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The Government have never fully accepted their responsibility for failings in the building fire safety regulations. The lack of clarity in those regulations was identified by the coroner at the inquest following the fatal Lakanal House fire as long ago as 2013, but Ministers failed to act. That lack of clarity meant that fire safety tests on cladding and insulation combinations were unreliable. Builders, developers, architects, planners—none of them knew with any certainty whether materials, or combinations of materials, were safe or complied with the regulations when they went up on buildings. A series of Ministers who were directly responsible for the failure to correct the problem were later rewarded with promotions, including to the Cabinet. That tells the victims’ families that this Government do not care, when Ministers are rewarded for such serious errors of judgment.
The Government have now announced, belatedly, a partial ban on flammable cladding on some new buildings, but they are still allowing it to go up on schools, hospitals and residential blocks less than six storeys high, and on hotels. I cannot imagine a single parent who would be happy to know that their child’s school was covered in flammable cladding, but the Government do not seem to think that it is a problem.
The former Prime Minister, Mrs May, rightly expressed and echoed concerns that fire safety issues raised by Grenfell Tower residents had been ignored. How much more shocking, then, that we continue to ignore issues raised by thousands of families who are still living in blocks covered in flammable cladding today. That is, quite simply, negligence on a grand scale.
The Government’s main objective throughout all this seems to have been to absolve themselves of blame, not to right the wrongs for which they are responsible. Far too many people are still stranded in potentially dangerous homes, facing bills that they cannot afford to pay for failures that have absolutely nothing to do with them, and that is simply not acceptable. I am left wondering, the victims are left wondering, and thousands of people living in accommodation of this type are left wondering what more needs to happen before this negligent Government finally take the necessary action to keep every home safe from the kind of tragedy that so horrifically destroyed 72 lives at Grenfell Tower.