ON JUNE 14th 2017, almost three years ago, fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington. It caused the deaths of 72 men, women and children.
The survivors of this disaster have in vain demanded justice, and have experienced official government opposition to their demands that those responsible for this deadly fire should face prosecution, and that evidence given to the official government inquiry into the fire should be used as evidence in court for prosecutions of the guilty.
In fact, the Inquiry, after ruling that evidence cannot be used in this way, has disappeared without trace and without any date for its resumption.
Now it has emerged that Nick Hurd, whose father Douglas Hurd served as foreign secretary under Margaret Thatcher, has been appointed as an ‘independent adviser to PM Boris Johnson on the Grenfell Tower fire.
Johnson is a former Mayor of London, who was responsible for the London Fire Brigade and has a record of imposing cuts on the fire service, including closing fire stations.
Nick Hurd was previously junior minister responsible for the fire service, and was Minister for London until he resigned his seat at the December general election.
His new appointment comes after PM Johnson decided to stand down the Grenfell Taskforce which was set up to ensure that the local Kensington and Chelsea council properly supported survivors and former residents of the Tower.
The stand-down took place with the Council still failing to rehouse 5% of the former residents of the Tower, and they are still not rehoused nearly three years after the killer blaze.
This situation is scandalous enough, but is actually capped by the fact that it has just emerged that a High Pressure Laminate (HPL) used in thousands of high-rise buildings in the UK has failed its safety test.
The test, paid for by the Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association (MCRMA), was halted just after seven minutes and 45 seconds with temperatures from the huge fire exceeding 700 degrees centigrade.
This test came just months after a devastating fire at the Cube student accommodation block in Bolton which was destroyed when flames ripped through its HPL cladding in November last year.
Doctor Jonathan Evans, a member of the MCRMA, describes the result of the test as ‘shocking’ and asked why the government has not taken more decisive action to get this type of cladding removed.
In a letter to the government, Evans, technical committee chair at the MCRMA, said that he had called for the government to test standard-grade HPL in its official programme of testing post-Grenfell in 2017, but the government had ‘flatly refused’.
He added: ‘From a fire and rescue perspective, the performance of a standard HPL system is practically the same as that of polyethylene-cored ACM – you’ve got just a few minutes to prevent a very serious fire from rapidly developing.
‘Arguably, due to the higher fuel content, an HPL fire might be more difficult to fight than ACM due to the greater heat release rate.’
FBU leader Matt Wrack commented: ‘This cladding failing so dramatically … should send shivers down the backs of government … thousands and thousands of people are living in dangerous homes.’
He added: ‘Buildings could and should have been made safer with a comprehensive regime immediately after Grenfell, but the government failed to act.
‘Flammable cladding is a ticking time bomb.’
It is obvious that the Johnson government is not interested in bringing the guilty to justice over Grenfell, and has also refused to rid the country of the high-risk cladding in thousands of buildings that threaten to incinerate thousands.
The FBU must lead a national campaign for fire safety, to bring down the Johnson government and bring in a workers government that will prosecute those responsible for the Grenfell fire and nationalise the building industry, bringing in an inspection regime that will put an end to any prospect of more Grenfell Tower infernos.