Ahead of the 2nd anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Sir David spoke in a Parliamentary debate calling on the Government to take urgent action on building and fire safety regulations.
As Chair of the All-Party Fire Safety and Rescue Group, Sir David took the opportunity to urge the Government to review regulations to prevent such a tragedy happening again. Speaking in the debate he said ‘Grenfell should not have happened and it is a stain on this place that it did, but my words will be of no comfort to the victims and relatives of those left behind.
‘Over the past six years, the all-party group has met resistance when seeking improvements to fire safety, despite compelling evidence that such measures should be introduced. In the 13 years since regulations were last reviewed, nothing has happened even after the warnings and recommendations from the coroner after the Lakanal House fire and the 2013 inquest.’
The questions to which we need an answer are: has enough been done? What has changed? What difference has been made?
Whether enough has been done during these two years depends on what perspective we take. The Government have established a public inquiry, an independent panel of experts, and a building regulations review. There have been calls for evidence, working groups, and Committees have been pointed in a direction of travel, with instructions to those who were guilty of a “race to the bottom” to fix things.
To his credit, the Secretary of State has banned combustible materials from high-risk buildings over 18 metres and desktop studies, and he has extended the removal of dangerous materials on private sector flats. But why not all high-risk buildings, not just those over 18 metres? Why are we still building single staircase high-rise flats? Why are we still building new schools without making it mandatory for them to contain sprinklers? It is six years since the Lakanal House fire and disaster, and the coroner’s letter to the former Secretary of State has still not been properly acted on. The classic example is the encouragement for retrofitting sprinklers in all tall flats, which was recommended by the coroner after the Lakanal House fire.
The formal review of building regulations promised by the Secretary of State in 2013, to be completed by 2016-17, still has not started. They were last looked at in 2006 and it will take at least a year and a half before anything comes from it.
In conclusion, the building regulations must be reviewed. We have to stop messing about. We want a proper audit, so there is retrospective fitting of sprinklers in all high-rise buildings. We need urgent action on all these matters. I really hope it is not necessary to have another debate in a year’s time and to be again frustrated by a lack of action.’