<Minister's reply begins>

From: Alok Sharma, Minister of State for Housing and Planning
To: Chris Bryant MP
Date: 25 August 2017

Dear Chris

Thank you for your letter of 13 July on behalf of your constituent Mr Eddy Hunt regarding the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower

The tragic events at Grenfell Tower on 14 June have shocked us all very deeply.  My fellow Ministers across Government and I have heard devastating stories from people affected by the fire.  We are all clear that this should never have happened and must not happen again.

Please pass on my thanks to Mr Hunt for his comments.  His input, given his many years of experience, are very much appreciated.

As you may be aware, on 15 June, the Prime Minister announced a public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower.  The Inquiry, led by Sir Martin Moore Bick, consulted on its terms of reference which were announced by the Prime Minister on 15 August and are in full on gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/grenfell-tower-inquiry-terms-of-reference-published.  Sir Martin Moore Bick intends to hold a preliminary hearing on 14 September and to provide the Prime Minister with an initial report dealing with the cause of the fire and the means by which it spread by Easter next year.

With regards to fire safety, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, known as the Fire Safety Order, applies to the common parts of residential properties and requires the 'responsible person' (usually, in the case of blocks of flats, the owner, landlord, freeholder or managing agent) to carry out and review regularly a fire risk assessment and put in place - and maintain in good working order - fire precautions which are adequate and appropriate to manage the risk that lives could be lost in the event of a fire.  This will include the provision of, and training for, fire extinguishers, use of sprinklers and installation and maintenance of fire doors.

The Government has made a series of guides available to help 'responsible persons' determine what fire precautions may be necessary and comply with the Fire Safety Order.  The guides offer practical advice on the risk assessment process and the range of fire safety measures which may be appropriate to consider demonstrating compliance - https://ww.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your responsibilities/fire-risk-assessments.  If the responsible person does not have the expertise or time to complete the fire risk assessment, they would need to appoint a 'competent person' to help, such as a professional risk assessor.

Local fire and rescue authorities visit premises to check the fire risk assessment and the fire prevention measures are appropriate.  As the enforcing authorities of the Order, they are able to take actions, including serving a formal fire safety notice requiring improvements, if they think that the fire safety measures are not adequate.

With regards to the horrific events at Grenfell Tower, you will be aware that we have instigated a programme of testing at the Building Research Establishment to test samples of the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding submitted by local authorities,  housing associations and private landlords, to determine whether or not the cladding is compliant with the limited combustibility requirements set out in building regulations.  Officials in my department are liaising closely with landlords with buildings containing the relevant materials to ensure that their local Fire and Rescue Service has completed an urgent fire safety audit and that they are taking any mitigating action required.

Looking forward, the Government announced on 28 July an independent, forward-looking review of building regulations and fire safety, to be led by Dame Judith Hackitt.  The review will look at:

- The regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety;
- Related compliance and enforcement issues;
- International regulation and experience in this area.

Thank you again for your letter - I hope that this update reassures Mr Hunt.  We are determined to stand with the victims and wider community, and ensure that everything is done to prevent anything like this ever happening again.