Grenfell Report Phase 1 Seeks to Blame the Firefighters 232


One simple fact cannot be hidden. The firefighters did not cause the fire. Phase 1 of Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s report of the public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster has been released to relatives prior to publication tomorrow. According to the Guardian, it concentrates blame on the firefighters in charge of tackling the blaze. This is an entirely predictable Establishment ploy; blame the little people.

I do not doubt mistakes were made by the firefighters; there will always be well-intentioned errors by those trying to cope with such a terrible crisis. Moore-Bick may be correct in his identification of them. Adherence to the established “stay in your flat” doctrine was disastrously wrong in these circumstances. But the firefighters were not the reason the fire started and spread so quickly. The primary reason was inadequate regulation of the burgeoning fashion for cladding old buildings, and inadequate enforcement of such regulation as was in place.

Moore-Bick may, a couple of years from now, ultimately produce a most damning report of government failings that caused the Grenfell Disaster. But these issues will only be dealt with as Phase 2 of the report, by which time public emotion and recollection will have faded further. I question the methodology of producing an initial report on the events of the night, and a second on the “historical background”, when the “historical background” actually contains the fundamental causes of the tragedy. The second report, when it eventually arrives, will have far less media coverage. The abiding message in the eyes of the duped public will be that the fault lay with the fire brigade.

So let us recall now what really happened.

Deregulation is fundamental to Tory ideology. Speaking specifically on multi-occupation buildings, Fire Minister Bob Neill stated on 16 June 2011:

Over the years, regulations – and the inspections and bureaucracy that go
with them – have piled up and up. This has hurt business, imposing real
burdens and doing real damage to our economy. Reducing the number
of rules and regulations is therefore absolutely central to the Coalition
Government’s vision for Britain, removing barriers to economic growth and
increasing individual freedoms. We have given a clear commitment that where
regulation cannot be justified, we will remove it.

That is one of many examples of vital context given in an excellent pamphlet by the Fire Brigades Union. It is the background to the government’s continued failure over years to address the need for new regulation of developments in cladding.

After six people died due to combustible cladding in the Lakamal House fire of 2009, Tory Minister Eric Pickles’ instinct was to use this disaster to reduce regulation; “My department is committed to a programme of simplification of building regulations”. In the seven years between that statement and the Grenfell fire, the coalition government had still done precisely nothing on cladding regulation.

Meantime, Boris Johnson as Mayor of London was taking an axe to the London Fire Service, closing twelve fire stations. Firemen involved in regulation and inspection were particularly cut. Johnson effectively reduced the number of firemen involved in operational regulation enforcement by half. Total fire brigade staff were reduced by a quarter.

This is the essential background to any criticism of the operational performance of the fire brigade.

Finally, the owners of the building, Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council – arguably the UK’s wealthiest council – bear ultimate responsibility for repeated failures to address fire safety concerns and for putting flammable cladding on the building in order to improve its appearance for the benefit of wealthy neighbours in the surrounding streets. A council planning document made plain that it was clad for the neighbours’ benefit, not that of the residents, “to accord with the development plan by ensuring that the character and appearance of the area are preserved and living conditions of those living near the development suitably protected”. The aim of the cladding was to disguise the existence of accommodation perceived as for poor people.

I have not previously blogged much about Grenfell because I have a distaste for disaster journalism. But if public perception grows that the disaster was the fault of the firefighters, that would be an outrage.

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232 thoughts on “Grenfell Report Phase 1 Seeks to Blame the Firefighters

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  • Tom74

    It would certainly be wrong to blame individual fire brigade officers or the team on duty that terrible night. However, the fire brigade did fail in that they had no plan to tackle a rapidly spreading fire in a high-rise block or any means of rescuing people trapped. It happened to be the cladding and lack of sprinklers that contributed in this disaster, but that doesn’t absolve the brigade from giving the wrong advice and failing to save residents.

    • Ian

      Jesus, listen to yourself pontificating about something you know nothing about, and smugly blaming people who did their utmost to save lives, suffering severe trauma in many cases. And then downplay the actual causes, the lack of resources and the misinformation upon which the firemen acted in good faith.
      Another sick blowhard.

      • Andyoldlabour

        Ian

        Well said, to blame the firefighters is simply ignoring why this tragedy really happened. By the time the fire services reached Grenfell, the fire was already out of control, caused by a combination of, lack of sprinkler systems and the construction of the tower block, paricularly the cladding which acted like a fast burning wick.
        The media reports yesterday, particularly the BBC, sickened me to the core, trying to place the blame on people who routinely put their lives on the line to save the rest of us.
        I was also sickened to listen to survivors blaming the fire service.
        We live in a morally bankrupt society.

        • George McI

          “I was also sickened to listen to survivors blaming the fire service.”

          That makes you wonder about how many interviewed blamed the powers above but were not shown. As always, the rich work to have the poor fight amongst themselves.

        • TerryE

          [ MOD: Caught in spam-filter ]

          This is not entirely true. The cladding may have ignited curtains which in turn ignited contents but the vast majority of toxic fumes in the fire, which killed, were from burning contents, particularly upholstered furniture. UK furniture is packed with flame retardants that are highly toxic when they burn. Most of the cladding smoke/fumes would have stayed outside the tower (basic physics). There are many reasons this truth is being suppressed, not least that the UK’s furniture regulations, that lead to all these flame retardants, do not work as proved by the government itself in 2014. And the cost of replacing sofas/mattresses in 27m or so homes greatly outweighs replacing cladding on a few hundred tower blocks.

        • Coldish

          Andyoldlabour: you’re right, but it was not just the cladding but even more so the thicker and equally flammable insulation layer which fuelled the flames. And as any boy or girl scout knows, to get a fire going quickly you need easy access for oxygen, which was efficiently provided by the gap between the insulation and the cladding. Sprinklers might have been effective at the source of the fire but once it had reached the exterior of the building, sprinklers were little use. A further point, which I have not seen mentioned in the mass media, was that following the Southwark tower block fire which preceded the Grenfell fire by a few years the local borough council pointed out that they (the council, who were the freeholders) had no legal authority to require right-to-buy leaseholders to install sprinklers inside leasehold flats. I’m not aware of any steps that have been taken to correct this anomaly. Can anybody enlighten me?

      • Bayard

        The fact that the council got it wrong with the cladding and were thus responsible for the fire having such a high death toll does not alter the fact that, with better tactics, the fire brigade could have ameliorated the effects of the council’s mistakes. Pointing this out is hardly “smugly blaming people who did their utmost to save lives, suffering severe trauma in many cases”. Saying that A caused B doesn’t automatically mean that A is to blame for B. Doing so is making the same error as the people behind the production of this report, whom Craig is rightly excoriating.

        • pretzelattack

          what “better tactics”? does this assume that the fire department should have known the cladding was defective? why?

    • Tom Welsh

      Such comments always put me in mind of a bus driven off a cliff by an incompetent driver.

      When one of the passengers blames the driver, pointing out that now everyone is going to die, the driver retorts, “Well, you take the wheel and see if you can do any better”.

  • Shatnersrug

    🙏 thank you for taking time to write this Craig. The people of grenfell need all the help they can, I recently helped them put on a charity show, watching little kids of 10 – 12 singing and rapping about the brothers sisters mums dads and friends they lost that day broke my heart. If Moore-Bick was a real man he’d have striven to see that blame was apportioned correctly. But no just another coward protecting psychos

    This blog is hugely influential, more I’d say than any guardian op-Ed. Let’s hope something changes in this vile environment we Find ourselves in

    • Bayard

      “If Moore-Bick was a real man he’d have striven to see that blame was apportioned correctly. ”

      Why does blame have to be apportioned? Why can’t the process to find out what went wrong so that measures can be taken to prevent it happening in the future be carried out without getting conflated with the process of finding out who is to blame so that they can be punished?

      • Tom Welsh

        Because, very often, some of the main causes are people who are incredibly selfish and callous, and who deliberately and knowingly break the law to their own advantage.

          • Tarla

            The council and the government were warned, but decided to ‘smarten the place up’ with dangerous cladding to appease those home buyers living close by.

            May’s response yesterday was pathetic.

            “May says the Lakanal House report did not say sprinklers should be obligatory”. Unbelievable.
            This is what the coroner recommended,

            “What did the Lakanal House coroner recommend?
            There has been criticism that warnings were ignored from a coroner’s report in March 2013 following a deadly 2009 fire in south London – at Lakanal House in Southwark.

            Coroner Frances Kirkham wrote to then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, flagging up several areas of concern.

            She did not say sprinklers must be installed in all high-rise blocks but recommended that the government “encourage” housing providers responsible for high rise flats “to consider the retro-fitting of sprinkler systems”.

            ‘Government encourage’ was not acted upon. Why? Simple hard cash. May can’t hide behind only saying what some of the report said. She and the Tories are cowards. ‘It wasn’t me gov’ is their stock in trade response to all things.

            And neither can Johnson hide over his role in cutting fire service inspection numbers.

            The people suffering from Grenfell should make this an election issue.

  • Cynicus

    Moore-Bick praised the “extraordinary courage and selfless devotion to duty” of rank-and-file officers and said “those in the control room and those deployed on the incident ground responded with great courage and dedication in the most harrowing of circumstances”.’
    ———
    That, Craig, is according to The Guardian. Where then, do you get the extraordinary claim :’ According to the Guardian, it concentrates blame on the firefighters in charge of tackling the blaze.”?

    My reading of the Moore-Bick leak is one of institutional failure on the part of the LRB including and very senior management level.

  • Kate

    Emergency services are never responsible for the cock-ups they are called upon to sort out. They are nevertheless, and regardless of the cause, praised for their response. In this case, also, they weren’t responsible for the cause, but their response was inadequate and they haven’t been praised. That wasn’t the fault of the firefighters but of London Fire Brigade management, because they didn’t (after the Lakanal fire in 2009) train their staff to recognise when a fire was out of control and there should be evacuation rather than ‘stay put’. Whatever the cause, on the night residents of Grenfell Tower put their trust the London Fire Brigade to help them. And many died as a result. And if you don’t like this message Craig i’m happy to back it up with data.

    • Hatuey

      Kate, I’m afraid you’re being incredibly stupid. I’m sorry that that’s the case, but there it is.

      Now, there’s a very simple process that’s considered normal when investigating the causes of something like this in terms of determining where responsibility lies.

      If I left my cooker on and it burned down my building along with my neighbour’s house, it doesn’t matter how the fire brigade deal with that, it’s my fault. I would be the cause. I would be to blame.

      Do you see where I’m going with this?

      Grenfell went up in flames because the sprinkler system failed and the cladding was a flammable cheaper option than the non-flammable cladding. That’s the cause of the fire. If you want to direct blame, direct at the people who neglected the sprinkler system and those who chose the cladding.

      I’m really not interested in how the fire service responded. I’m not biased in any way — I couldn’t care less about firemen. In actual fact, I hate the way we are supposed to hail these sort of people as heroes, etc. But all considered, you simply need to learn the very basics of causation and if you did you’d understand that the cause of Grenfell had zero to do with firemen.

      Case closed.

      • Doghouse

        Hear hear – print that on the front pages or make sure it does the rounds because that is exactly the sum of it said in a manner any fool can understand!

      • Bayard

        Hatuey, you should try reading a comment before you reply to it with an ad hom. Nowhere in her comment does Kate say that the fire was the responsibility of the LFB. In fact she twice says that it wasn’t. So she doesn’t need to “learn the very basics of causation”, because she already appears to understand that “the cause of Grenfell had zero to do with firemen”. What part of “In this case, also, they weren’t responsible for the cause,” are you struggling with?

      • Godolphin

        “Grenfell went up in flames because the sprinkler system failed”

        My understanding was that there was no sprinkler system in Grenfell Tower!

        • Coldish

          Godolphin: see my comment and question above (31 Oct, 20.48) re sprinklers. Some flats in Grenfell tower had been privatised under ‘right to buy’ and as far as I am aware the freeholder (LBKC) had no rights of access to those flats to install sprinklers or any other equipment. That was one of the results of Prime MInister Thatcher’s much-praised crusade against public housing.
          Of course LBKC could have installed sprinklers in those flats which it still owned, although it is doubtful whether that measure would have stopped the Grenfell fire. However a measure which LBCK could have taken and which would have prevented the spread of the fire was to install insulation inside those flats which it still owned. This measure would have reduced energy loss from those flats and also reduced the heating bills of the tenants concerned , at much lower capital cost than than covering the whole exterior of the building with dangerously flammable insulation and cladding

      • Iain Stewart

        That’s the cause of the fire.
        Spontaneous combustion? Eh? Or you mean, that is how the fire spread, if you are being incredibly clever. For once, you disappoint me, Hatuey. Cut it out, pal, or it’s a square go round the back of the blog 🙂

        • Hatuey

          In my defence, Iain, I didn’t even read her comment. The tone was enough.

          Everything sort of bores me these days when it comes to humanity. I feel like I’ve seen it all before.

          We are either going to wipe ourselves out, which could be entertaining, or we will evolve into some sincere and honest version of lib-dems.

          • Iain Stewart

            Classic! Thanks for that, Hatuey, you brightened up my Halloween and my faith is restored! Off you go guising now, and frighten the neighbours 🙂

    • giyane.

      Kate

      Data. The whole purpose of Tory policy since 1979 is to replace wisdom , experience , knowledge and responsibility with making a quick buck out of form-filling.

      The little man or woman on 30 grand and a van records his/her data and sends it to the office to be converted in shareholder capital. Nobody I is interested in the office in information that is not on the form. There is no channel of communication for him or her to tell someone in the office about information however serious that is not on the form. THAT’S NOT OUR PROBLEM.

      The fact is that electrical engineering is like Probation work, a profession that is impossible to do by forms/ data. Hunan communication skills will et to the bottom of the problems in the electrical installations and data will not.

      In my work a student with a heart condition got a shock from her personal hairdryer. Oh says management ‘ not our problem’.The electrical regs for domestic prpoerties don’t apply to us because we’re commercial. Personal items are at their own risk. Even though current regulations require all sockets to be on RCDs commercial cost of retrofitting RCDs is considered too expensive.
      Why did they penny pinch in the construction of the building and not install RCDs as in normal practice for as long as I have been doing the job, i.e. 2001?

      If the girl had died they would have been sued for several million pounds This the real reason why the report attacks the fire service.because Kensington council and others would have to spend billions in compensation and rectifying problems which meanness and stupidity caused by their own hands.

      The only data I want to see is how much they saved and how much is it going to cost them?
      Then get rid of these corrupt Tories for all time.

      • nevermind

        You forgot a sentence at the end, giyane, ‘ now is your chance’……:)

        To the issue the response of the fire services, after such drastic cuts of manpower and equipment, was admirable in the situation, not to be confused with hero.
        In many cases its the fire services that are first on the scene, unless they are delayed as it was in Manchester, they are faced with situations others would find hopeless and out of control, until they gain control. I have more respect for firemen and emergency ambulance crews than of any politician or civil servant.

        I thank them for what they did in the circumstances. The planning officials and decion making ‘cheap skate for the poor’ councillors are responsible for this disaster.

        Absolutely nothing to do with the LFB.

  • Dave

    The phase 1 report according to Daily Mail says the fire started due to a electrical fault in a fridge freezer (and no blame was attached to the tenant). I thought that explanation had been dropped, but its resurfaced.

    Now even if we accept these devices catch-fire why the disastrous outcome. Surely the tenant would switch it off or smother it, close the door perhaps and call the LFB. But the early reports said the tenant fled the flat and the machine exploded! Do these machines explode, but presumably that explanation was needed to explain how the fire got outside the flat.

    However if explosives were being stored in the flat that would explain the explosion and the tenant fleeing without their belongings when they saw the smoke!

    • Anthony

      No need for grassy knoll theories. It just diverts attention from the obvious guilty parties, the people who repeatedly ignored all the warnings from residents and fire-safety experts.

      • Dave

        Meeting carbon reduction targets often betrays common sense, but whilst cladding high rise buildings is at first sight an elementary mistake and we’re told the cladding used was of an inferior (cheaper) quality to what could have been used, I find it unlikely the cladding used was easily inflammable. So why did it ignite so disastrously? The LFB thought the fire had been put-out so what made it reignite?

        • Bayard

          “So why did it ignite so disastrously?”
          Because it was easily inflammable. That is the definition of the word. Despite your disbelief, the inflammability of the cladding was amply demonstrated that night.

        • Tom Welsh

          “… I find it unlikely …”

          We seem to come across that type of phrase more and more often. In particular, Mrs May found certain things “highly likely”, although she was able to cite absolutely no evidence for her belief.

          I find it highly unlikely that people who simply declare “I find it [un]likely” are worth paying attention to.

        • Johny Conspiranoid

          I remember TV news film of the fire starting at a window on one of the lower floors and repidly spreading along the joint between two pieces of cladding.

      • Tony

        The grassy knoll is not a theory, JFK’s fatal headshot came from there as many witnesses said at the time.
        See also the Zapruder footage.

  • Kempe

    Phase 1 of the report concentrated on the rescue operation on the night. It’s not in any way trying to shift blame entirely onto the LFB but identifying shortcomings and failings within the brigade which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. As of June there were still 221 mainly residential buildings with similar cladding in the UK, any one of which could experience a serious fire without warning.

    As the report says lessons weren’t learned from the failure of the “stay put” policy in the Lakanal House fire of 2009.

    I’m not doubting the courage and professionalism of the frontline fire-fighters but there were some serious failings at managerial level which hopefully this report will help to address.

    • Andyoldlabour

      Kempe, the main reasons why this tragedy happened, are not the fire service, but the construction of the building, highly flammable cladding, no sprinkler system and the fact that the fire engines had ladders which were 30 metres shorter than the top floors of the building.
      Please do not blame the fire service who save many lives in the course of their work.

      • Anthony

        “highly flammable cladding, no sprinkler system”

        Two years on we have a government that thinks the answer is to set fire to more safety regulations.

      • Kempe

        You’re missing the point as well. This part of the enquiry didn’t look at how the fire started and spread but the way the LFB responded to it. Yes they saved many lives but they could’ve saved many more had they had the proper policies and training in place.

        • Bayard

          You are slightly missing the point, too. What you say about the enquiry is true, but, as Craig points out, it is not the nature of the enquiry or the report it has generated that is at fault, but the use these things have been put to.

          • Bayard

            If the causes of the fire had been different, but the fire had burnt in exactly the same way and the LFB had performed in exactly the same way, it would not affect the nature or the conclusions of this report, so the fact that the building was “a dangerous fire trap built on the cheap” is irrelevant. It would still be largely the same report if it had been a report on a fire where no-one lost their lives, all other things being equal.

    • Doghouse

      ” identifying shortcomings and failings within the brigade which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

      Some people have made an absolute fortune out of cladding these tower blocks with incendiary material and because of their callous self serving greedy ineptitude a great deal of time and money must be spent to retrain the entire national fire service, training that will likely make little difference should the horrifying situation repeat itself.

      “As of June there were still 221 mainly residential buildings with similar cladding in the UK, any one of which could experience a serious fire without warning.”

      Without warning!?!?!?!? Hello, Grenfell Tower . That’s plenty warning enough yet they haven’t removed the problem because its much cheaper and someone else’s responsibility to train the FB. Insane. Train and blame, and if it did repeat the would still not ask the question why the cladding was still in place after GT, then look for another scapegoat.

      • Tom Welsh

        “Without warning”…

        Imagine, if you will, the dangerous cladding suddenly starting to flash orange and purple, and crying loudly, “I will catch fire in five minutes. I will catch fire in five minutes. Four minutes and fifty seconds. Four minutes and forty seconds…”

      • Tom Welsh

        “…they haven’t removed the problem because its much cheaper and someone else’s responsibility to train the FB”.

        This is the phenomenon known as “externalization” – in plain English, shoving the costs and responsibility for a dangerous situation of onto someone else. Or maybe no one at all.

        “The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine”.

        – Robert Monks (2003) in the film “The Corporation”

        • giyane.

          Tom Welsh

          Was externalising a male phenomenon to evade difficult feelings? Created by generating fear of reprisals in children when they lost their temper?

          I must say that Jeremy Corbyn is remarkable in the way he keeps his cool in the midst of a torrent of Tory externalisation, i.e. blaming others.

          Just on character alone he should definitely be the next PM .

  • M.J.

    This will be useful campaigning material for the coming general election. May the voters be inspired by the thought of exacting retribution for 10 years of austerity, and Boris & Co.fall on their faces on election day!

    • Mr Shigemitsu

      May that retribution also be targeted at those spineless Labour MPs, who, under the acting leadership of Harriet Harman, abstained from Osborne’s Austerity Bill, failing to take a stand against the continuing and devastating Tory attack on the poor, sick, and disabled, in abject treachery of everything that their party was supposed to represent.

      A few courageous MPs defied Harman’s whip; you can probably guess who they were. They alone deserve a vote on Dec 12th.

  • Hatuey

    Everything’s connected. The people who refuse to connect things are the same people that are the root of Britain’s biggest and scariest problems. Despite being a small minority, their influence on society is telling.

    It’s really a cultural problem. Money and success seems makes people cold and inconsiderate. You become detached from reality when you have money. Reality is struggle and it keeps you human.

    It’s sad that it took a burning tower full of people to throw light on things, but that’s what Grenfell did.

    Britain needs a revolution.

  • nevermind

    This and the surrounding circumstances you so well describe here, are issues we should discuss during this elections, because it shows the chasm between the haves and have nots in west London, as well as the clearly different approach of the council when dealing with its clients, an issue that rankles with me, as they are clearly looking after those monied classes first.

    It is to be seen whether the media will make it an issue during the campaign, but first indications are that ts going to be a Johnson cult appreciation of unlawfulness campaign.
    Nice try by some to actually democratise EU residents here, but the idea is just too far fetched for a society, genetically adapted and raised to support a fraudulent FPTP system, same as it ever was.

    The Italian illness of frequently hung elections seems to have afflicted the UK spineless.

    • OnlyHalfAaLooney

      The Italian illness of frequently hung elections seems to have afflicted the UK spineless.

      In many, EU electoral systems it is extremely rare for a single party to gain an overall majority. I do not think this an illness at all. It forces parties to adopt a consensus-based approach to government.

      Germany is very politically stable and has been governed by successive coalitions since the first Bundestag in 1949.

      In the Netherlands, even the largest parties only manage to get at most 50 seats out 150.

      Despite various shenanigans and regional divides, Italy is actually remarkably politically stable.

      • nevermind

        which was exactly mu point, but I had to have a jab at the messages which were so popular here ion the UK media.
        I know coalitions work and ‘help’ politicians work together, create larger majorities by accommodating/accepting each others policies. etc.
        I for one are happy to say thank you to the allies for bringing PR to Germany.

      • Mr Shigemitsu

        “ Germany is very politically stable…”

        The latest election in Thuringia has seen the centre disappear, with Die Linke, thankfully, in first place, but closely followed by the far right AfD, who gained hugely from the CDU.

        How long that “stability” lasts is anyone’s guess!

  • Doghouse

    The question is why after GT and so much time are there still hundreds of fully occupied towers clad in solid petrol?

    A minster wishing to remain off the record stated the public company they have cobbled together to carry out the work was waiting for the slave labour that was press ganged and abducted into building the 2022 FIFA World Cup facilities to become available in order to maximise shareholder profit. When asked who was responsible for this company, he stated ultimately, it was the same people that made vast profit by sticking the stuff on in the first place. When pointed out that these are the very people that should be being investigated he stated this really wasn’t practical as such investigation would impede their ability to make further vast tax payer profit by removing the danger as cheaply, but not as swiftly, as possible and that such action was totally in accordance with government policy regardless of party or even country or continent for that matter.

    • N_

      A minister admitted all of that? Where?

      Where are the slaves from who are doing the work in Qatar? Bangladesh? Surely not eastern Europe.

      Slave labour may become an issue in the election campaign, albeit not a main one. Then again, a sizeable proportion of the population hear about the Tilbury case and they think “It serves them right for trying to come here”. Then they happily get their nails done by slaves in the nail bar and their car washed by slaves in the Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s car park. If they’re a middle class liberal they might use a word such as “trafficking” – a stupid word which doesn’t differentiate between things and people or focus on the realities of slave labour and debt bondage. In conditions where so many companies have to have policies “against modern slavery” (dig the word “modern”, as if we were talking about an art movement) the general attitude towards slavery in Britain is one of doing the Nelson touch – as with so much else here. There’s no “glasnost” here.

      The good news is that Labour are polling about the same as they did when the 2017 election was called, and the Tories are only half as far ahead as they were then. From the right it’s going to be immigration, immigration, immigration. Jeremy looks as though he’s going to play it on poverty. That amounts to GOTV, because in this Torified culture called Britain most don’t give a toss about those who are worse off than themselves.

  • TerryE

    [ MOD: Caught in spam-filter, timestamp updated ]

    Johnson claims this report means the world is “finally learning the truth about what happened”. It’s anything but. Johnson should be asked about why he chose to mention the UK’s Furniture Flammability Regulations and flame retardant chemicals in his opening leaderships speech. Much of the truth about how people died in the Grenfell fire is being actively suppressed by government and industry. You have to look between the lines and in lots of what appear to be unconnected areas. Just one example of the complexity behind “the truth”:

    The official toxicologist to the Grenfell Inquiry is Prof. David Purser. He’s currently writing the report on the toxicology of the fire. However, what he didn’t report to the Inquiry is his long history of working for massive flame retardant producers. Upholstered furniture in the Tower was stuffed with flame retardant chemicals that are highly toxic when they burn – as Purser’s university, UCLAN, has proved. Flame retardant companies make around £300m a year from UK furniture. Purser has done his best to keep attention focussed on cladding but if you listen carefully to his witness statements to the Inquiry, he admits that 95% of toxic gases in the fire would have come from contents like furniture, not cladding.

    Purser also knows that the UK government proved 5 years ago that the Furniture Regulations are not fit for purpose but have failed to put them right due to industry pressure. Therefore, Grenfell Tower was filled with massive products that were not fire-resistant when they were supposed to be and full of flame retardants doing nothing for fire safety (but making huge profits for industry) and are highly toxic when they burn.

    More on this can be found today in the Environmental Audit Committee’s press release: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/news-parliament-2017/toxic-chemicals-goverment-response-published-19-20/ I contributed a lot to the EAC’s Inquiry, which concluded that the government needs to remove flame retardants from products and also attacks the government for failing to biomonitor survivors.

    Industry has ensured that attention remains on cladding, even though fumes from it were not as toxic as from internal contents and mainly stayed outside the tower anyway. They even wheeled out a surgeon stooge on the day of the fire to take attention off furniture (Dr Malcolm Tunnicliffe). The government also appointed Sir Ken Knight to Chair the Grenfell Independent Experts Panel even though he played a major role in blocking changes to the Furniture Regulations, and is someone with close links to the flame retardant industry.

    I’m currently advisor to the FBU’s new Contaminants Group. This is causing huge waves in the FBU because while it’s true that your on-the-front-line firefighter is brave and will do anything to help victims of a fire, management of the FBU and the fire services is not always so straightforward. For example, Matt Wrack sacked his main fire safety advisor last year for, to quote, “colluding with the flame retardant industry”. This is the same guy who advised the press several times following Grenfell that the Stay Put policy was effective and necessary.

    Management in the fire services has till now kept the full truth about the toxicity of fires, and the resultant increased cancers, from firefighters. This looks to change now the Contaminants Group is active. And it’s linked to Grenfell since, as said, the actual truth of the toxicity of the fire is being suppressed.

    Johnson? Well, he made that statement just before the EAC published its final report. I’d testified to the EAC, naming names of those who are misleading the country because they’re in bed with the flame retardant industry. He would have been told that a succession of Tory Ministers – e.g. Soubry, Jarvid, Hancock, Letwin, Brokenshire – played an active part in blocking changes to the Furniture Regulations and he didn’t know whether the EAC would mention this; therefore, needed to be able to say that he’d covered it in his speech. Even though – surprise, surprise – everything he said about flame retardants/furniture was wrong.

      • nevermind

        Very much agree, thank you Terry, so we do have to thank certain Tories for not adopting a more stringent regulatory framework, by voting against it, very timely information.

        • TerryE

          To nevermind: as George Monibot noted – on the day of the Grenfell fire, Oliver Letwin, Mathew Hancock and Michael Gove met to discuss how to further relax building regulations. They appear to have changed their minds, although probably only temporarily. Letwin and Hancock put huge pressure on Jo Swinson when she was the BEIS minister responsible for the furniture flammability regulations, leading to her deciding to delay important safety changes. Letwin played me too: had meetings with him and a 35 mins phone call at one point, all on the basis that he was apparently concerned with reducing toxic chemicals in furniture. Double-crossed me when it counted and showed that he was actually supporting industry interests, fishing for info from me. Swinson did not come out of that well, either. She was conflicted: she had industry, senior civil servants telling her to protect industry on the one hand, me and our truly independent expert telling her that safety was more important on the other. What was she promised, I wonder, for eventually siding with the profiteers?

          Labour is not blameless either, since Blair’s governments were keen de-regulators, too, even at the expense of safety. Interestingly, Blair was a strong lobbyist for the Furniture Regulations and made an interesting comment at one point: “that we must have chemically-treated sofas asap” even though the Regulations don’t stipulate that you must use chemicals. Then again, Blair is besties with the CEO of Burson Marsteller – the massive PR firm that represents the world’s big 3 flame retardant producers. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

      • TerryE

        To IMcK: there are alternatives to flame retardants but they tend to be expensive, because the UK flammability laws are tough, e.g. natural materials such as wool and cotton tend to be fire-resistant without treatment. Our laws came in in 1988 when much furniture was made with natural materials, other than the new-ish polyester foam fillings which were highly flammable – the lever used to get the Regulations passed. Man-made materials have increased along with cheaper mass-produced furniture which means even more flame retardants are required. The solution is complex, mainly because the government – Dept. for Business – proved 5 years ago that the regulations don’t work and probably never have. Untreated furniture is actually less dangerous than treated furniture, even if our laws worked – because as soon as a sofa catches fire, the flame retardants in it release large volumes of toxic fumes such as hydrogen cyanide (same gas as used in the Nazi concentration camps) which will incapacitate you very quickly.

        On my recommendatiion and colleagues here and in the USA, the EAC committee recommended that the UK government change its fire safety laws to what the EU and USA use: this is a cigarette test only. It is the most important test because it caters for someone dropping a cigarette on their sofa, going to bed, then an hour later or so the sofa catches fire and they’re trapped. The flame retardant industry – and David Purser – tried to bring a lawsuit against California (de facto the USA) when it dropped its match test that pretty much requires flame retardants, just like ours.

        In short, even if our regulations worked, they are saving around 40 lives a year; but the price is around 200 million kgs of flame retardants in our homes. The EAC was appalled to discover that one class of FRs, organophosphates, were banned from sheep dip and weed-killer for being so toxic, but are used in children’s mattresses (from which they leach out easily).

        The government has just responded to the EAC’s report and in effect is saying it’s not going to remove children’s products from the regulations and it’s plans for the regulations themselves means we’re going to be stuck with them for many years to come.

        There’s more on all this at my website, if you’re interested: http://www.toxicsofa.com.

        • IMcK

          At TerryE, November 5, 2019 at 19:19
          Thanks for the info. Incredible that big business can have such powers even at the expense of the best interests of the public on such a ‘toxic’ issue as this, and the authorities kowtow or possbly collude for mutual benefit.

          • TerryE

            To IMcK: It is incredible but unfortunately common. Check out the Du Pont scandal in the USA – where the company for decades knowingly poisoned thousands with the run-off from PFOA (close relation to brominated flame retardants) that’s used in Teflon. And that chemical is in the blood of 99% Americans, and probably most of the rest of the world too. Ditto 3M with chemicals used in Scotchgard – investigative reporters found that 3M had “bought the science”, i.e. bought both sides of the argument against their chemical, using bought experts to steer the consensus their way. The respected “independent” expert who testified in favour of 3M’s replacement chemicals, who said he lived on a professor’s salary, was found to have $20m in his bank account. Here, it’s the same, just not yet discovered so much.

            The EAC questioned a representative from Lanxess (one of the 3 big world-wide flame retardant producers). The chair put it to him that in the USA his company had bribed officials, set up fake safety organisations (to promote their products), spent many millions trying to get the law changed in their favour, etc; were they doing the same here, she asked? He didn’t deny what she’d said about the USA, just claimed that he had no knowledge of anything like that going on in the UK. Of course not.

            Big Chem is clever. It quietly sets up and/or funds fire safety organisations and through them buys experts. It also infiltrates standards-making groups, and government working groups, partly simply because it can afford to send people (many governments and enforcement authorities can’t). So when Grenfell happened, even if the government/Inquiry was truly independent (which I don’t believe), they would have been instantly inundated by respected (but bought) experts who they would not suspect necessarily of being bent, meaning the whole show was skewed from day one.

    • A_B_C

      Good points, Terry.
      Someone here else commented about the toxicity of the PVC windows as well.
      But the furniture wouldn’t have caught fire if the fire hadn’t spread up the outside of the tower and back in through the melted windows.

          • Chris

            Iain, this is a useless discussion but I am too much of a pedant to drop it.
            Your 31/10 comment is bollocks. PVC is a thermoplastic. Like all thermoplastics it has a glass transition temperature, above which it softens and melts. For “rigid” PVC as used in windows softening typically takes place above 60 degrees C, and fluid flow above 100 degrees C.

          • Iain Stewart

            Chris, you had better explain that (as pedantically as you like) to the unscrupulous makers of E30 and EI30 rated PVC windows. These scoundrels claim to have test certificates for 30 minutes flame or fire resistance, when now it seems they wouldn’t even stand up to boiling water 🙂

          • Chris

            Iain – here’s a video of uPVC door exposed to fire. It melts and collapses in 12 minutes. Fire-rated designs rely on (usually metal) components to retain structural integrity as the PVC softens and melts.
            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8VZx8weWytI
            PVC is a thermoplastic. They all soften and melt above their glass transition temperature. That is why they can be extruded and moulded.

      • TerryE

        These are very debatable points. David Purser’s testimony to the Inquiry is rather contradictory on these matters. He says, of course, that the cladding fire spread rapidly up and around the building, which it did. He also goes on about the toxicity of the PVC windows but the volume here is not great; nothing compared with sofas/mattresses, etc. He says 95% of toxic fumes from cladding would have stayed outside the building, but surely some of the PVC fumes would have also, on the same basis of relative air pressure. How much did the cladding ignite furniture and how much was it ignited by flames from within the building has not been determined. But in some ways, it’s a moot point. But we’re talking about the ignition source and not even enough about the main fuel source, which is what killed people mainly. As Purser says in his testimony: “During fires involving primarily upholstered furniture, such as the BRE house test fires, hydrogen cyanide was considered to be the major cause of rapid incapacitation for exposed subjects”. Which raises the question of why the Inquiry has so far completely ignored the role of furniture in the fire.

        A point in all this is that while it’s understandable people living in tower blocks with flammable cladding are very worried, many people living in tower blocks without cladding but with poor fire-stopping and flammable toxic furniture should perhaps be just as worried. As one of Purser’s UCLAN colleagues commented to me just after the fire, “There’s certain to be another Grenfell in a tower without cladding.”

        • IMcK

          At Terry E, Thanks for your reply above – staggering.
          An aside to the toxicity issue but I am surprised that the matter of fire/smoke isolation and ventilation of the stairwell does not seem to have been addressed. Maybe this is made difficult with a common liftshaft and it is not a requirement? Just wondered if you had a view on it.

          • TerryE

            IMcK: I’m not sure about that one; will ask my FBU friends who were at Grenfell. I know that two stairways have been the minimum requirement in tower blocks in Canada for a very long time but still just one in the UK. Not sure how you’d isolate a stairwell. Stay Put is supposed to work if the fire is contained in one compartment, i.e. it won’t get into the stairwell. But the BBC showed a bit of film the other night of a family on the 21st floor, fairly early on. You can see that their flat is completely free of smoke and flames. But smoke is coming in from outside the front door; and when they open it all they can see is thick black smoke. This contradicts Purser when he said that the smoke in the lobbies etc would have come from the cladding (albeit only 5%), i.e. how could cladding smoke get into the middle of the building but not into that apartment?

          • IMcK

            At Terry E. Thanks for your response re the stairwell.
            My experience of industrial buildings (nuclear power stations), the stair wells are protected by fire doors on each floor (ie to access the stairwell from the rest of the floor). Applying this to the tower would provide a barrier between the stairwell and the lobbies. If the stairwell was adequately ventilated (naturally vent maybe) and the fire doors in place it would help keep the stairwell viable and reduce the chances of fire/smoke spreading through the appartments into the lobbies. I have not heard the arrangements or their status at the time of the fire at Grenfell referred to in any of the media.

      • TerryE

        Yes, thanks very much to Craig. The press blockage on this story has been incredible. Examples just today: papers and LBC blocking my comments on Rees-Mogg’s comments on Grenfell. A whole succession of Guardian reporters have expressed tremendous excitement then suddenly gone quiet, nothing published. Even Private Eye did an article, on the back of the EAC’s report, quoting me and others but when I wrote to her afterwards with more info, she didn’t even reply. The BBC had me on Newsnight in late 2017 and did a good job, albeit it was a lot of information in a condensed space. But after that, did nothing, presumably because they’re lawyers were too worried about pissing off Mr Big and/or getting sued by the flame retardant industry.

    • J

      Different field I know, but… Do you know happen to know anything about the power surges, allegedly setting fire to or causing damaging to electrical equipment in the tower in 2013?* Could a similar surge have caused the fire in the refrigerator?

      Worth noting that another KCTMO managed tower of the same design burned four years ago today. Cause described as arson: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11967592/50-rescued-from-burning-flats-in-Kensington.html

      * “On 11th May 2013 at 9:05pm we had numerous power surges in the space of a minute, and in that process my computer and monitor literally exploded with smoke seeping out from the back and the smell of burnt electronics filled our entire computer. My monitor also fused at the same time.”

      From

      https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/grenfell-tower-from-bad-to-worse/

      • TerryE

        Friends at Grenfell have told me about the power surges. I think there’s a good chance one could have caused the fridge-freezer to catch fire. The Dept. for Business is responsible for product safety legislation (which in itself says much, of course). It was tasked with investigating the fridge-freezer at Grenfell. Bear in mind BEIS is also responsible for furniture flammability and was well aware it had failed to put those regulations right, i.e. Grenfell sofas/mattresses were flammable (and toxic) when they weren’t supposed to be. BEIS put out a brief press release claiming that they’d had “experts” study the fridge-freezer and found it and its type to be no/low risk. Some of us were suspicious and the APPG Fire Safety and Rescue wrote to BEIS asking who the experts were and wanting to see their work, reminding them that this so-called safe product had led to 72 deaths. BEIS did not reply. So I put in a FOI request asking the same questions. They wrote back to say it’s all at this website address – which had not been mentioned in the press release.

        At that address it’s clear that all the “experts” were internal to BEIS or working to them already in some capacity. There was also a 60 page test report from Intertek, a test house that just happens to get loads of testing work from Whirlpool who owned the fridge freezer. A friend of mine who’s a testing expert went through the report and while most of it shows the product is low risk, there is a key area where it actually fails: to do with not protecting against stray voltage. In other words, the product was not safe. And common sense suggests that a power surge would exacerbate this situation.

        In fact, one of the testifiers to the Inquiry said pretty much exactly that. But of course he’s been ignored. Imagine if the public found out that the same government department was responsible for allowing faulty products to be in place in the Tower – both the kind that started the fire and the kind that mostly produced the toxic fumes that killed people.

    • giyane.

      TerryE

      The main cause of the Grenfell inferno was Tory malice and dogma against the sponges of the poor. Tories believe that it is government’s job to force the poor to better themselves through work. Institutional neglect permeated London from local and central government and Booris Johnson the Mayor.

      The irony of an Xmas election will not be wasted on the electorate. Are there no prisons? Are there no work houses? Ebenezer Johnson slashed the budget of the LFB to pay for the errors of Thatcherism. This is class war and we are going to get justice at last. Inshallah.

  • Brian c

    “The second report, when it eventually arrives, will have far less media coverage. The abiding message in the eyes of the duped public will be that the fault lay with the fire brigade.”

    As clear sighted a summary as I have seen and 100% agree. A straightforward establishment whitewash, as was predicted as soon as moore-bick was appointed. Deflects all attention from Tory deregulation and offers up working-class firefighters as the whipping boys. Unbelievably audacious yet barely a squeak from our fearless ‘speak truth to power’ commentariat.

    • michael norton

      Lessons will be learned.
      Do not clad or insulate or false ceiling or window
      tower blocks with stuff made from Hydrocarbons.

      • Iain Stewart

        It was the aluminium skin which went into combustion. It’s a highly reactive metal in the right (or wrong) circumstances, with enough heat and oxygen.

        • giyane.

          Iain

          I’m allergic to lies. A point blank lie will block my thinking for days and yet people nowadays throw around lies like confetti

          The Tories in all their malign manifestations are like a fireworks display of multiple deceit. One of them pops up daily on radio 4 with Estuary English popping with lies and melting my brain.

          I don’t care about molten pvc. I care about the utter destruction of society by me first, don’t give a Damn , alt right liars.
          It seems the cladding, those who are supposed to protect us, is more dangerous than anything.

          • michael norton

            The plastic window surrounds melted allowing glass to hit the ground accompanied by molten plastic.

          • Iain Stewart

            Giyane, with your impenetrable contemporary poetical compositions, and Michael’s tongue in cheek daft laddie jokes, this blog is well worth every single bolívar soberano of my subscription 🙂
            Keep it up guys!

  • djm

    “Years of deregulation, mistreatment of social housing tenants and cuts to fire safety caused this crime”.

    According to the race baiting genius Lammy D

    No mention of people vandalising their sprinkler systems, leaving rubbish in stairwells and stripping water pipes for the copper ?

    No mention of the removal of installed Fire Doors by tenants (& those illegal sub-letters) ?

    No mention of the original source of the fire ?

    & why it’s so hard to trace the person(s) responsible ?

  • Willie

    Corbyn wears a green tie in commemoration of the 75 who were burned to death in Grenfell …….and the Tories jeer.

    Human beings burnt to a charred carcass, to an unrecognisable piece of debris, and these bastards jeer. What does decent humanity do with animals like this. In South Africa they used to put a tyre and petrol round the necks of those deemed deserving. Is that the chaotic society that we want.

    What a horrible inhumane thing for any human being to burn to death another human being – but maybe like the Tories, this is something you jeer at.

    It’s not difficult therefore to see how folks would truly want to wipe this Tory shite of the face of the earth. Horrible filthy bastards. Their time will come – there can be no place for animals like these. Decent society disregards this filth at their peril.

    But that is the hatred that is being stoked up. It’s is not going away. England will never be healed. The Tories have seen to that sadly. Burned at the stake whilst the people jeer – yes back to the future with the Conservatives.

  • Chris Barclay

    I wouldn’t describe Dany Cotton and her £2m pension pot as one of the ‘little people’. The report criticises the failure to prepare a plan for a fire in the tower and it appears that the tragedy at Lakamal House was not analysed as seriously as it should have been. Well-remunerated people were negligent and failed to do their job. The incompetence of people in senior posiitons in the public sector is as important an issue as that of building regulations. The two issues are connected. We will not get good regulations – for buildings or anything – unless the people in positions of power in the public sector are competent. It would be interesting to know why Cotton was appointed to her position.

    The survivors and the relatives of victims should also be listened to. Many are highly critical of the fire service.

    • Hatuey

      Try as you might, your snide and deflections won’t get past us.

      The size of her pension is irrelevant tabloid crap.

      The failure to put out a fire in a high-rise building that had been transformed into a firework is something we can forgive since they didn’t know the cladding was flammable.

      Your insinuation that Cotton didn’t deserve to be appointed to her position is just good old fashioned sexist bile.

      Here is the cause: “A costed proposal to fit Grenfell Tower with panels that did not burn was dropped amid pressure from the Conservative council to slash the cost of the refurbishment, the Guardian has been told.

      “But a few months later the council decided… [to] put the contract out to tender to save £1.3m.

      “There was sustained pressure from the council to cut costs on the project despite the authority being in “robust” financial health, according to accounts for 2014. It had £235m in usable reserves and had underspent its budget for services by £23m.“

      It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they knew the cheaper cladding came with additional risks. And it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that there was some sort of corruption involved in awarding the contract for the cheaper cladding.

      It’s the stuff of good old fashioned Rule Britannia. We screw everything up but when it comes to whitewashing nobody does it better.

  • Doren

    The Stay In Your Flat message apparently made sense the way the building was originally designed. Concrete floors, concrete walls between units. The fire should stay contained to one unit, and its better to avoid mass panic and having the firefighters having to fight there way through jammed halls.

    However, the ‘redecoration’ of the building threw this out the window. They put flammable cladding on the outside of the building, giving a fire the easy route to spread on the outside of the whole building, putting every unit at risk from a single kitchen fire. The root cause of the blame is the installation of the cladding. And there should be one more charge added to the charge sheet of those responsible for that in that they also should have loudly told everyone that the basic What To Do In Case of Fire in that Building had to be radically revised to “Run for your lives at the first sniff of smoke.”

    • Hatuey

      You should always get moving when the authorities tell you to sit tight. I bet I could come up with a dozen examples where people died in situations like that.

      Britain isn’t a country, it’s a long sequence of idiotic mistakes.

      • Grouser

        In the Piper Alpha disaster many men went to their muster point and followed the directive to remain there. Many of them died there while others who did not or could not stay put survived. Piper Alpha is another case of corporate pressure to set aside safety procedures in the pursuit of profit.

    • Iain Stewart

      Well, I was taught fire engineering at Edinburgh University by Dr Eric Marchant some years ago. (Anyone who never heard of him may possibly not know a great deal about the subject but they could always pick up some remarkable alternative theories on this highly complex subject from some of this blog’s imaginative commenters, who also have very original views on basic materials science.)

      • Iain Stewart

        And while I’m name-dropping, to respond to some of the radical concepts of causality to be seen on these pages, the suggestion that causation is to be defined in terms of a counterfactual relation was made by David Hume, who said that we may define the relation of cause and effect such that “where, if the first Object had not been, the second never had existed.”

  • Dave

    The fire wasn’t due to austerity as the building had over £8m spent on it and K&C was awash with cash due to the government biased funding formulas that favoured inner-London, but there was the deregulation of ‘arms length responsibility/accountability’ as successive government’s forced councils to turn council housing into social housing no longer controlled by local councils, but by housing associations/ALMOs. Its the management of social housing and policy (that followed Right to buy) that is a villain here.

    Now corruption could be the reason a cheaper cladding was chosen, because why clad in the first place. In other words if there was a need to save money why not just abandon cladding, unless they were following a directive to clad as part of carbon reduction targets. And here we have the madness of targets trumping common sense, as we see in other areas of the climate scam. I know its suggested that cladding was to smarten the building for the neighbours, but that seems like a cover story to justify the expense, as there are far better and cheaper/safer ways to smarten up a tower block.

    But back to the fire, how did it start, as fridges don’t explode into fireballs and so how did it get outside the building and although clearly flammable it would be insane to put up cladding that is easily flammable, otherwise all the towers would be on fire! What caused it to reignite after the LFB thought they had extinguished the fire?

    The Daily Mail reports that the Phase 1 report says the tenant who fled the flat where the fire/explosion took place is exonerated, except why would you flee a flat unless you were aware the alleged smoke was something other than a problem with the fridge. The report also says there are many claims against the owners of Whirpool, but early on I read there was no recall of the product following the fire.

    • Spencer Eagle

      Dave, you are right to question the fridge narrative for the fire. The professor in charge of investigating the initial cause of the fire has only been willing to claim the fridge was the ‘probable cause’, not the certain cause. The blame cast on cladding and the fire brigade are to divert away from the real cause and subsequent runaway nature of the fire .
      The subletting of council property is rife in London, no less so in Grenfell tower. It is a common practice for a two bed flat to be shared by three families, each bedroom is used as a self contained dwelling, where living, sleeping and most importantly cooking are carried out. In the years running up to Grenfell LFB issued numerous press and information releases urging occupants of sub let dwellings not to use ad hoc and illegal cooking appliances. These are recorded as ranging from paraffin camping stoves to throw away charcoal barbeques, all having previously started house and tower block fires in London. To make matters worse sublet flats are invariably home to several more foam mattresses than would normally be found in such a space. When the fire started at approximately 1am on the evening of 14 June 2017, many of the residents had been hurriedly cooking late evening meals prior to the re-commencement of ramadan fasting at approximately 2.30am. If anyone believes a fridge started that fire I can introduce you to a man with a bridge for sale. As for the cladding, it performed just as it has safely done so in numerous other fires, only at Grenfell it was overwhelmed by the quantity and nature of flammable material stored in the building. Needless to say the inquiry mentions none of this.

  • Tarla

    The people of Grenfell and the wider world should never forget the Hillsborough cover up by the establishment, still not fully resolved since 1989, as it may take them all those long, long years to get justice.

    The deregulation of fire started by Heath, carried on by Thatcher and upped by Tony Blair.

    https://www.fbu.org.uk/blog/deregulation-and-grenfell-tower-fire

    “Deregulation
    After the Second World War, there were increasing efforts to improve fire safety for homes and businesses in the UK. The 1947 Fire Services Act created a national framework for fire protection and the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council (CFBAC), which oversaw fire research, equipment, training, fire protection and prevention and all other aspects of fire safety policy. Successive improvements were made to legislation, culminating in the 1971 Fire Precautions Act and the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.

    Thatcher’s election in 1979 heralded a lurch towards deregulation, privatisation and attacks on the fire and rescue service. The Home Office’s Review of Fire Policy (1980) signalled the change of direction towards cuts, even if this meant more deaths, injuries and property damage. This was politely dressed up in Whitehall doublespeak:

    “There may be over provision which may enable judicious reductions to be made which would not result in an unacceptable increase in property loss or casualties.”

    Tory ministers discussed tearing up the Fire Precautions Act and attacked national standards of fire cover. They part-privatised building control in local authorities, the system where building plans are assessed for compliance with building regulations, including those dealing with fire safety. This change allowed for private, uncertified ‘approved inspectors’ and it started a race to the bottom of cheap, superficial rubber-stamped sign off of building works. Even the recently published Hackitt review acknowledges some failings with this system.

    Blair’s Labour governments after 1997 also continued with this deregulation trend. In 2003 they scrapped national standards of fire cover and the CFBAC. This is particularly relevant, since the CFBAC had overseen decades of improvement in fire safety measures, equipment and in operational planning.

    The Fire Safety Order 2005 scrapped fire certificates and watered down enforcement under the rubric of “better regulation”. This change was seized upon by those who wanted to make cuts. Specialist fire safety departments within fire and rescue services have seen some of the worst levels of cuts in the entire service. It’s all very well, after the event, to raise concerns about the inspection and enforcement role of the fire service, but the skills and trained personnel simply do not exist in sufficient numbers for the scale of the challenge. This process has let landlords and business executives do as they please. It created the context for Grenfell”.

    Further information of the role of central government.

    https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2019/09/23/government-deregulation-responsible-grenfell-new-report-says

    “In a meticulous history of fire safety deregulation, the pamphlet covers:

    The Blair government’s 2004 scrapping of the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council, which governed fire safety from 1947 and delivered many of the major improvements in fire protection, and the abolition of national standards for fire and rescue services
    Edward Heath’s government removed a requirement for blocks of flats to have mandatory fire certification from the final Fire Precautions Bill 1970, due to the “very considerable expenditure” involved. In 1994, a review from the Major government again did not include high-rise residential buildings in its list of higher life-risk premises
    The Heath government ignored a recommendation that only those with “operational firefighting experience” be responsible for enforcing fire safety, paving the way for privatisation of the fire safety regime
    The Thatcher government cut building regulations from more than 300 pages to just 25, ceasing a formal requirement to ensure buildings were “deemed to satisfy” fire safety regulation
    A review from the Thatcher government called for an overhaul of fire policy due to the “significant financial burden” of the legislation. The review recognised that removing control would “lead to recurrence, albeit infrequently, of multiple fatality fires”. Nonetheless it advocated reductions in fire cover “which would not result in an unacceptable increase in loss of property or casualties”
    The Major government privatised the Building Research Establishment, opening a conflict of interest between its role providing advice to ministers and its commercial role in testing materials for construction firms
    Cameron’s “one in, two out” policy on new regulations slashed regulations further, with Eric Pickles, then communities secretary, repealing various local building acts’ fire safety measures
    The coalition government cut fire budgets by around 28% in real terms
    Ignored warning from previous fires that raised risks seen at Grenfell, including the Harrow Court fire in 2005, the Lakanal House fire in 2009, and the Shirley Towers Fire in 2010”

    It’s a class issue and the working class has been shafted continuous by the dictatorship of capital, as espoused by the central and local government. The only answer is to get rid of capitals dictatorship and replace it by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

  • Squeeth

    Obviously the Fire Brigade is being scapegoated. The sequel to the fire has been identical to the sabotage of the exit vote. The status quo must be protected and the victims defrauded.

  • Tarla

    The Tories are up to their necks in encouraging deregulation of fire regulations and furniture fire safety. Always follow the money.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/22/government-backed-red-tape-group-eu-fire-safety-rules-grenfell-fire

    A government-supported initiative to cut red tape considered a push to dismantle EU regulations on the fire safety of cladding and other construction materials in the weeks before the Grenfell Tower fire.

    A document obtained by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and seen by the Guardian, singled out EU regulation which covers the safety and efficacy of construction materials as among the first to target for dismantling. Among the products covered in the EU regulation is cladding.

    The document was produced on 10 May for the Red Tape Initiative, a body supported by the government, to “seize the opportunities” of Brexit to cut red tape. Entitled The EU’s Impact on the UK Housing and Construction Industry, it picks out the Construction Products Regulation (EU 305/2011) as “red tape folly” which is “expensive and burdensome for small businesses”.

    The regulation aims to harmonise the quality of construction materials, including external cladding, across the EU, to make sure they are safe and fit for use.

    It states: “The construction works must be designed and built in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire the generation and spread of fire and smoke within the construction works are limited.”
    “The Red Tape Initiative was launched in April by the former minister Oliver Letwin with Michael Gove on the advisory board to “grasp the opportunities that Brexit will give us to cut red tape in sensible ways”.

    • Brian c

      Indeed Tarla And a media that had the public interest at heart would have ensured this big picture dominated its coverage of the Grenfell disaster.

      A decades-long “bonfire of regulations” broadcast in horrifying fashion to the entire world;. Immediately followed by the macarbe spectacle of the same lunatics demanding that Brussels set them even freer from “red tape” and “elf and safety gorn maad” ..

      Instead Britain has a “public service” media that uncritically amplifies a ludicrous proposition that Johnson, Rees Mogg, Farage et al are actually tireless servants of “the people”..

    • Mighty Drunken

      Red Tape: Hard won regulations worked out from decades of experience designed to safeguard the public.

      Always of course portrayed as a bad thing by most of the press.

    • TerryE

      Tarla – excellent posts; thanks.

      I was directly involved in the Red Tape Challenge, being in charge of the UK’s Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations and the Nightwear (Safety) Regulations at the time. Both set out more stringent fire safety requirements than their EU equivalents. The Cabinet Office highlighted these two, and other safety regulations, in their first tranche of regs that should be axed. However, they changed the rules mid-event. We were told that if 200 citizens said No to these regulations (on the website provided), then they’d be got rid of. But in the event virtually on one wanted them gone; in fact, most people said, “They’re safety regs – don’t we need them?” So Letwin etc changed the rules and said they were going to cut anyway.

      This caused me and colleagues a year of work, battling to save the regs. I need to point out here that at the time, everyone thought the Furniture Regulations worked and saved lives. A few years later, we discovered that they didn’t but the Red Tape Challenge, like the rest of us, believed they worked at the time. What was weird was that Letwin/Tories/Cabinet Office had a sudden change of heart without any real explanation. All they said was they said they believed that the revisions we were planning would save business money, but that was a relatively small sum. What I now believe happened (and have quite a bit of evidence in support) was that Letwin was made aware of the massive profits the Furniture Regs make (not so with the Nightwear Regs and Cabinet Office lost interest in those) for several industries: the flame retardant industry (around £300m a year); the UK-based treatment industry; the foam industry and also the UK furniture industry – because the regs are a trade barrier giving UK suppliers a massive home advantage. The Regulations were saved.

      Move forward a few years (and I’ve written about this elsewhere on this forum) and in the process of developing new fire tests that would reduce flame retardants, we proved that the Furniture Regs don’t even work. What did Letwin etc do? Made sure the safety changes never went ahead. Which is why we still have safety regulations that do not work, meaning we all have toxic, flammable sofas/mattresses in our own homes, but profits have been maintained.

  • Dave Lawton

    Now the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and if people really bother to investigate you will find that it was a top EU Bilderberger Klaus Kleinfeld who was CEO of Arconic and knew that the cladding was inflammable but went on to sell it.He is now being sued by shareholders because of loss of profits because of the fire.It seems he has now buggered off to Saudi Arabia.He has now given himself the title of Dr Klaus Kleinfeld and is along with Tony Blair advising on how to enhance the economic, technological and financial development of Saudi Arabia..Well the EU breeds these kind of people I say no thanks.We just need to deal with our crooks which we can. But we have no chance to get rid of the ones that run the EU. Previously he was also CEO of Siemens and was sacked because he was involved in a bribery scandal.
    “I think you need to look to the EU as I have mentioned before.Article 24 of the directive was cemented into UK law in April 2014 and a Government report says “bringing as many residential and commercial buildings as possible up to a high level of energy performance is a priority for the UK Government”.

    Cladding is often used to improve energy efficiency and it is thought there could be up to 30,000 buildings in the UK fitted with similar cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower.”
    https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/grenfell-materials-would-never-have-been-allowed-under-old-rules-30-07-2018/

  • portside

    “The report is proof that the inquiry is a politically inspired cover-up, carrying out its glacier-like deliberations entirely on behalf of the guilty. Not a single person responsible will be brought to justice. It was convened under Tony Blair’s 2005 Inquiries Act, which states, “An inquiry panel is not to rule on, and has no power to determine, any person’s civil or criminal liability.” Moore-Bick proposed, with May rushing to agree, that any issues of a “social, economic and political nature,” should be barred from the inquiry.”
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/10/31/gren-o31.html

  • Mary

    Foot in mouth disease.

    Rees-Mogg apologizes for his insensitive remarks, made yesterday on LBC’s Nick Ferrari’s programme.

    Grenfell Tower: Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised for ‘insulting’ comments
    54 minutes ago
    Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised for saying it would have been “common sense” to flee the Grenfell Tower fire, ignoring fire brigade advice.
    The Leader of the House of Commons was appearing on a radio phone-in on the findings of a Grenfell inquiry report when he made the comments.
    The Grenfell United group called the MP’s comments “insulting”. Mr Rees-Mogg said he “profoundly apologised”.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-50302573

    • Adown

      That BBC clip won’t play for me but their TV news piece omitted the bit ReesMogg added ‘I’m not saying it’s about class or race’. Now why would he add that.

  • Charly PB

    1. Fewer firefighters, yes, but are there not fewer fires?

    2. Cladding chosen for aesthetics? Probably, but the main mistake was to clad the building. The aim was to reduce CO2 emissions. Stupid non-solutions to a non-problem rarely lead to good outcomes.

    3. Did not the Fire Brigade inspect the building before the fire and give it the OK?

    • glenn_uk

      1. There are fewer fires – doubtless due to all these stupid regulations we’d like to see a, erm, bonfire of.

      2. Cladding in an inflammable material was the problem, not the fact there was cladding per se.

      3. Fewer firemen = fewer inspections. Besides, inspections = wretched “red tape” that Tories always want to get rid of.

      Ain’t it funny that “red tape”, regulations, building codes, inspections – all there just to chaff our asses. No point to any of it whatsoever, we should be free of all of it, and simply let business breathe!

    • TerryE

      It’s complicated!

      On 1: Yes, there are fewer home fires since the 80s, the two main reasons being a huge reduction in home smoking and a huge increase in fire alarms, and fire alarms that are more effective. The problem, where the UK is concerned, is that we have the toughest domestic fire safety laws in the world for upholstered sofas, mattresses, etc. And that means we have the highest levels of flame retardant chemicals in the world (around 45 kgs per household, in furniture). For decades we believed these regulations worked and on the back of that, the flame retardant industry, supported by the insurance industry and its puppet fire safety organisation, the FPA, strong-armed makers of products that have no fire safety requirements – like bedding, carpets, curtains – to also be packed out with flame retardants. And they’ve also managed to talk insulation companies into doing the same, meaning new homes are in effect boxes packed with flame retardants – in the walls, furniture, carpets, etc. So, yes, fewer fires but a) they’re far more toxic when the occur because of flame retardants – can be just seconds to the release of huge amounts of hydrogen cyanide – and b) all those flame retardants leach out of products and into us causing a wide range of health issues.

      Then, five years ago, the government proved these furniture regulations don’t even work. Which means the flame retardant industry’s claims that their products reduce fires were and are bollocks. But we’re stuck with them because industry has successfully leaned on government to leave these regulations in place, for fear of losing not only the furniture market but also other internal products and building insulation markets.

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