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DEFENCE Secretary Gavin Williamson is under attack by a parliamentary committee that is “extremely concerned” that an inferno at shoddy military quarters could kill British soldiers in their sleep.
Commons defence committee chair Julian Lewis, a Tory, has sent a scathing letter to the minister about the “shocking failure” of fire safety at barracks across Britain.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) houses unmarried soldiers in a range of accommodation, including a central London tower block called Hyde Park Barracks that is taller than Grenfell Tower, raising the prospect of another tragedy.
Fire safety at the barracks is outsourced to Capita, a company with an “appalling” track record on MoD contracts, according to Mr Lewis.
He questioned the MoD’s decision to “assign such important safety responsibilities to a company with such a poor record of service delivery.”
Mr Lewis is concerned that a “range of serious deficiencies” in fire safety has now “contributed to a serious risk to life.”
He made the comments after reading reports by official watchdog the Defence Safety Authority (DSA).
There were two “notable fires” at barracks that triggered a special investigation by the DSA into fire safety, with inspectors visiting 16 barracks in Britain, Ireland and the Falkland Islands.
They found “an unacceptable degradation of safety management” and blamed senior officials for a failure to follow legislation.
In a chilling echo of the Grenfell tragedy, inspectors were especially concerned by “a failure to recognise and report faulty fire doors that could result in fires and smoke spreading from the room of fire origin into escape routes.”
They warned that this placed “all the occupants at risk when a fire occurs.”
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) told the Morning Star that it was “deeply concerned” at this “shocking failure to protect military personnel.”
National officer Dave Green condemned “complacency at the heart of this government regarding fire safety” and warned ministers to urgently address the fire risk on military sites.
An MoD spokesperson said: “We are committed to addressing the shortfalls identified by the Defence Safety Authority and have established a new committee to deliver improvements.”
The department added that it regularly checks its buildings and is “making improvements to fire safety across our sites, including bolstering our resources for fire assurance.”
Capita did not respond to a request for comment.
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