As one of the survivors put it so lucidly: ‘Grenfell 2 is in the post’.

Meanwhile a lot of good and detailed work has been taking place, in parliamentary select committees, in professional organisations, in universities, and by individuals expert in particular fields. There have been specialist reports given at the Grenfell Inquiry, academic and professional conferences have been held and papers written, and a government appointed Task Force is about to report for the fourth time on ‘progress’ made by RBKC Council.

Nevertheless, it is next to impossible for a journalist or researcher to find what they need to produce an informed commentary. So, I have been working with my office to initiate a Grenfell Archive, which will be a resource available to all comprising evidenced research and reports on Grenfell-related topics.

We have started this process and will accept submissions for inclusion; if they come from a professionally recognised source using referenced and/or peer reviewed material, we will hope to include all submissions.

The Grenfell Archive will launch on the day of my backbench debate on Thursday 6 June, which I hope will encompass all the issues still desperately in need of attention, debate, and wiggle-proof regulation that will ensure people are safe in their beds at night.

I hope the Archive will also improve the quality of journalism, some of which has been exemplary, but a large proportion of which has been mawkish, hateful, execrable. So, I am providing this resource to give journalists the information they may need to produce informed and reliable copy in a fast-moving world.

Among many issues I hope to have included in the backbench debate will be a subject dear to my heart, as a journalist with 30 years’ experience writing about design, architecture and planning. The future compliance of building and fire safety regulations is in question. Architects say they have no idea how to design in better fire safety and escape measures at the earliest stages, nor which materials to specify on buildings they are designing now. And they’re asking if buildings which already have planning permission can be built with materials already specified or if these will be subject to review.

'I really wonder sometimes if there are any genuine experts available to advise government, or if they make it up as they go along after a bit of googling' 

The total mess of cladding replacement on residential buildings has been a classic story of muddle and confusion. I really wonder sometimes if there are any genuine experts available to advise government, or if they make it up as they go along after a bit of googling.

There are innumerable issues to consider, from fridges, to fire safety to toxic foam furniture, and I find it shameful that so little real progress has been made after two years.

I have written endless letters to ministers, and received fluffy answers in return, met experts and encountered sales people trying vainly to mislead me, attended interesting meetings and boring conferences, with the result that I am no expert myself but have been exposed to a wide spectrum of opinion.

Sorry to say but at a majority of these exchanges those I meet have little or no comprehension of just how important it is that we get this right.

Sometimes they need to be reminded of how cutting regulations, careless specifying, poor workmanship and bad maintenance can kill men, women and children in truly horrific circumstances, and traumatise 11,000 people in one neighbourhood.

I intend to remind them regularly.

Emma Dent Coad is Labour MP for Kensington. Her backbench business debate takes place on Thursday 6 June