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Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 1:21 pm, 30th October 2019

If I may, I will continue so that the House can get the whole picture that Sir Martin wants to convey.

By 1.30 am, it was clear that the compartmentation had failed. By 1.50 am, it was still not too late to order an evacuation, yet according to Sir Martin senior officers simply could not conceive of a situation in which compartmentation could fail so comprehensively. In the report, “stay put” is described as such an article of faith within the fire service that senior officers were reluctant to let the reality before them override their training. As a result, the decision to order an evacuation was not taken until 2.35 am, by which time the tower’s single staircase was already filling with impenetrable smoke.

Even after that time, poor and confused lines of communication meant that operators in the 999 control room were not aware that the advice had changed. Swamped by the sheer volume of calls, and dealing with a challenge well outside their experience and training, some continued to give conflicting advice to callers trapped inside the tower. Sir Martin notes that many operators did not realise how all-encompassing the fire had become until well after 5 am, when a lull in calls allowed them to check their phones and see images of the burning building for the first time. Information gleaned from callers inside the tower was faithfully recorded, but only rarely made its way to firefighters who could act on it.