Government is set to BAN 'unlawful' flammable cladding just hours after furious backlash to 'whitewash' Grenfell review that failed to demand move despite inferno claiming 72 lives

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Government is set to BAN 'unlawful' flammable cladding just hours after furious backlash to 'whitewash' Grenfell review that failed to demand move despite inferno claiming 72 lives

  • Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said cladding used on Grenfell 'unlawful' 
  • UK set to ban flammable cladding to make sure tragedy can never happen again 
  • Announcement made after report into tragedy accused of being whitewash
  • Dame Judith Hackitt's report found developers were indifferent to regulations
  • But she failed to call for end to flammable cladding as part of planned overhaul 
The government is set to ban flammable cladding on tower blocks after an angry reaction to a report into fire regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
In a damning review of fire safety rules, Dame Judith Hackitt found developers were indifferent to and ignorant of regulations, leading to a 'race to the bottom' in building safety practices, with cost prioritised over safety.
But the report was branded a 'whitewash' after Dame Judith insisted current rules on the use of flammable materials should be made clearer and better policed, rather than introducing a wholesale ban.
Despite her recommendation, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said the government will consult on banning the combustible materials.
Mr Brokenshire told the Commons: 'Let me be clear, the cladding believed to be on Grenfell Tower was unlawful under existing building regulations. It should not have been used.
'But I will ensure that there is no room for doubt over what materials can be used safely as cladding in high rise residential buildings.
'Having listened carefully to concerns, the government will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high rise residential buildings.'
A review of fire regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze found developers put cost over safety and used uncertainty over rules to 'game the system' 
A review of fire regulations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze found developers put cost over safety and used uncertainty over rules to 'game the system' 
Dame Judith Hackitt delivered her report on safety regulations after the Grenfell Tower blaze today, saying current fire rules should be enforced rather than banning flammable cladding
Dame Judith Hackitt delivered her report on safety regulations after the Grenfell Tower blaze today, saying current fire rules should be enforced rather than banning flammable cladding
But Housing Minister James Brokenshire said the government is looking at a ban anyway
But Housing Minister James Brokenshire said the government is looking at a ban anyway
Mr Brokenshire also said he will 'not hesitate' to ban desk-top studies in building safety tests, in which materials can be approved physical fire safety tests having been carried out.
A report by Dame Judith Hackitt provoked anger this morning when he condemned fire safety shortcuts being made by builders, but stopped short of banning flammable cladding.
Justifying the recommendations, Dame Judith said: 'The guidance already says that you can only use materials of limited combustibility or materials that have been fully tested.
'It is clear from Grenfell and from the other tests that have been done, that despite the guidance currently saying that, people were putting other materials up, so I don't think a ban will work.' Labour MP David Lammy branded the review 'a betrayal and a whitewash'.
Mr Lammy said: 'It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on flammable cladding has not been banned. 
'The Grenfell families and the public needed a review that was fearless in standing up to the industry on behalf of all those who lost their lives in Grenfell with recommendations that ensure that an atrocity like Grenfell can never happen again.
'I simply fail to see how it is deemed appropriate for any combustible material to be used on any tower block in this country and I find it unfathomable that this review has not recommended an outright ban on the use of combustible material.' 
Grenfell Tower had been refurbished shortly before the fire in June and had rain-proof cladding and insulation installed, neither of which were fireproof
Grenfell Tower had been refurbished shortly before the fire in June and had rain-proof cladding and insulation installed, neither of which were fireproof

What did today's Grenfell review find? 

The review found there was a 'systemic problem' and recommended the creation of a new regulator.
Dame Judith found that some building firms use the ambiguity around the rules to 'game the system', with the primary motivation to 'do things as quickly and cheaply as possible' rather than focusing on quality.
She also found ignorance about the rules, a lack of clarity about who takes responsibility and inadequate oversight.
The review recommended:
  • A new regulatory approach should to be overseen by a new regulator.
  • Clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process, as well as during a building's occupation. 
  • Residents to be consulted over decisions affecting the safety of their home. 
  • A more rigorous and transparent product testing regime. 
  • Industry to lead strengthening competence of those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.The campaign group Grenfell United also expressed disappointment at the report. 
Its chairman Shahin Sadafi said: 'When we met Dame Judith Hackitt we asked her for an outright ban on combustible cladding. 
'We are disappointed and saddened that she didn't listen to us and she didn't listen to other experts. The cladding on the Grenfell Tower was deemed to be limited combustibility, but it cost 72 lives. It must be banned.
'We need to hear from Government a clear promise that these dangerous materials will never be used on homes again.
'This isn't just about cladding - the whole system of building regulation is broken.
'The industry has too much influence over regulation and testing, desk-top studies are totally flawed, profit is valued more than people's safety, and residents are left powerless. All of this must change.'
Setting out a series of proposals to make high-rise flats safer to live in in the wake of the June 14 disaster, she said there was a 'systemic problem' and recommended the creation of a new regulator.
Some building firms use the ambiguity around the rules to 'game the system', with the primary motivation to 'do things as quickly and cheaply as possible' rather than focusing on quality, Dame Judith said.
She also found ignorance about the rules, a lack of clarity about who takes responsibility and inadequate oversight.
'The above issues have helped to create a cultural issue across the sector, which can be described as a 'race to the bottom' caused either through indifference, or because the system does not facilitate good practice,' she said. 
Demonstrators place pictures of the victims of the fire outside Parliament earlier this week
Demonstrators place pictures of the victims of the fire outside Parliament earlier this week
Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire that killed 71 people in the west London block and it was later found coating hundreds more buildings around the country.  
But Dame Judith said prohibited certain practices would 'not address the root causes' of the problems.
She added: 'The debate continues to run about whether or not aluminium cladding is used for thermal insulation, weather-proofing or an an internal part of the fabric, fire safety and integrity of the building.
'This illustrates the siloed thinking that is part of the problem we must address.'
Labour MP David Lammy branded the review 'a betrayal and a whitewash'
Labour MP David Lammy branded the review 'a betrayal and a whitewash'
Dame Judith also stopped short of banning so-called 'desktop studies'.
Her report said: 'The proposed change does not ban assessments in lieu of tests, as there are some products and systems for which a full-scale physical test is not possible, but it will significantly reduce their use and ensure that those which are carried out are conducted rigorously and properly recorded for further scrutiny.'
The failure to call for a ban on flammable cladding also drew criticism from the Local Government Association.
Its chairman, Lord Porter, said: 'It is good that Dame Judith's report agrees that the current system is not fit for purpose and has set out a range of recommendations for its long-term reform.
'However, our immediate priority is to ensure that a fire like that at Grenfell never happens again, and to make certain the buildings which people live, visit and work in are safe today.
'It is therefore disappointing that Dame Judith has stopped short of recommending a ban on combustible materials and the use of desktop studies, both essential measures to improve safety.
'The Government should nevertheless act without delay to introduce a temporary ban on the use of combustible materials on complex and high-rise buildings until we have a regulatory and testing system which is fit for the 21st century.'
Publication of the report comes after Theresa May announced on Wednesday the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding materials from tower blocks by councils and housing associations.
Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire that killed 71 people in the west London block
Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire that killed 71 people in the west London block
The work is expected to cost around £400 million and will cover removal and replacement of cladding at 158 high-rise blocks in the social sector in England.
Labour said a series of commitments made by the Government following the blaze have not been honoured.
Grenfell Tower had been refurbished shortly before the fire in June and had rain-proof cladding and insulation installed, neither of which were fireproof. The fire started with a faulty fridge. 
Phase two of a separate public inquiry, led by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, into the disaster is due to start hearing formal evidence later this month.

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