Michael Gove apologises to families of Grenfell Tower victims for the government being ‘too slow in acting’ and ‘behaving in a way which has been insensitive’ as MPs debated building safety in social housing
- Michael Gove has apologised to the families of Grenfell Tower victims today
- He said ‘shortcuts were made’ and there were some ‘unforgivable decisions’
- Mr Gove, 54, said the tragedy ‘is something that must rest on my conscience’
Michael Gove has apologised to families of Grenfell Tower victims for the government being ‘too slow in acting’ and ‘behaving in a way which has been insensitive’.
The levelling up secretary debated building safety in social housing with MPs today and said that ‘shortcuts were made’ and there were ‘unforgivable decisions’, which ultimately put lives at risk and led to the disaster.
The Communities Secretary told the Commons: ‘Again, I want to apologise to the bereaved, to relatives and survivors, for the fact that the Government over the last five years has sometimes been too slow in acting, but sometimes we have behaved in a way which has been insensitive.
‘It is important now that we translate the actions that they have been demanding into real and lasting change.’
Mr Gove, 54, added it ‘should not have taken a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire for us to realise there were problems in our building safety regime and in our regulatory regime’.
Michael Gove has apologised to families of Grenfell Tower victims for the government being ‘too slow in acting’ and ‘behaving in a way which has been insensitive’
Mr Gove, 54, added it ‘should not have taken a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire for us to realise there were problems in our building safety regime and in our regulatory regime’
He said: ‘We know that there were shortcuts when it came to safety, we know that there were unforgivable decisions that were made in the interests of financial engineering which put lives at risk, we also know again in my own department that there were individuals who sought to speak out and to raise concerns, and that those voices were not heeded.
‘That is something that must rest on my conscience and the consciences of Government colleagues.’
Five years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster, more than 50 high-rise buildings have the same highly-flammable cladding that caused the fire that killed 72 people.
Despite a Government target that all dangerous cladding materials should be removed by June 2020, their latest figures show they are still not there.
In total, 486 buildings over 18 metres tall were found to contain the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding identified by the Grenfell Inquiry as the leading cause of the 2017 tragedy.
Work is still to be completed on 111 of them while it has not even begun on 31 buildings and 58 still have the cladding intact.
Grenfell Tower, where 72 people were killed when a catastrophic fire tore through the building in June 2017, is covered in protective wrapping and hoardings surround the tower site
An inquiry into the disaster found that the leading cause of the fire was aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, which the government wanted to remove from all buildings by 2020
The Grenfell Fire, which began with a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor of the block in Kensington and Chelsea, ended up claiming more lives than any other residential fire since the World War II.
Eighteen months later, the Government banned the type of combustible cladding used on Grenfell and vowed to remove what remained.
But plans hit a roadblock as leaseholders in some of the affected buildings were required to pay for the repairs themselves.
This left many of them stuck in a Catch 22 – unable to afford the repairs and unable to sell their properties because of the work required.
Now a deal has been done with Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, for 45 homebuilders to pay £2 billion to fix the unsafe cladding.
With that, the Government and industry will fully fund the replacement of the cladding, not leaseholders, and firms such as Intelligent FS say they will expand their capacity five-fold to help sort out the problem.
Their Executive Director Adam Gallagher said: ‘We believe we have a moral duty to ensure all residents who live in tall buildings can go to sleep at night safe in the knowledge that, in the event of a fire breaking out, their home is fitted with fireproof cladding.
‘With a large number of buildings still featuring unsafe facades, we want to work with the Government and developers to help ease the burden.
‘That’s why we are expanding our operations five-fold to gear up for this necessary work.
Construction firms such as Altrincham-based Intelligent FS led Adam Gallagher (left) and Rob Williams (right) say they will expand their capacity five-fold to help sort out the problem
‘We are keen to start conversations with Ministers, developers, leaseholders and any other parties who would like to take this forward.
‘People’s safety is our number one priority – that’s why we need all UK high-rise buildings to be fitted with the correct cladding.’
According to the head of the London Fire Brigade, the problem of dangerous residential buildings goes beyond simply cladding and is even widespread than is currently acknowledged.
Last week, their Commissioner Andy Roe called for a ‘culture change’ when it came to residential buildings, say that over 1,000 of them in the capital alone had serious fire safety failings.
His comments came as Home Secretary Priti Patel rejected the recommendation of the Grenfell Inquiry to make it a legal requirement for building owners to have an evacuation plan in place, especially in the case of disabled residents.
Instead, there will be a consultation on sharing the location of disabled residents with the fire service but only in the most hazardous of locations.
The directors of Intelligent FS say they feel a moral obligation to rid all buildings in the UK of dangerous cladding so that there will not be a repeat of the Grenfell disaster that took 72 lives
A Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: ‘We continue to see progress in making higher-rise buildings safer, but we are clear more must be done.
‘We are actively pursuing building owners who have failed to act to replace unsafe cladding on higher-rise buildings and are accelerating the work of the Building Safety Fund.
’45 of the UK’s largest developers have now signed a pledge to undertake all necessary life-critical fire-safety work – covering both cladding and non-cladding defects – on 11m+ buildings they had a role in developing or refurbishing over the past thirty years. These pledges will be converted into legally binding contractual commitments.’