Labour demands action over ‘shameful’ lack of fire safety reform following Grenfell fire

7 September 2020, 15:35 | Updated: 7 September 2020, 20:21

The Grenfell fire claimed 72 lives in 2017
The Grenfell fire claimed 72 lives in 2017. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Labour have said they will attempt to force the government to implement “vital recommendations” from Phase One of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, slamming them for making a “shameful” lack of progress on removing flammable cladding.

The party says they will attempt to amend the Fire Safety Bill to include “robust requirements” on fire safety.

This would include forcing landlords to share information with fire services on the design and material of buildings, and carry out regular inspections on lifts and doors.

The latest data from the government found 243 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings still have Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding which is unlikely to meet Building Regulations in England.

The Grenfell Inquiry's phase one report, published in October 2019, found the tower's cladding did not comply with building regulations and was the "principal" reason for the fire's rapid spread.

An electrical fault with a fridge-freezer sparked the catastrophic fire in west London on June 14, 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Sarah Jones MP, Labour’s Shadow Policing and Fire Minister, urged the government to back the amendment and said: “The Government has continuously broken their promises, while tens of thousands of people across the country are stuck living in unsafe flats.

“The victims and survivors of Grenfell are still waiting for justice. This is completely unacceptable.”

Labour also wants fire risk assessors to be accredited and clarity on when waking watches should be in place for buildings with fire safety failures.

On Wednesday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan wrote to 40 London landlords who have yet to start work on removing the unsafe ACM cladding.

The landlords, who have received a grant from the government to pay for the cladding removal, were urged to prioritise and accelerate their refurbishment plans.

London fire commissioner Andy Roe has warned owners of these buildings to “take your responsibility seriously.”

“If you have cladding on your building, work within the framework that is there to get it off as soon as possible. This is bigger than money,” he said on Tuesday.

Labour’s demands come as the years long public inquiry into the deadly fire restarts today after a summer recess.

The inquiry is being live streamed on YouTube, but the survivors and bereaved are angry that social distancing rules mean they will not be able to attend, The Guardian reports.

Karim Mussihly, whose uncle Hesham Rahman died in the fire, expressed his frustration that he could “walk into Nando’s and everyone is casual” or “go into a pub and have a pint without a mask” but not attend in person.

The inquiry said it worked with the Government Property Agency (GPA) to agree social distancing limits and that these limits would not currently allow for extra attendees.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are doing everything in our power to implement the Phase 1 recommendations of the Grenfell Inquiry in the most practical, proportionate and effective way to ensure such a tragedy can never happen again.

“Our proposals go further than the Inquiry’s recommendations in many ways, such as inspection requirements on equipment, on information for residents and on external walls.

“We are now seeking the views of those most affected by the Inquiry before deciding on our final approach.”