Grenfell fire: MPs call for urgent extended action on proposed cladding ban

A proposed ban on flammable cladding for new high-rise buildings being in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy does not go far enough, the Commons housing committee has said.

The damning MPs report says a ban on combustible materials must be extended to all existing tower blocks and other high-risk buildings, not just new tower blocks over 18m which is currently proposed. The committee say it should also include stripping cladding from retirement homes, hospitals, student accommodation and hotels. The report goes on to say how lives could be saved through wider use of sprinklers and should be retro-fitted to existing high-rise residential buildings wherever possible. 

MPs have published the report after 72 people died as a result of the blaze at Grenfell Tower on 14 June last year. Cladding panels used on the tower block burnt quickly and spread the fire.

Summary of the report:

  • Calls for “a robust system of oversight and meaningful sanctions, but underpinned by a strong, prescriptive approach”
  • Combustible materials ban must extend and apply to existing buildings and residential homes, hospitals, student accommodation and hotels.
  • Sprinklers should be fitted to all high-rise residential buildings where possible to provide an extra layer of safety 
  • Highlights several examples of conflicts of interest in the industry, with Fire Rescue Authorities inspecting the work of their own commercial trading arms, builders appointing their own inspectors and private sector companies influencing fire safety guidance.
  • Reforms should be rolled out to the whole of the construction industry

Earlier this year, Dame Judith Hackitt’s published her findings into building regulations relating to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, following this, housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire told parliament on 21 May that he was “minded to” ban the use of flammable cladding materials on tower blocks. Responding to the review, the committee said it was "disappointing" it had not recommended a ban on materials that catch fire. 

Housing committee chair Clive Betts claimed despite being more than a year on from the tragic events last June, the industry was “still no closer to having a system that inspires confidence that residents can be safe and secure in their homes”. 

He added: “We agree with the Independent Review that there is a need for a fundamental change of culture in the construction industry, but there are also measures that can and should be introduced now. The industry is riven with conflicts of interest at every turn, with manufacturers choosing the most lenient testing bodies for their products. It just cannot be right that builders get to choose who marks their homework and urgent action is needed to make sure this does not continue. Fire Rescue Authorities should not be able to pass judgement on the work of their own commercial trading arms.”

Responding to the report, Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter, said: “The tragedy that unfolded at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again and we must ensure that those who live, work and visit high-rise and high-risk buildings are safe. The evidence from real fires in real tower blocks shows that using combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise buildings kills people. We continue to strongly urge the government to ban the use of any combustible materials - including cladding panels, insulation and other materials - on the external walls of high-rise and high-risk buildings.”

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