Fire Brigade Union Chief Hits Back At Rees-Mogg's "Crass" Grenfell Comments

5 November 2019, 18:25

Fire Brigades Union chief hit back at Jacob Rees-Mogg for his "crass" comments about Grenfell Tower sufferers and told Eddie Mair why the government's "corporate decisions" should be examined in the inquiry.

Yesterday on LBC, the Leader of the House of Commons said that it was common sense not to obey the fire brigade's 'stay put' instructions during the fire.

Matt Wrack called his remarks "crass, insensitive and insulting to the people who live in Grenfell Tower", and insisted it is up to the community whether they forgive his words.

"I think it was an apology based on the criticism he has received," said the union chief, "I don't think there's a fundamental reassessment of why he said this and what are the real issues behind Grenfell."

He said Rees-Mogg has made a "lazy assumption" and it wasn't as straight forward as simply getting out of the tower block - instead there is a complex debate to be had about the stay put orders on the night of the Grenfell fire.

After the fire in high-rise Lakanal House in 2009, he said, there were warnings about fires spreading beyond their original compartments sent not only to the London Fire Brigade but also to the government.

Wrack said that Jacob Rees-Mogg's "own colleagues, Tory ministers, were aware of the warning signs about fires. So I just find this blasé, throwaway way of talking about Grenfell upsetting and trivialising a very serious matter."

Eddie mentioned a Tweet from broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe who accused Jacob Rees-Mogg of believing the emergency services are "servants whose advice can be ignored if he believes he knows better."

Wrack agreed that this assessment may be true considering the way Rees-Mogg talks "and behaves in the House of Commons. Firefighters are professionals, ordinary working class people, but in a highly skilled profession who dedicate their careers to public safety.

"To see that denigrated in this way says something about the nature of society we're living in and the nature of politics in the current environment."

He said: "This comes from someone who's never been in that position and never will be in that position of having to think about these things."

Wrack continued that there has been huge scrutiny of the fire service following the Grenfell Tower fire, which is entirely understandable, but "this inquiry is the wrong way round."

"We're scrutinising what happened on the night but not what led up to it which includes issues of contracts. Why was flammable cladding put on a building in the centre of a capital city? What regulations allowed that to happen?

"Unfortunately there are very high-level political decisions that lie behind this," Wrack said and pointed out that the corporate interests leading up to the event have not been examined.

The union chief said he is surprised there hasn't been any prosecutions following the tragedy and Rydon, the contractor that added in the flammable cladding, should certainly be examined.