1.On 14 June, we will mark the third anniversary of the fire at Grenfell Tower. It was an entirely avoidable tragedy which took the lives of 72 people, including 18 children and an unborn baby. Unaware of the danger they were in, the residents of Grenfell Tower lived in a building wrapped in aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, a highly flammable and dangerous cladding system. They would pay a terrible price for a catastrophic failure of industry and Government.
2.But Grenfell Tower was not a unique building. That night, there were more than 450 high-rise residential or other publicly-owned buildings in England with the same, or similar, dangerous ACM cladding systems. There are still over 300. And this doesn’t include the many thousands of buildings of all heights with other forms of combustible cladding or those buildings with serious fire safety defects, including combustible insulation, timber balconies and walkways, missing fire breaks and faulty fire doors.
3.It is true that much has changed in the 1,000 days since the fire. This Committee has been at the forefront of calling for that change. Over the last three years, we have recommended the ban on combustible cladding on high-rise buildings, funding for the remediation of buildings with any form of dangerous cladding, the installation of sprinkler systems where structurally feasible, and a clear deadline by which these should be achieved. Many of our recommendations have led to policy changes from the Government, most recently the announcement at the Spring Budget of a new £1 billion Building Safety Fund to remediate buildings over 18 metres with unsafe cladding—although, as we will go on to outline, we had called for a more comprehensive funding scheme.
4.Yet so much has not changed. We saw that in Barking in June 2019, when it took just five minutes for a fire to spread across the timber cladding and balconies of a four-storey residential building. And again in Bolton in November 2019, when a 17.84 metre university accommodation block, fitted with High Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding, burned out of control, injuring two and requiring the evacuation of 100 people, bringing back terrifying memories of that night in North Kensington. Then there is the ongoing physical, mental and financial plight of the hundreds of thousands of people in buildings which are known to be unsafe, but have not yet been remediated and may not be for some time.
5.In March 2020, we launched an inquiry into Cladding: Progress of Remediation to investigate ongoing concerns around the pace of remedial works on affected buildings, the direct and indirect costs for residents, and wider fire safety concerns that were emerging. A key part of our inquiry was a survey we published to ask residents of high-rise and high-risk buildings about the fire safety concerns in their properties, the impact this has had on them, and their views on the adequacy of the Government’s response. A high-level summary of this survey was published on 6 May 2020.
6.This is the third report in three years from this Committee on fire safety and the progress of remediation of affected buildings. The report has two chapters. The first considers the progress of remediation of buildings with serious fire safety defects and the adequacy of the funding the Government has put forward to facilitate this. The second highlights the costs—financial and otherwise—faced by residents while they await the remediation of their buildings and considers calls for further Government support.
7.We are grateful to Rituparna Saha of the UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG) and Alex Di-Giuseppe of Manchester Cladiators for so clearly and passionately representing the views of affected residents in evidence to us, to the 1,350 people who responded to our survey and the 36 organisations who made written submissions following our call for evidence. We thank Lord Greenhalgh, a recently-appointed Minister with a challenging portfolio, for giving oral evidence so soon into his tenure. We note with some concern, however, that Lord Greenhalgh is the fifth different Minister to be given responsibility for building safety since the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017; a recipe for disjointed and unproductive government.
8.This Committee will not forget the 72 who died following the fire on 14 June 2017 or the lessons that must be learned. As we publish our report, we are reminded again of the warning given to us by Edward Daffarn of Grenfell United one year after the fire:
Grenfell 2 is in the post unless you act, and quickly.
1 , Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 , 9 January 2018; HC 555, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, 18 July 2018; and , HC 2546, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, 18 July 2019
3 , HM Treasury, 11 March 2020
4 , Inside Housing, 13 September 2019
5 , Inside Housing, 22 November 2019, and , BBC News, 17 November 2019
6 , Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee
7 , Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, 6 May 2020
8 The five Ministers with responsibility for building safety since the Grenfell Tower fire: Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP (June 2017 to January 2018), Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP (January 2018 to July 2018), Kit Malthouse MP (July 2018 to July 2019), Rt Hon Esther McVey (July 2019 to February 2020), Lord Greenhalgh (March 2020 to present)
9 (Edward Daffarn, Grenfell United), Local Authority Support for Grenfell Tower Survivors, HC 1037, 2017–19, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, 20 June 2018
Published: 12 June 2020