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Hazards Campaign open letter to Commander Stuart Cundy in charge of the Grenfell fire investigation

Metropolitan Police Headquarters, New Scotland Yard,  8-10 Broadway, London, SW1H 0BG.

Hazards Campaign open letter to Commander Stuart Cundy in charge of the Grenfell fire investigation

Dear Commander Cundy,

The police investigation must investigate the Prime Ministers and ministers whose behaviour, actions and wilful disregard of warnings about the deadly consequences of their deregulation fetish that lead to decisions which caused the Grenfell fire.

We are pleased to hear you confirm that the starting point for your investigation into the Grenfell Tower investigation is ‘80 deaths by manslaughter.’  It is clear now that the overall model of regulation and enforcement of fire safety in buildings lies within a wider political context of government deregulatory initiatives that have undermined criminal health and safety law over a long period, and specifically accelerated since 2010.  Therefore we seek assurance that your investigation will look not only at all those individuals, companies and organisations directly involved in Grenfell Tower, but will examine the wider and crucial role of the ministers and their advisers on the deregulation of all types of health and safety law, enforcement and scrutiny, which form the environment in which the decisions that led to the Grenfell disaster took place.  This is a disaster which was foretold, that should never have happened and would not have done if the regulation and enforcement framework had been properly functioning to protect lives rather than serve business interests first.

Your investigation must seek to establish responsibility and culpability for this terrible tragedy that has taken many lives and damaged many more.  It seems clear that Prime Ministers’ setting deregulatory agendas in their manifestos, their speeches and their government programmes, plus Ministers carrying out those programmes, plus those specifically responsible for Housing and Fire Safety must be interviewed under caution.  Ministers who promised but failed to review the Building Regulations after the Laknal fire and failed to act after repeated warnings of potential disaster from fire experts and many letters from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue,  about the use of materials in high rise buildings without adequate safe guards in all aspects of their use, from specification, to installation to subsequent building, fire approvals and inspections, must be investigated.

We specifically seek assurance that this would include interviewing under caution ex Prime Minster David Cameron who repeatedly and vociferously ‘waged war’ on health and safety as ‘a monster’, ‘an albatross’, a ‘burden on business’ and which he vowed in his new year’s resolution of 2012 to ‘Kill off health and safety culture for good’   David Cameron set the ‘lite-touch’ political context in which regulations were viewed and policed.  Slashing the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, budget by a massive 33% in 2011 set the tone for the neutering of official policing of safety standards by the coalition government  . He established a programme of biased health and safety reviews, ‘Red Tape’ cuts, scrapping laws and dumbing down of guidance, plus slashing the budgets,  and restricting the enforcement activities of the HSE and the Local Authorities, while establishing business-oriented committees, advisory groups and programmes under the ‘Better Regulation’ agenda.

Others who must be interviewed under caution should include Prime Minister Theresa May who reaffirmed this deregulatory policy in 2016 and 2017, as ‘Cutting Red Tape’. and all ministers responsible for decisions on cutting health and safety in favour of reducing burdens on business, including, but not exclusively, ministers at the DWP, the DCLG, and those responsible for the Red Tape Challenge since 2010, those in charge of negotiating Brexit, plus any others who have made government sanctioned attacks on health and safety regulation and enforcement.  Of particular note is Oliver Letwin chairing a meeting under Brexit and the Red Tape Challenge on the deregulation of health and safety law for construction materials on the very day of the Grenfell Fire.

You are reported as stating that the criminal investigation would bring whoever is to blame to justice: “You can’t listen to the accounts of the survivors, the families, and those that lost loved ones, and listen to the 999 calls, like our investigation has done, and not want to hold people to account for a fire that should not have happened.”  We are pleased to hear this and insist that to honour this commitment, and to prevent other disasters, requires investigating and holding to account all those responsible for creating the deregulated health and safety environment including David Cameron and Theresa May and their ministers that have championed this model of corporate and governmental institutional neglect.

We will be pleased to provide more information on health and safety deregulation to your investigation team

Yours sincerely

Hilda Palmer, Acting Chair Hazards Campaign