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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 3:35 pm, 21st January 2020

I will come on to that point in just a moment, if I may.

Sir Martin recommended that the Government produce national guidelines for carrying out the evacuation of high rise residential buildings. I am now working closely with colleagues in the Home Office on those guidelines. My Department and the Home Office have formed a steering group with the National Fire Chiefs Council and other experts, which met for the first time in December. The group agreed on the scope of an evidence review into stay put and evacuation. Let me reiterate, however, that the advice from the National Fire Chiefs Council is that stay put remains an appropriate policy providing compartmentation is maintained. In fact, Sir Martin highlighted that effective compartmentation is likely to remain at the heart of fire safety and the response to fires in high rise buildings. I think that that is an important point that we should all bear in mind in how we communicate on these issues to members of the public.

A number of recommendations made by Sir Martin were for the London Fire Brigade, and for fire and rescue services more widely across the country. The firefighters serving that night showed exceptional bravery and dedication. I would like to pay tribute to their courage, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did last year. However, the report made very clear that there were failures in the London Fire Brigade’s response. Significant changes are needed in its policies, guidance and training, including on evacuation procedures. We know that fire and rescue services across the country need to have the training and processes in place to be able to respond as effectively as possible to fires in residential buildings. The control rooms that co-ordinate emergency responses must have the processes in place to deal with all incidents effectively.

I am pleased that London Fire Brigade has already rolled out fire survival guidance training, and is reviewing its policies and guidance in the light of the inquiry’s recommendations. It is important that all our emergency services have proper protocols in place to ensure that they can work together and communicate effectively in an emergency. The Home Office is working with the interoperability board to ensure that those lessons are learned. While these recommendations are not aimed directly at the Government, clearly the Government have a role and we will not sit back.