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Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock 3:03 pm, 30th October 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is correct. In Glasgow, where there are many high-rise flats, that policy has worked well, but as I will come on to say, we need a bit of flexibility. I firmly believe—I think he would share this view—that the events that night at Grenfell were exceptional. They were not normal; they were an extreme. It was a very difficult fire for any responding firefighters or senior officer to manage well.

While rules, procedures and practices are needed for health and safety, they require to be applied in such a manner that we do not stifle freedom of thought. One of the greatest assets in my early days as a firefighter was the use of initiative and improvisation. To some extent, that has been curtailed over time by the fear of disciplinary action, of being sued in an increasingly litigious society, or of departing from the perceived norm or any policy of long standing. Policies are often quite rigid and lack the flexibility that takes account of the inexact science of firefighting and the unpredictability of both fire and human behaviour.

The greatest question of all is: who was informed, and what revised fire risk assessment took place when the whole dynamic and risks presented at Grenfell changed? A high-rise building was draped in flammable cladding and became an inferno, costing the lives of 72 individuals. Their deaths must not be in vain. I would just comment that, as we speak today in this Chamber, there are still flaws in the building regulations in Scotland. We can still apply flammable cladding. I hope that the Scottish Government will put that right; I am sure that they will.

My sympathies go to the families of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell tragedy, but my sympathies also go to the families of the frontline firefighters, who have to deal with their loved one’s experiences on that dreadful night of 14 June 2017, together with external pressures from very intense public scrutiny. Grenfell must be a catalyst for change and secure improvements for fire safety and firefighting not only for the London fire brigade, but for the whole of the UK. Finally, I thank Sir Martin and those who gave evidence and shared their experience of that dreadful night, which will haunt many for years to come.