Barwell blanks questions over fire review report

Footage shows former housing minister refusing to acknowledge news team asking about ‘sat on’ report into tower block safety.

barwell

Former housing minister Gavin Barwell has blanked reporters asking questions about the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Sky News posted footage of Barwell – newly appointed chief of staff to Theresa May – ignoring questions about his role in a delayed fire safety review that he was accused of “sitting on”.

Barwell was asked when the report would be released, but the footage shows him walking straight past the news team to Downing Street and not acknowledging the questions at all.

Barwell  has been accused of sitting on a review into building regulations at tower blocks following a tower block fire at Lakanal House, South London in 2009, which claimed six lives.

Fire safety failings – including inadequate fire risk assessments and panels on the exterior walls not providing the required fire resistance – were uncovered in the subsequent investigation.

A coroner made a series of recommendations, some have been implemented but a full review of building regulations has yet to take place.

Barwell said last year he was committed to reviewing the specific part of building regulations that relate to fire safety – the review has yet to be launched.

Ronnie King, honorary administrative secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on fire safety, said MPs had also pressed for a review.

King said the group had “strongly recommended” installing fire suppression systems and sprinklers in 4,000 similar tower blocks across the country.

He said: “The All-Party Group were looking at the issue of fire suppression in all the tower blocks with similar designs to this.

“And we understand that there are around 4,000 tower blocks that don’t have fire sprinklers fitted into them.

“That was a recommendation, which was down to each local council and landlords to determine the appropriateness of this.

“We were strongly recommending this as the fire at Lakanal House spread within four minutes to the flat above and went on to kill six people regrettably.

“Our group recommended that due to the speed that the fire spread in Lakanal House, that building regulations should be reviewed. It’s nearly 11 years since it has been reviewed.

“Successive ministers since 2013 have said they are still looking at it.”

The DCLG has said it was “simply not true” to suggest that ministers had “sat” on the review and work was ongoing.

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