Grenfell Inquiry: Government “hid” fire safety risks to buildings
Consecutive governments have been accused of “deliberately covering up” the dangers posed to combustible materials before the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Grenfell Inquiry has heard of how successive administrations were accountable for “collusion” with the construction industry to suppress the results of investigations into previous cladding fires, including that which occurred at Lakanal House in 2009.
Last month, Michael Gove admitted to MPs that his department: “will be seen to have, in a couple of occasions, not necessarily appreciated the importance of fire safety and not necessarily done everything in the wake of the Lakanal House tragedy that is should have done”.
The fire which occurred at Lakanal House, almost a decade before that which occurred at Grenfell, resulted in a coroner, Frances Kirkham, cautioning the government that all parts of a building should be examined in fire safety inspections.
The coroner also recommended rewriting the guidance that construction firms and architects rely on to ensure they meet the requirements of the building regulations.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took power in 2010, but by the time of the Grenfell Tower fire seven years later, the introduction of sprinklers had been shelved due to prohibitive costs.
There were no changes to fire examinations, and a review of building regulation management had not been completed.
A barrister representing some of the bereft and survivors at the Grenfell inquiry, said David Cameron should appear before the inquiry over remarks made in 2010, ‘ridiculing’ health and safety, seven years before the fire.
Michael Mansfield QC told the public inquiry that, Cameron should appear at the hearing and clarify what he meant when he said he wanted to, “scrap health and safety rules that put people off”.
Cameron is also said to have remarked that “Britannia didn’t rule the waves with arm bands on”.
Mr Mansfield argued that these observations were, “ridiculing, humiliating health and safety, and regulating citizens, as it were, to effectively a bonfire”.
In an opening statement at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, victims’ Barrister, Ms Barwise, said Grenfell was a “predictable, yet unintended consequence of a combination of the laudable desire to reduce carbon emissions, coupled with an unbridled passion for deregulation”.
She also argued that: “Government’s response on realising the extent of the problem was to react by concealment instead of candour.
“The result is a prolonged period of concealment by government, which should properly be regarded as one of the major scandals of our time.”
During the next few months, a series of former government ministers and senior officials are expected to provide evidence in the inquiry.
In a response, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities stated: “The Grenfell Tower tragedy must never be allowed to happen again, and we remain absolutely committed to helping the Inquiry get to the truth.
“The role of central government will be considered in this module and we continue to support the Inquiry throughout its investigations.”
This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.
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