The government has caved into pressure and agreed to consult on banning combustible cladding after a post-Grenfell independent review was widely criticised as a ‘whitewash’
Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced the move in a statement to parliament, despite Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations, published this morning (17 May), failing to recommend a ban.
‘Having listened carefully to concerns, the government will consult on banning the use of combustible materials in cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings,’ Brokenshire said.
He added that he would ‘not hesitate’ to ban desktop studies – fire-safety assessments made without any lab tests – if the current consultation on the tests did not demonstrate that they could be used safely.
Hackitt’s report sparked outrage today, including condemnation from the RIBA. The institute slammed it as a ‘major missed opportunity’ that offered ‘no changes whatsoever to the actual regulations or baseline guidance’.
Despite not recommending a ban on combustible cladding in her review, Hackitt told a press briefing this morning that she ‘would support’ the government if it decided to take that step.
‘If people feel that I have not gone far enough, and that for this system to work in the future requires, in addition, that there is further clarity or indeed banning of some of the materials that are being used, I don’t have a problem with that,’ she said.
The government’s announcement that it would go further than the Hackitt review, and consult on banning combustible cladding, was greeted with incredulity.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey described it as ‘chaotic’, tweeting: ‘First the review fails to recommend banning combustible materials on high-rise blocks. Minutes later the author says she would support it. Now in Commons, ministers say they’re going to consult on doing it.’
Chaos over Hackitt building safety review. First the Review fails to recommend banning combustible materials on high-rise blocks. Minutes later the author says she would support it. Now in Commons Ministers say they're going to consult on doing it.— John Healey MP (@JohnHealey_MP) May 17, 2018
Labour MP David Lammy called the situation an ‘absolute shambles’ and described the report as a ‘betrayal and a whitewash’, while the Local Government Association (LGA) said it was ‘disappointing’.
Absolute shambles over Hackitt Review. First the Review doesn't recommend banning combustible materials on high-rise blocks. Then Dame Hackitt herself says she would support it. Now in Parliament Ministers say they're going to consult on doing it. Don't consult on it, do it now.— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 17, 2018
Defending Hackitt’s report, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said it did not recommend a ban on using combustible materials in high-rise buildings ‘because it would give a false assurance that that one shot would somehow make everything okay, and it does not’.