Grenfell inquiry: New “massively significant” report released
The Fire Brigades Union has termed a new report to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, released to the public today, “massively significant” evidence.
The report (visible at https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/evidence/professor-luke-bisby), written by Professor Luke Bisby, a professor of fire and structures at Edinburgh University and an expert witness to the inquiry, details the flaws with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the government’s former safety research and testing body that was privatised in 1997. It was responsible for testing many of the cladding, insulation and other building materials used in the Grenfell refurbishment.
The report details previous cladding fires which can be viewed as missed opportunities to prevent Grenfell, and BRE failures around them. It also builds up a picture of BRE only doing work within contracts, and only specific things – close to client and government demands – within those contracts.
Bisby concludes that “what emerges from this overview of the development of England’s building regulatory environment, and the major cladding fires that have occurred during the same period, is a picture of increasing freedom for industry…”. He also highlights a “profound lack of competence of actors” including the BRE [both page 253] and “powerful commercial and ideological objectives” to increase flexibility for industry.
The union believes that many of these flaws can be explained by the privatisation of BRE and the creeping, increasing influence of the private sector in the BRE in the years running up to the completion of full privatisation.
Mark Rowe, Fire Brigades Union national officer, said:
“Professor Bisby’s report details multiple failings on the BRE’s part in the run-up to Grenfell, failings which were caused – fundamentally – by private ownership and the increasing encroachment of the private sector. It is massively significant.
“We are clear: the BRE was not, and is not, fit for purpose, because it is privately-owned. It is vital that the BRE is taken back into public ownership and run for the public good, not profit.
“In the run-up to Grenfell their status as a private company meant that they were dependent on fee income from clients, such as Grenfell manufacturers. This made them too willing to please clients and too reluctant to challenge them or the information they provided. The BRE’s private status also meant it did not share information as it should have done, and there were basic failures of competence in vital areas.”
The Fire Brigades Union represents firefighters and control staff, including many of those who were involved in the response to Grenfell. It is a core participant to the inquiry.