Fire Safety Regulations and Guidance - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:06 pm on 14 December 2023.

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Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 12:06, 14 December 2023

My Lords, I say a sincere thank you to the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, for his timely debate today. Indeed, we were even reminded at COP that 10,000 wildfires throughout the world are causing total devastation. Coming back to the United Kingdom, before I do anything else I pay tribute to all the volunteer firemen who turn out in the middle of the night and then do a another job. They do it instantly. I live in Sandy, where we have a local brigade. I am amazed at the way it runs so smoothly and how volunteers, some of them very senior people in management, will turn up at 3 am and deal with a fire. Secondly, I pay tribute to the London Fire Brigade because it is a very professional organisation. We see in the recent statistics that, partially due to their performance and planning, the number of fires that have been attended to in the UK in the most recent year has dropped from the previous year from, I think, 7,000 to around 5,000. Five thousand is a huge number of fires.

I was particularly prompted to take part today because I live in Bedfordshire and we have a case history now: Luton Airport. I did a little research on that particular situation. Just two months ago, on 10 October, a fire broke out in the car park of Luton Airport’s Terminal 2. It is somewhere I have parked on a number of occasions. The net result of the fire was that the airport was shut down overnight while the emergency services attended the blaze. Hundreds of flights were subsequently cancelled and others severely delayed. What happened? It was not an old car park. It is a pretty new park at Terminal 2. Shortly before 9 pm on 10 October, somehow the fire quickly spread to other floors, and that continued until the early hours of 11 October. Witnesses heard car alarms going off and loud explosions. As a result of the fire, there was a partial structural collapse that has affected the safety of the building. More than 1,400 cars parked there were written off. Just think of the sheer insurance involved in paying off those cars.

As far as I can find out, Bedfordshire police have since confirmed that the initial vehicle involved in the fire was a diesel car—apparently not an electric car. A man in his 30s has been arrested in connection with the fire and was later released on bail, but the police investigation is on-going. As Mr Neil Thompson, the operations director at Luton Airport, said, the car park would need to be fully demolished due to the extent of structural damage. This is a tragedy all round and it raises and re-emphasises the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, in his speech

There are myriad parts of the Government involved in fire safety and we all know some of them: they run from the Home Office to the Building Safety Act 2022, which is really a local authority Act, and the Health and Safety Executive; the Department for Business and Trade has responsibility for lithium-ion batteries and the Department for Transport is apparently looking after scooters and e-bikes. I am not sure why we have to have quite so many departments involved. We certainly need some co-ordination.

We now have two classic case histories. One is the huge tragedy of Grenfell, where it has taken too long to bring the report out. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench can confirm that that report will now be published, in the next month or so, and will not be put off even further. Will he also make sure that we do a proper analysis of that second case history at Luton? These fires should not occur, and something is going wrong in the system when they do. I do not want to read in 2024 of a third major tragedy somewhere in the United Kingdom.