Grenfell Tower fire: Theresa May's top aide Gavin Barwell dodges questions over failure to undertake tower block safety review

Gavin Barwell is under pressure to give answers about a 2013 fire experts’ report 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Friday 16 June 2017 09:54 BST
Former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell refuses to comment on Grenfell Tower fire

Theresa May’s new chief of staff has refused to answer questions over his failure to undertake a review of safety regulation relating to tower blocks, ahead of the Grenfell fire.

Gavin Barwell was pursued down Whitehall by a television reporter demanding answers to questions about the review – which for years experts have called for – but remained silent.

Mr Barwell was housing minister until the election when he lost his seat in Parliament, but was immediately taken on as Ms May’s most senior aide.

In 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group called for a review of safety regulation, after six people died and more than 20 were hurt in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell.

But the group’s honorary administrative secretary, Ronnie King, said successive ministers – including Mr Barwell – had failed to carry out the review that the group’s report called for.

Speaking to LBC radio, he said the group had looked at fire suppression measures in all the tower blocks with similar designs as Grenfell, and noted that there were around 4,000 buildings with no fire sprinklers fitted.

He added: “Our group recommended that, due to the speed that the fire spread in Lakanal House, building regulations should be reviewed.

“It’s nearly 11 years since it has been reviewed.”

Former chief fire office Mr King confirmed that earlier this year, Mr Barwell told him he was still considering the proposals for a review.

He added: “Mr Barwell said he was still looking at it and was preparing to meet with the All-Party group. That's when the election was called, and the meeting never happened.”

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