By Jamie O’Dell
In a vote in Parliament last night, Stroud’s MP Siobhan Baillie joined 317 of her Conservative colleagues in voting down Labour’s attempt to add a new clause into the Fire Safety Bill. The new clause would have ensured the Government fully implements the recommendations made by the first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry, as they have previously committed to doing.
The recommendations of the first phase would legally require owners or managers of flats to share information with their local fire service about the design and materials of the external walls as well as undertaking regular inspections of flat entrance doors and lifts. The proposed changes would also have seen owners or managers of buildings required to ensure that all residents were fully informed of the premises’ evacuation and fire safety procedures.
This comes in the wake of the Government’s own figures showing that the style of cladding responsible for the spread of the fire at Grenfell tower has still not been removed from 80% of private sector builders and nearly 50% of social sector buildings.
The reasoning for the Government’s non-inclusion of the Grenfell Tower Inquiries phase 1 recommendations in the Fire Safety Bill, and their MPs now voting against it, is unclear. However, this morning Kensington MP Felicity Buchan has issued a response stating that the vote has been ‘misrepresented’ and that she is ‘absolutely committed to implementing the Grenfell Inquiry Recommendations’.
Regardless, this flies in the face of the fact that the Government’s implementation plan for the recommendations already proposes to water down areas such as the regular checks on fire doors and the provision of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans. This news arrives in spite of the Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick’s previous commitment to implement the inquiry’s recommendations ‘in full’ and ‘without delay’. The proposed changes to the recommendations reduce the costs for the private sector from an estimated £1.3 billion over 10 years to £173 million over 10 years.
In response to the vote, the Grenfell United group stated that they were ‘outraged’ over the continued lack of progress three years on from the disaster that killed 72 people, and said that both the Government and Kensington’s own MP Felicity Buchan ‘continue to fail the country’. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called the vote ‘a shameful dereliction of duty’, with Dawn Butler, MP for neighbouring constituency Brent Central stating that the MPs voting against the amendment had ‘no shame, no heart and no compassion’.
This comes as part of a continuing trend of the government prioritising property developers over the interests of tenants and local communities. The Grenfell United Committee has previously refused to meet Jenrick, who was in Stroud campaigning with Baillie during the 2019 election, over these precise concerns.