Building Safety

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 15th March 2018.

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Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 11:37 am, 15th March 2018

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on issues arising from the Metropolitan police investigation into the Grenfell tragedy.

The investigation has involved a thorough examination of every aspect of the tower, including front doors to flats within the property. Those doors include a glazed fire door manufactured around five years ago. Initial inspections indicate that the door is believed to have been designed to resist fire for up to 30 minutes, but when tested by the Metropolitan police, it failed after approximately 15 minutes. The Metropolitan police considered that this test result might have wider implications for public safety and alerted my Department.

The Government immediately sought advice from the independent expert panel on the test findings to see whether any action was required as a result. The expert panel is made up of a range of building and fire safety experts, and is chaired by Sir Ken Knight, the former London fire commissioner and former Government chief fire and rescue adviser.

The panel consulted representatives from the Metropolitan police, the Government’s chief scientific advisers and the National Fire Chiefs Council. Following that, the expert panel has advised that the risks to public safety remain low. There is no change to the fire safety advice that the public should follow. I, nevertheless, fully appreciate that this news will be troubling for many people, not least all those affected by the Grenfell tragedy. That is why, based on expert advice, we have begun the process of conducting further tests, and we will continue to consult the expert panel to identify the implications of those further tests. I have made it clear that the necessary tests and assessments must be carried out thoroughly, but at pace.

There is no evidence that this is a systemic issue. Data from between 2009 and 2017 shows that fire does not generally spread beyond the room of origin. I am also clear that my Department and the Metropolitan police will ensure that the bereaved and the survivors are kept informed of progress. I commit to updating the House when further information is available, and no later than the end of April.

I stress that, in carrying out the tests, conclusions should not be drawn about the nature or cause of the Grenfell tragedy. That is a matter for a separate police investigation that must be allowed to run its course. Members will be aware that Dame Judith Hackitt is undertaking an independent review of building regulations and fire safety to ensure that the regulatory system is sufficiently robust. Dame Judith has been made aware of these latest findings. Having accepted the initial recommendations that were set out in her interim report in December, we look forward to her final report, which is expected in the spring.

Nine months ago, we faced a loss of life and suffering on an unimaginable scale at Grenfell. Since then, the Government and others have made significant efforts to support survivors, find them new homes and help to keep people safe. However, I know that the matters I have raised today will prompt questions. I reiterate that on the basis of the expert advice that my Department has received, there is no evidence that risks to the public have changed.

I reassure hon. Members that all possible steps are being taken to properly investigate the issues and to take action where needed. Public safety is paramount and our position is clear: the events of 14 June 2017 must never be allowed to happen again. I commend the statement to the House.