Anger after MPs reject implementing Grenfell recommendations

The Grenfell Tower fire took place in 2017. Credit: PA

The Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea has been criticised by Grenfell survivors for voting against implementing recommendations made by the inquiry into the fire.

Felicity Buchan MP voted with the government on Monday to reject a Labour amendment to the Fire Safety Bill which would have seen all of the recommendations put into law.

The party’s new clause one would have required owners or managers of flats to share information with their local fire service about the design and materials of the external walls.

They would also have been required to carry out regular inspections of lifts and individual flat entrance doors, while evacuation and fire safety instructions must be shared with residents of the building.

The amendment was defeated by 188 votes to 318, majority 130.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called it voting down the amendment: "A shameful dereliction of duty."

Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle died in the fire, expressed his anger at the MP voting against the change.

“We are still talking about cladding, which frustrates me," Mr Mussilhy told ITV News.

"We publicly see this betrayal from our own MPs, who look us in the eye and tell us they cared about us and cared about the change.

"And this happens and it makes you think what’s the point of all of it?"

Housing minister Robert Jenrick insists the changes will still be made, despite their rejection on Monday.

Robert Jenrick. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Ms Buchan agreed with her minister, saying: “I want to do everything in my power to make sure the recommendations are implemented into law as quickly as possible.

"And the sequencing of bills and regulations is the quickest way to do that; the Labour party amendment would not have sped it up, in fact, it could have slowed it down."

The row sets to overshadow the inquiry was told on Tuesday that the cladding specialist on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was deceived that the “new special super duper insulation” used on the project was safe for high-rises, its director has told the inquiry into the blaze.

Ray Bailey, the boss of Harley Facades, said insulation supplier Celotex made a “big, big deal” about its flammable Rs5000 product being “specifically designed for” tall buildings.

The civil engineering graduate, with 35 years’ experience in external facade work, told the inquiry on Tuesday: “We didn’t believe for one second that they would attempt to mislead us on this.”

Mr Bailey said Polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam rigid insulation boards became widely used in construction around a decade ago as part of a focus on improving the “thermal performance” of buildings, as they are more efficient than materials like rockwool.

Asked about his knowledge of the fire risks of the PIR materials, Mr Bailey went on: “When we were asked to use Celotex on Grenfell Tower, we were of the mindset that these new special super duper insulation products were acceptable providing they met certain criteria.

“Celotex made a big, big deal about their products being suitable, specifically designed for building over 18 metres.

“They used the term, which is very misleading now looking back, ‘Class 0 throughout’.”

Grenfell Tower in west London

A Class 0 fire safety certificate issued in Britain is the minimum requirement for external surfaces of buildings, with Mr Bailey adding: “If the products have a certificate saying it’s Class 0 we rely on that.”

He added: “We not only read the literature but had their technical sales manager in to go through the project.

“We sent drawings showing applications with aluminium composite material (ACM) on the building to them.

“I think we carried out all possible reasonable checks… we didn’t believe for one second that they would attempt to mislead us on this.”

Stephanie Barwise QC, a lawyer for a group of survivors and the bereaved, has previously said Celotex targeted the 220ft (67-metre) west London building as a “flagship” project for its Rs5000 insulation, and cynically exploited what one of its bosses called “the smoke of confusion” around building regulations.

She has told the inquiry it actively promoted the material despite senior executives knowing it should have been recalled after safety tests.

Celotex counsel Craig Orr QC previously said its marketing literature promoted the use of Rs5000 on buildings taller than 18 metres only on a “rainscreen cladding system with the specific components” used when it passed a fire safety test, and that it stipulated any changes to those components would “need to be considered by the building designer”.

“The rainscreen cladding system described in Celotex’s marketing literature bore no resemblance to the rainscreen cladding system installed at Grenfell Tower,” he added.

The Celotex Rs5000 insulation together with Reynobond ACM cladding panels made up the external cladding system of Grenfell Tower, which was combustible and found to be a key factor in the fatal fire’s rapid spread by acting as a source of fuel.

The inquiry continues.