Grenfell Tower fire: Government ‘deeply regrets past failures’ as it apologises to victims

Officials ‘should have done more to take on board recommendations triggered by other fires’

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 07 December 2021 19:57
<p>Smoke billowing from the fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London</p>

Smoke billowing from the fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London

The government has apologised to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire after it acknowledged “past failures” in oversight of the system regulating safety within the construction industry.

A lawyer for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said there had been “mistakes, errors and omissions” and the government was “deeply sorry”.

Jason Beer QC, representing the department, said: “The department is deeply sorry for its past failures in relation to the oversight of the system that regulated safety in the construction and refurbishment of high-rise buildings.

“It also deeply regrets past failures in relation to the superintendence of the building control bodies, which themselves had a key role in ensuring the safe construction and refurbishment of such buildings.

“It apologises to the bereaved residents and survivors of the fire for such failures.”

He added that the government, as well as the public and residents of the tower, had trusted that “those constructing and approving high-rise blocks and supplying the products used in them were following the law and doing the right thing”.

This trust was “both misplaced and abused”, he said, adding: “The department greatly regrets that it took the Grenfell Tower tragedy to lay bare this misplaced and abused trust.”

Phase two of the probe is examining how the block of flats in west London came to be coated in flammable materials that contributed to the spread of flames, which shot up the tower in June 2017, killing 72 people.

Mr Beer said the department “should have done more to take on board the learnings and recommendations triggered by other fires” as well as addressing “in a timelier manner” correspondence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety which had raised issues.

“Individually, these errors and missed opportunities from the department and across industry may not have caused the fire at Grenfell Tower, but cumulatively they created an environment in which such a tragedy was possible,” he said.

“Had there been a functional enforcement system with efficient assurance built in, non-compliance to the extent that gave rise to the Grenfell Tower tragedy may not have been possible.”

Matthew Butt QC, for the National House Building Council (NHBC), said it was “crucial” that the construction industry learns from the Grenfell fire.

NHBC was not involved in the refurbishment of the tower but the body acknowledged it should have acted more swiftly “and been more assertive” with manufacturers, and accepted that some industry assessments had not been “as rigorous as they should have been”, he told the hearing.

The inquiry was adjourned until Wednesday at 10am.

Additional reporting by PA

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