Gove says lax rules partly to blame for Grenfell fireon January 29, 2023 at 7:39 am

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“Faulty and ambiguous” rules were not policed properly by the government, housing secretary says.

Grenfell Tower showed covered with tarpaulin after the fire. A banner at the top of the building reads: "Grenfell: Forever in our hearts"Image source, Getty Images

Flawed government guidance on building standards was partly to blame for the Grenfell Tower fire, Housing Secretary Michael Gove has said.

He believes the system of regulation was “faulty and ambiguous” and not policed properly by the government.

Mr Gove said there was also an “active willingness” on the part of developers to endanger lives for profit.

The inquiry into the fire – in which 72 people died – has now closed and is expected to report later this year.

A final hearing in November was told of “weak” building controls and failures of government as well as “cynical” and “possibly dishonest practices” within the building industry.

The government had previously changed the wording of technical advice that had been criticised for not making clear that combustible cladding panels should not be used on tall buildings.

Asked in an interview with the Sunday Times whether he now accepts the guidance was wrong, Gove said: “Yes. The government did not think hard enough, or police effectively enough, the whole system of building safety.”

He added that ambiguity in the guidance “allowed unscrupulous people to exploit a broken system in a way that led to tragedy”.

The inquiry heard evidence that some of the companies involved in a 2015 refurbishment of the tower knew, or should have known, that the cladding being installed was flammable and not safe for use on tall buildings.

Richard Millett KC, lead counsel for the inquiry, told the panel it should conclude “with confidence” that all 72 deaths resulting from the fire were “avoidable”.

Mr Gove drew a distinction between “sins of omission and sins of commission”, suggesting that, while the government was guilty of the former, some developers were guilty of the latter.

“There is an active willingness to put people in danger in order to make a profit, which to my mind is a significantly greater sin,” he said.

Mr Millett also accused some of the companies who gave evidence to the inquiry of “indulging in a merry-go-round of blame” so as to “minimise their own exposure to legal liability”.

The government has begun introducing a series of measures intended to force developers to improve the state of buildings they manage or face being blocked from accessing funding or building new homes.

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