Web Editor, Chris Ingram reports in a personal capacity on the worst death toll due to fire in modern history and since WWII ended in 1945:
There is no doubt about it, political decisions taken going back to the Thatcher years regarding health and safety legislation, has been the cause of this appalling disaster and was warned would happen not only by the residents of this tower block but by Trade Unions, Union safety Reps and the safety industry for many many years.
But, it was the 2005 Regulatory Reform Order that sowed the final seed of a whole crop of circumstances which would culminate in the deaths of some 150 people, that the residents claim will be the final death toll.
But it is not just politicians who have created these circumstances, but also the building supplies industry who knowing the flammability of their products, were happy to sell them to be used in the most inappropriate manner - to clad high-rise residential buildings.
Readers of this website may well recall a news item from 2006 which made it clear that the then Labour Government was taking on Tory policies and attacking health and safety legislation.
In an article entitled Brown Launches 'Old Tory' Type Attacks On H&S this website reported on a speech given by Gordon Brown to the CBI in which he stated that de-regulation of business was indeed Labour's policy, and as a result was copying the worst of Tory attitude towards the health and safety of the public, workers, and confirming that it was ok for business to cut costs by ignoring health and safety protection and training of workers.
But perhaps the most egregious act of the Labour Government was the Regulatory Reform Order of 2005.
This single piece of legislation, becoming the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act 2005 and effective October 2006; slashed the culture of health and safety overseeing of business, and heralded in decades of self policing by not only the building industry, but also of organisations such as local authorities, tenants organisations, and private landlords; by making them responsible, not the fire authorities, for the safety of their buildings not only in the maintenance of them, but also of the material used and supplied in the making of those buildings.
In short: it meant that any person who has some level of control on the premises must take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and make sure people can safely escape if there is a fire.
That one piece of legislation is responsible for the appalling situation we have just found - the 100% fire safety failure of the cladding used on ALL residential tower blocks tested so far. Not only that, in Camden 1000 fire doors are missing from high-rise residential properties requiring them!
On Monday 26th June 2017 Grenfell Tower was the subject in an article in The Guardian newspaper, in which this comment appeared:
"Warning about loopholes in regulation go back to a fire in Garnock Court in Irvine in which one person died in 1999.
Being one of the first newspapers to identify the legislation weaknesses which facilitated the circumstances from which this disaster could occur, The Guardian had previously reported on 14th June:
"Residents of Grenfell Tower have said they raised multiple concerns about the risk of fire in the months before the fatal blaze at the building, but were “brushed away” by the council’s tenant management organisation.
Survivors of the disaster said on Wednesday they had raised fears about the fact that there was only one escape route. They also told the Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (KCTMO) of their concerns over the placement of boilers and gas pipes, the absence of a building-wide fire alarm or sprinkler system, and piles of rubbish being dumped and causing a fire risk."
In the same article it reported:
"Only last November, the Grenfell Action Group warned of “dangerous living conditions” and said: “It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO.”
But one of the most damning pieces of evidence comes from this interview on the BBC with one of the local residents who made it clear that the behaviour of the local authority, the tenant management organisation; and indeed of the builders doing the renovation was one of callous dismissal of the residents concerns:
The effects of the cuts to the Fire Brigade in terms of their budget and the loss of over 10,000 fire-fighters; has as yet been ignored. Whilst even professionals like former Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade Sir Ken Knight, interviewed on Channel 4 News on 25th June, ignore the realities of everyday fire prevention, and failing to make it clear that statutory Fire Audit Procedures are being compromised massively across the UK as a result of the loss of resources to the Fire Brigade; making their ability to carry them out in the number required impossible.
All he said was, " ...and of course there are audits undertaken by the fire and rescue service."
Challenged by Krishnan Guru-Murthy as to whether or not the Grenfell Tower Fire "is a political failure" the former commissioner refused to criticise the government or previous governments for the situation, saying: " I'm not suggesting it is a political failure at any time. I think we all need to ensure that know the community is safe, the public are safe in their blocks of flats; and the fire and rescue service has its part to play in that."
Instead of blaming the government, manufacturers, local authorities and builders for the situation, it appears from his comments and that of others in the media, that there is an attempt to place the blame with the fire authorities.
But there is the evidence given in an interview and debate on the same news channel the following day. Jon Snow asked the question of Peter Rees former City of London Planning Officer from 1982 to 2014 during Thatcher's and Labour governments; regarding legislation and the 'watering down' of it due to cost cutting:
However, the evidence for the prosecution of the manufacturers and suppliers of the cladding used on Grenfell Tower is obvious and provided by the New York Times when it published details of the policy of the manufacturer of the cladding.
"The facade, installed last year at Grenfell Tower, in panels known as cladding and sold as Reynobond PE, consisted of two sheets of aluminium that sandwich a combustible core of polyethylene. It was produced by the American manufacturing giant Alcoa, which was renamed Arconic after a reorganization last year.
As the Public Enquiry into the fire of Grenfell Tower gets under way, there is already disquiet over the remit given to the enquiry by the Government of Theresa May; with many fearing a cover up, not least as a result of the judge who has been appointed to head the enquiry.
It remains to be seen whether or not laws are changed and whether or not the current media vilifying and trivialising of health and safety legislation continues. But what is obvious, is that political decisions made by both Tory and Labour governments has resulted in the deaths of residents of the tower; and created the current panic and terrible state of housing in this country.
Politicians, media bosses, the building industry, manufacturers of building material, local authorities and building management organisations along with private landlords; are ALL responsible for the safety of their customers and building tenants.
Being so, and in the eyes of many, makes them also responsible for their deaths!
Source: C Ingram / The Guardian / The New York Times / unionsafety website / Fire Brigades Union / Channel 4 News / BBC News
See also (from 2006):