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Catalogue of mistakes by government lead to Grenfell fire, inquiry hears

A CATALOGUE of mistakes and missed opportunities by the government led to the Grenfell Tower fire, the government admitted at the public inquiry into the disaster today.

The government should have learned from previous fires but did not, the inquiry heard, as a lawyer representing the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities gave a grovelling apology.

The government failed to enforce building regulations on construction companies and suppliers as it pursued an “unbridled passion for deregulation,” the inquiry also heard.

The inquiry is currently investigating how Grenfell Tower came to be cladded in flammable materials that spread flames rapidly up the tower, leading to the deaths of 72 residents in June 2017.

Jason Beer QC, representing the department, said it believes it “must examine its own conduct and candidly accept mistakes, errors and omissions when the inquiry identifies them.”

He said: “The department is deeply sorry for its past failures in relation to the oversight of the system that regulated safety in the construction and refurbishment of high-rise buildings.

“It also deeply regrets past failures in relation to the superintendence of the building control bodies, which themselves had a key role in ensuring the safe construction and refurbishment of such buildings.

“It apologises to the bereaved residents and survivors of the fire for such failures.”

But Mr Beer diverted blame towards companies who supplied materials and built the tower block, saying that the government, the public and residents had trusted that “those constructing and approving high-rise blocks and supplying the products used in them were following the law and doing the right thing.”

This trust was “both misplaced and abused,” he said, and went on: “The department greatly regrets that it took the Grenfell Tower tragedy to lay bare this misplaced and abused trust.”

He said the department should have done more to learn from previous fires and should have acted when the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety raised issues.

Mr Beer said: “Individually, these errors and missed opportunities from the department and across industry may not have caused the fire at Grenfell Tower, but cumulatively they created an environment in which such a tragedy was possible.”

Former Kensington Labour MP Emma Dent Coad said campaigners knew that government failures led to the tragedy while former shadow home secretary Diane Abbot said: “Finally, the Grenfell Inquiry starts to identify some of the real culprits.”

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