Grenfell: minister let proposal for building regulator ‘wither on the vine’

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Former occurrence and information curate Brandon Lewis snubbed repeated calls to make a building-safety regulator anterior to the Grenfell Tower occurrence successful 2017, the enquiry into the blaze heard yesterday.

The curate opted alternatively to permission the manufacture to self-regulate, contempt damning proposal that doing truthful was “risky”.

Lewis (pictured) served arsenic parliamentary undersecretary of authorities astatine the then-named Department for Communities and Local Government from 2012 to 2014, earlier being promoted to the relation of curate of authorities until 2016. He is presently serving arsenic the government’s Northern Ireland secretary.

Lewis was successful the fire-safety relation arsenic the authorities investigated the origin of the 2009 Lakanal House occurrence successful southbound London, wherever six radical were killed. The Grenfell Inquiry has already established that repetition warnings pursuing that fire, which were not acted on, could person prevented the Grenfell Tower fire, successful which 72 radical died.

A study by Home Office authoritative Louise Upton, which Lewis accepted helium would person read, recommended the instauration of a nationalist regulator focusing connected gathering safety.

“Without an effectual sector-wide, holistic attack to occurrence safety, it seems that the government’s argumentation of lasting backmost to let the assemblage to capable the abstraction vacated by authorities is risky,” the study warned.

It stated that determination was a deficiency of certainty connected the standards for due levels of safety, concluding that "Pressure grows for legislative change."

But an email from 1 of Lewis' advisers said helium was "not keen connected the thought of a nationalist regulator".

When asked why, Lewis told counsel to the Inquiry Andrew Kinnear QC that, portion helium could not retrieve the concern exactly, the authorities astatine the clip was pushing for decentralisation and self-regulation by the sector.

“It was astir the wider contented of looking astatine however to marque things businesslike and effectual with the schemes we already had alternatively than creating different assemblage for the sector,” helium said.

“How bash we guarantee that it doesn’t go conscionable different furniture of regularisation that doesn’t present thing meaningful implicit and supra what we person got?”

The enquiry revealed documents which showed that coroners for 2 abstracted fires that resulted successful deaths recommended the constitution of much guidance astir probe of compartmentation, which was partially liable for the dispersed of fire.

Following the proposal by the coroner probing the Lakanal House fire, the authorities said that it had “no plans to contented caller guidance”.

The elder coroner looking into the decease of firefighter Stephen Hunt, who died portion tackling a occurrence successful Manchester successful 2013, besides recommended the instauration of stricter building-safety legislation.

In effect to the deficiency of enactment pursuing the Lakanal House fire, Kinnear said: “The coroner’s recommendations for much regularisation was wide and unambiguous, and the reappraisal intelligibly fell abbreviated of the coroner’s recommendations."

Following repeated questions connected the crushed for rejecting the request for a gathering regulator contempt aggregate calls for it, Kinnear asked what it would person taken to propulsion the authorities towards regularisation alternatively than assemblage self-regulation. The curate said regularisation would person been pursued if the authorities thought it necessary, but that it would not needfully person helped.

"Persistent concerns were made wide by 2 coroners," Kinnear said. “Why were you contented for the connection to wither connected the vine?”

He besides projected that the curate simply had an “aversion to regulation".

In response, Lewis said the section “was not shy” of processing caller regulations. “If you look astatine the magnitude of guidance and peculiarly connected occurrence information which was enactment done by the department: so, connected c monoxide regulations and fume alarms, for instance, we were precise focused connected passing regulations erstwhile we felt it was appropriate,” helium said.

Lewis was the archetypal authorities curate to springiness grounds to the inquiry, which is presently assessing the relation of the authorities successful letting building-safety regularisation lapse. Lord Eric Pickles, who was lodging caput from 2010 to 2015, volition springiness grounds successful the coming weeks.