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THE GOVERNMENT was forced into an embarrassing U-turn today after Grenfell justice campaigners branded a review into the circumstances surrounding the devastating fire a “betrayal.”
Labour MPs led a furious backlash into Dame Judith Hackitt’s report on reforming building regulations in the wake of the June 14 disaster that left at least 71 people dead as it failed to recommend banning combustible cladding and “desktop studies” — approving the use of materials without real-life safety tests.
Housing and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire announced hours after the review was published that they would consult on banning combustible materials.
But MPs, campaigners from Grenfell United, the Local Government Association, Shelter housing charity and the Equality and Human Rights Commission said there was no need to consult over it, with Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad saying the ban on combustible cladding was an “absolute 100 per cent no-brainer.”
Labour MP and Grenfell campaigner David Lammy branded Ms Hackitt’s report “a betrayal and a whitewash.”
He added: “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.
“I will continue to stand with the Grenfell families and will continue to call for an outright ban on any combustible materials.”
And Ms Dent Coad told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “I don’t understand what they are consulting upon — are they going to say: ‘Would you like combustible cladding around your building or not?’
“… This is not an abstract issue. It is impacting on people’s mental health all over the country, people are not able to sleep because they have cladding and they are not sure whether it is safe, they have got fire marshals outside their doors.
“They need reassurance now and the government must act.”
Shelter chief executive officer Polly Neate said the charity was “deeply concerned” that less than 4 per cent of 189 social housing blocks with Grenfell-style cladding have had the material entirely removed.
Grenfell United chairman Shahin Sadafi said that the campaign group had specifically asked Ms Hackitt to ban combustible cladding at a meeting.
He added: “We are disappointed and saddened that she didn’t listen to us and she didn’t listen to other experts.
“The cladding on the Grenfell Tower was deemed to be limited combustibility, but it cost 72 lives. It must be banned.
"We need to hear from government a clear promise that these dangerous materials will never be used on homes again.”
Mr Brokenshire said new laws would be introduced that delivered “meaningful and lasting” change to the building safety system.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey said it “beggars belief” that the report “continues to give a green light” to combustible materials on high-rise blocks.
He added: “I say to the Secretary of State: Don’t consult on it — do it.”
In her review, Ms Hackitt found that indifference and ignorance had led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices and set out a series of proposals to make high-rise flats safer to live in.
She said a ban would “not address the root causes” of the “broken system” of building regulations.
But, responding to criticism of her report, she said she was open to seeing combustible cladding banned in the future.
Ms Hackitt, who told reporters she was “not an expert on Grenfell,” called for tougher penalties for those who breach regulations, arguing that the cladding on the tower would not have got through her proposed system.
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