Grenfell families furious after ‘whitewash’ report fails to back cladding ban

Families of victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster today condemned a report into building rules and fire safety for not backing a total ban on combustible cladding.

The Government-commissioned review, by Dame Judith Hackitt, made 53 recommendations calling for sweeping changes in the construction industry and the way high-rise residential blocks are managed.

But it stopped short of proposing an outright ban on cladding which can be partially combustible — a move branded a “betrayal and a whitewash” by an MP.

 The type of aluminium composite cladding used at Grenfell Tower is suspected of being one of the causes behind the devastating spread of the blaze in North Kensington on June 14 last year, which killed 71 people.

Publishing her 156-page report, Dame Judith tore into the current regulatory framework as a “broken system”, lacking clarity over who is responsible and open to people to take “short cuts”.

Theresa May pledged to foot the £400m bill for making tower blocks safe after the Grenfell disaster (PA)

She added: “There are materials being used to clad buildings today that are non-compliant.

“Therefore the question is, if you simply ban some more of those materials, how will that resolve a problem that is actually about a broken system?”

Dame Judith, an engineer and former head of the Health and Safety Executive, said if her proposed reforms “had been in place prior to Grenfell I do not believe that the cladding put on Grenfell would have got through the system in the first place”.

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Pressed on whether she believed someone would have gone to jail for the Grenfell scandal if her ideas had been in place, she added: “What I know and what I read, I would expect that to be the case.” The failure to back a total ban was criticised by family representatives, MPs and town hall chiefs.

Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye, 24, died in the blaze, said: “This review is a betrayal and a whitewash. It is unthinkable and unacceptable that so many people can die in a disaster like Grenfell and one year on flammable cladding has not been banned.” Shahin Sadafi, of families’ group Grenfell United, said: “When we met Dame Judith Hackitt we asked her for an outright ban on combustible cladding. We are disappointed and saddened that she didn’t listen to us.”

Hammersmith Labour MP Andy Slaughter said: “No one should be told that they must live in a tower block clad in combustible material after the horror of Grenfell.”

Recommendations in the report include:

A joint authority, including town halls, emergency services and the HSE, to focus on tower block safety;

Clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing for construction products;

Stronger sanctions, including possible jail terms and unlimited fines, to stop people cutting corners;

Residents should have a right to access fire risk assessments.

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