Labour, Tories and fire regulations

A picture of Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey block of flats, after the fire; half of one visible side and most of the other is charred and windows are missing. Grenfell Tower: Tory minister declined to include sprinklers in fire safety rules as it could discourage house building | The Independent

This pretty much sums up why I’ll be supporting Labour in any repeat general election, whatever my reservations about Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories are a coalition of privileged interests; their power and money base consists of big landowners and big business. The logic of the market was more important to them than the safety of residents of large buildings, as seen in the response to the former Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis, recently promoted to immigration minister, when the issue of making sprinklers mandatory was raised in Parliament:

A sprinkler system would have “undoubtedly” saved lives at the Grenfell Tower blaze, the managing director of the Fire Protection Association told The Independent.

“Whether they’d have stopped that fire spreading at the speed it did up the outside of that building is another matter,” Jon O’Neill said.

“But to have had sprinklers in that building would have created an environment where it would have been easier to rescue people and increase survivability.”

[Brandon] Lewis declined to bring in regulation forcing developers to fit sprinklers because he said it was not the Government’s responsibility.

He told MPs: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation.”

Because the Tories were too concerned with satisfying the desire of big business to make as much money as they can and not to have pesky regulations get in the way, a vital safety feature was omitted from numerous buildings which could have saved lives — if not the building itself — in yesterday’s conflagration. Sprinklers are standard in American tower blocks (which are much higher than any of ours), so actually, the marketing must have already been done and they are no barrier to building there. They just care more about business than people.

Labour are not paralysed by such vested interests. This is not to say their record on fire safety in council blocks is impeccable (again, Lakanal was in Labour Southwark), but they are in a better position to make sure that commercial builders do their job than the Tories are. When Tories talk of bonfires of quangos or regulations, we know they find “red tape” and impediments to profit more aggravating than people getting burned.

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