Boris Johnson has tasked the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office with implementing the first wave of recommendations from the first phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
The prime minister said all the central-government related recommendations made by inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick were “accepted in principle”. Johnson added that where new fire-safety responsibilities for departments were prescribed, the government would “legislate accordingly”.
Drawing up new national guidance on the evacuation of high-rise residential buildings was one of the recommendations in former judge Moore-Bick’s 800-plus page report, published yesterday. He noted that there had been no plans in place for evacuating Grenfell Tower on the night in June 2017 when fire engulfed the building, claiming 72 lives.
Moore-Bick also called for all legislation requiring existing and future high-rise residential buildings to be fitted with devices to allow the fire and rescue services tell occupants when part – or all – of the building needed to be evacuated.
That recommendation followed the inadequacy of “stay put” advice given to Grenfell Tower residents by fire service call handlers long after Moore-Bick said it “should have been obvious” to those on the ground that only a managed evacuation of the building could minimise casualties.
Moore-Bick’s phase-one report only looks at the lessons from the night of the fire, and the condition of the 25-storey 1970s tower block – which had recently been refurbished and fitted with new Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding as well as replacement uPVC windows.
While yesterday’s report said there was “compelling evidence” that Grenfell Tower’s walls did not comply with Building Regulations on the night of the fire, it will be for the second phase of the report process to examine why failings arose that “actively promoted” the spread of fire that should have been contained within a fourth-floor flat.
Moore-Bick warned government that he expected the second phase of his inquiry to probe ministers’ response to previous recommendations designed to improve the safety of tower-blocks.
He cited the recommendations of the coroner for the inquests of the six victims of the Lakanal House fire in south London in 2009. In a letter addressed to then communities secretary Eric Pickles, Frances Kirkham called for ministers to update Building Regulations for clarity and consider championing the retro-fitting of sprinkler systems among other suggestions.
Speaking following the publication of Moore-Bick’s report yesterday, the prime minister insisted lessons thought to have gone unlearned from Lakanal House would not continue to be ignored post-Grenfell.
“I would like to thank Sir Martin and his team for all their work so far, and I know that all current and former ministers, civil servants and all public sector workers will fully co-operate with phase two,” he said.
“We will continue the work of the Grenfell Ministerial Recovery Group, which brings together the efforts of all parts of government, central and local, in meeting the needs of the community.
“We will continue to make sure that those affected by the fire have an active and engaging role to play in implementing the lessons of Grenfell – including working closely with the Ministry of Housing to develop the policies in our social housing white paper.”
He added: “I have asked the civil servants responsible for implementing Sir Martin’s recommendations to provide me with regular and frequent updates on their progress.”
Separately, the government’s housing delivery body Homes England has launched a recruitment campaign for a chief architect.
The role – at an unspecified civil service grade – would be based in Coventry and come with a salary of up to £128,000. It is open to applications until November 13.