Grenfell Tower: Tory minister urged against including sprinklers in fire safety rules as it could discourage house building. ‘We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government’

As the death toll from the Grenfell Tower blaze rose to 12, it emerged Brandon Lewis, who was recently promoted to immigration minister, said in 2014 that building developers should not be forced to fit sprinklers.

A sprinkler system would have “undoubtedly” saved lives at the Grenfell Tower blaze, the managing director of the Fire Protection Association told The Independent. “Whether they’d have stopped that fire spreading at the speed it did up the outside of that building is another matter,” Jon O’Neill said. “But to have had sprinklers in that building would have created an environment where it would have been easier to rescue people and increase survivability.”

The man who predicted the Grenfell Tower fire: first in-depth interview

Mr Lewis’ department declined to bring in regulation forcing developers to fit sprinklers while he was in charge. He told MPs: “We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation.” He said the Tory Government had committed to being the first to reduce regulations nationwide.

He added: “The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building – something we want to encourage – so we must wait to see what impact that regulation has.”Earlier in the Westminster Hall debate to mark Fire Sprinklers Week, he had admitted: “Sprinklers work. We know that. No one can deny it.


“The myths around sprinklers have been well explained and debunked here today. “They are an effective way of controlling fires and of protecting lives and property.” He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “We know that sprinklers are effective. Also, sprinklers will make the environment more survivable by containing the fire and containing the smoke. 

Paul Fuller, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire

Paul Fuller, chief fire officer for Bedfordshire and chairman of the Fire Sector Federation, said sprinklers could have helped. “But they are not a total solution. We also have to make sure that passive protection measures – things like the structure of the building and the fire resistance of the building – are all properly in place as well.”

He added that the federation has been calling for a review of part B of the building regulations “for a number of years now” to ensure they “meet the needs of a modern society using modern methods of construction and who use buildings differently from the way we used to 30 or 40 years ago”.

In 2013 the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group called for a review of safety regulation after six people died and more than 20 were hurt in a 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell.

A government spokesman said that following the Lakanal House fire, the coroner recommended the guidance relating to fire safety within the building regulations be simplified, work he said is ongoing.

The coroner also asked government to write to councils encouraging them to consider retro-fitting sprinklers, he said, adding that it had happened.

The spokesman added: “Our thoughts are with the residents and families of everyone caught up in this dreadful event. We stand ready to help in any way possible as the emergency services continue to stabilise the situation.

“The London Fire Brigade will be conducting their investigation and at this stage it would not be appropriate to comment on the cause of the fire.”


n.b there are many others that should be jailed too: the company that [knowingly sold dangerous cladding] to the cost-cutters that ignored tenants’ safety, etc


UNFIT FOR PURPOSE! Identical twins suffering the same condition get different PIP awards

Ministers slammed for “unfit for purpose” benefits system which judges identical twins suffering the same condition differently

The twins, who both had the same genetic condition, went for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments at different times and one was approved, while the other was rejected

Emma Reynolds was damming in her criticism of the benefits system
 Ministers have again come under fire over an “unfit” policy on disability benefits – as an MP revealed how identical twins, suffering with the same condition, had been given differing judgments by assessors.

The twins, who both had the same genetic condition, went for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments at different times and one was approved, while the other was rejected.

Last month the Work and Pensions select committee found that for at least 290,000 claimants of PIP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), 6% of all those assessed, the right decision on entitlement was not made first time around.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs at Work and Pensions questions raised individual cases where people were having issues with PIP and ESA, including one suffering with epilepsy and another with an inoperable brain tumour.

Labour MP Emma Reynolds, speaking in the Commons, said: “I’ve been helping identical twins who have the same genetic condition involving learning disabilities and associated health problems, both were assessed for PIP at different times by different assessors, one was granted PIP and one was rejected.

“This case has now been resolved but can’t the minister see that the system is totally unfit for purpose and needs overhauling?”

Minister Sarah Newton tried to defend the system 
Work and Pensions Minister Sarah Newton drew scoffs from the Labour benches when she told MPs the fact the case was resolved showed the system was working.

She said: “The very fact that the case has been resolved shows that the system is working.

“It’s very important to me that we make the right decision the first time and I’ve set in place a whole series of improvements to PIP, we have followed the advice given to us by the independent review of PIP and are working at pace to make the necessary changes.” A number of MPs raised the high level of successful appeals by those looking to claim PIP and ESA, with around two thirds of all appeals overturned in favour of the claimant.

Ms Newton said she was “absolutely determined” to ensure the right decision is made every time, and said: “There have been 3.1 million PIP decisions made and 9% of those have been appealed and 4% of those have been overturned.” But MPs kept on raising individual cases to the minister.

Lib Dem Layla Moran said a constituent with a rare inherited disorder had received the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA), but since turning 16 was scored zero in every category on her PIP assessment. “Would the minister consent to meet with me and my constituent so we can iron out this clear case of computer says no,” the Oxford West and Abingdon MP added.

Labour whip Jeff Smith said he had two cases where constituents with serious and deteriorating cerebral palsy both scored zero points on their PIP assessments. “In both cases, the constituents require round the clock care, and yet both are forced to appeal the PIP decisions,” “Does the minister think it’s acceptable that people with serious and deteriorating disabilities are being forced to go through the courts to get the support they deserve?”

His Labour colleague Clive Efford (Eltham) added: “My constituent was called back early for a Personal Independence Payment assessment. “The assessment made no reference to the fact he has an inoperable brain tumour, which has led to him having intractable epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. “Can the minister explain why he was recalled for an assessment?”

Labour former minister Angela Eagle said her constituent of working age had suffered two strokes and has now been diagnosed as suffering from vascular dementia. She added: “He has been found to be fit for work, even though he has major problems with his short term memory, will have to appeal this decision and faces a wait of up to 30 weeks before he can get any kind of hearing or have his benefit restored.

“How can this possibly be a system that is working or acceptable?”

In her answers, Ms Newton said the vast majority of claimants go through the process and get the support they need, and many more people were receiving higher levels of support on PIP compared with DLA.

The process was designed to treat people with compassion and accurately look at the medical evidence, she added. COMPASSION MY AR$E!!!!

Ms Newton also pledged to meet with those MPs who raised individual cases.


EVIL TORIES drops scheme to stop people being wrongly stripped of their benefits

Government drops scheme to stop people being wrongly stripped of their benefits because it is a ‘burden’
‘Yellow card’ reform was intended to prevent benefits being removed for trivial reasons – inflicting hunger and homelessness on vulnerable people

A “yellow card” scheme to cut the number of people pushed into poverty after being wrongly stripped of their benefits has been dumped.

The reform – giving claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to dock their benefits – would impose too much of a “burden”, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said, after a trial.

Campaigners have long pushed for the change, warning that benefits are being removed for trivial reasons, forcing hungry people to go to food banks and even making them homeless.

But Alok Sharma, the employment minister, said the 13 per cent of claimants who accepted the invitation to challenge a decision to sanction them was too low to justify “the additional burden”.

Furthermore, only around half of those could provide evidence that led to the DWP agreeing not to impose the benefit cut.

The Independent revealed in March that a decision on whether to extend the yellow card scheme had been shelved by the DWP – a stance confirmed today in a written statement to MPs. It was criticised by Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, who has highlighted the distress that benefit sanctions are still causing.

“The government’s initial data on the early impact of the yellow card trial looked encouraging,” he told The Independent. “They suggested that the scheme was protecting hundreds of people in the trial area from being wrongly sanctioned. Applied to the country as a whole, that layer of protection would have covered many thousands of very vulnerable people.” The ditching of the yellow card scheme comes as the number of sanctions starts to rise again, driven by an explosion in the number of punishments imposed on claimants of universal credit.

Tories DITCH scheme to stop people wrongly losing their benefits claiming it’s not worth the ‘extra time and cost’


Mr Sharma said the 2016 trial, in parts of Scotland involved 6,500 claimants – which would mean almost 850 challenged a decision to dock their benefits. However, he wrote: “Given the low proportion of cases in which claimants provided further evidence and the even lower proportion of cases where decision outcomes were changed, we do not consider that the benefits of the approach are sufficient to justify the extra time and cost it adds to the process.”

Benefit sanctions found to be ineffective and damaging

The minister did say he was “exploring the feasibility of an alternative process” to try to reduce the number of people being sanctioned. However, he gave no details, which would “be made available once we have progressed with the design work”.

Mr Field added: “What ministers decide on next will be crucial in determining how many of those people will be pushed to the brink of destitution in the years ahead. “Justice demands that measures like these are looked at seriously, with a view to testing them as soon as possible.”

  • One constituent of Mr Field, the MP for Birkenhead, was recently docked benefits for missing an appointment to receive universal credit because he was in an operating theatre at the time.  
  • In another similarly alarming case, a man in the Merseyside constituency was sanctioned for missing a job centre appointment while he was in A&E.

Typically, if conditions are not met, benefits are docked for four weeks, which can mean a loss of £300 for a claimant over the age of 25 – but a sanction can last for three months, or even a year.

In a damning report in 2016, the National Audit Office castigated the DWP for failing to monitor people whose benefits had been docked and suggested the system costs more money than it saved.


£1.7million wage of Mobility boss has been blasted by MPs

The “totally unacceptable” £1.7million pay of the boss of a business supplying cars to disabled people has been blasted by MPs. Earnings and the £2.4billion cash reserves “hoarded” by Motability Operations are “totally out of whack” with reality, two powerful Commons committees find

Motability is a company that is a taxpayer-supported monopoly with zero competition

The “totally unacceptable” £1.7million pay of the boss of a business supplying cars to disabled people has been blasted by MPs. Earnings and the £2.4billion cash reserves “hoarded” by Motability Operations are “totally out of whack” with reality, two powerful Commons committees find.

Chief executive Mike Betts enjoyed a 78% rise in his pay package in nine years – despite running a company that is a taxpayer-supported monopoly with zero competition, the probe says. The Work and Pensions and Treasury committees called for public spending watchdog the National Audit Office to review of the scheme.

Frank Field slammed the pay rise for the chief executive

Committee chairman Frank Field said: “It is impossible to calculate the human happiness that has resulted from the freedom and independence that Motability scheme – the first and only scheme of its kind – offers disabled people. “But the organisation operates as a monopoly that faces no competition in accessing disabled people’s often hard-won personal independence payment benefits.

“The levels of pay pocketed by its executives and the cash reserves it is hoarding are totally out of whack with reality of its position in the market.

“That one member of staff is paid over 10 times what the Prime Minister earns is one example of where Motability needs to get a grip of itself and realise the privileged position in which it trades.”

MPs said the scheme, made up of the operations business and two charities, is a valuable service and currently helps 629,0001 disabled people live more independently. But Treasury Committee chairwoman Nicky Morgan added: “It seems that Motability may have lost its way.”

A spokesman for Motability Operations, the charity behind Motability, said: “The National Audit Office will now look at the scheme – something Motability the charity, and Motability Operations had made clear they would welcome before the select committees began their inquiry.”


Hundreds of homeless people fined and imprisoned in England and Wales

The Guardian finds over 50 local authorities with PSPOs in place prohibiting begging and loitering

A homeless woman sleeps rough in Manchester
Homeless people are banned from town centres

Growing numbers of vulnerable homeless people are being fined, given criminal convictions and even imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping, the Guardian can reveal. Despite updated Home Office guidance at the start of the year, which instructs councils not to target people for being homeless and sleeping rough, the Guardian has found over 50 local authorities with public space protection orders (PSPOs) in place

Homeless people are banned from town centres, routinely fined hundreds of pounds and sent to prison if caught repeatedly asking for money in some cases. Local authorities in England and Wales have issued hundreds of fixed-penalty notices and pursued criminal convictions for “begging”, “persistent and aggressive begging” and “loitering” since they were given strengthened powers to combat antisocial behaviour in 2014 by then home secretary, Theresa May.

Windsor’s homelessness: a parable of modern Britain

Data obtained by the Guardian through freedom of information found that at least 51 people have been convicted of breaching a PSPO for begging or loitering and failing to pay the fine since 2014, receiving CBOs in some cases and fines up to £1,100. Hundreds of fixed-penalty notices have been issued.

Lawyers, charities and campaigners described the findings as “grotesque inhumanity”, saying disadvantaged groups were fined for being poor. They said civil powers were being used by overzealous councils who wanted to sweep inconveniences off their streets and sanitise town centres.

Councils use a range of tools to crackdown on begging, but PSPOs are the most popular. Breaching a PSPO can lead to a £100 fixed-penalty notice, but offenders face a summary conviction, sometimes a criminal behaviour order (CBO) banning an individual for future begging and a fine of up to £1,000 if they fail to pay. Violating a CBO can result in five years in prison.

Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer for Liberty, said: “We warned from the start that PSPOs were far too broad and ripe for misuse by over-zealous councils wanting to sweep inconveniences off their streets. Now we see dozens of local authorities using them to target marginalised groups and fine people for being poor.”

Campaigners say bans on drinking alcohol and swearing in town centres are also being used to target homeless people, but councils insist PSPOs are only being used to target antisocial behaviour, not homelessness and rough sleeping. In a few cases, people who are not homeless have been prosecuted for begging.

Hundreds of homeless people fined and imprisoned for begging and rough sleeping

Brighouse added: “This approach just pushes people into debt or the criminal justice system.” May introduced PSPOs in 2014 to restrict how a particular area could be used.

In December 2017, then home secretary Amber Rudd told councils not to misuse antisocial behaviour laws by targeting homeless people. New guidance says PSPOs “should not be used to target people based solely on the fact that someone is homeless or rough sleeping, as this in itself is unlikely to mean that such behaviour is having an unreasonably detrimental effect on the community’s quality of life which justifies the restrictions imposed”.

But councils that use PSPOs to ban begging and related activities from their town centres insist the measures are not targeted at homeless people.


Kettering borough council, which hailed what they believed to be “the most criminal behaviours orders issued at once on the back of convictions” for begging after they took 10 people to court for breaching PSPOs in May 2017, said: “The PSPO is used to address antisocial behaviours in the town centre. During the course of their work, if our staff identify individuals in need of support, they refer people to the appropriate agencies for help. The council is very proactive in this regard.”

Some charities have called on the government to scrap PSPOs entirely, arguing they are an example of abuse of power and do not help take people off the streets, but push them further into debt and the criminal justice system.

Josie Appleton, director of the Manifesto Club campaign against hyper-regulation of everyday life said: “It’s a travesty that people who most need our help are being treated like they arescum … how do you treat the poor? The fact they are being seen as a messy thing is grotesque inhumanity and lots of places with these orders in place have faced huge public outcry to the orders.” She added: “It’s this kind of very harsh officious mentality … it’s not to do with representing people but airbrushing things.”

The impact on homeless people, Appleton said, includes them being run out of town or if they reoffend they face imprisonment, making it harder to get back on their feet and find work.

When contacted by the Guardian, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We are clear that PSPOs should be used proportionately to tackle antisocial behaviour, and not to target specific groups or the most vulnerable in our communities. We set this out clearly when in December last year we refreshed the statutory guidance for frontline professionals on the use of the antisocial behaviour powers.

“It is for local agencies to determine whether their use of the powers is appropriate, and that they are meeting the legal tests set out in the legislation. The government is committed to tackling and reducing homelessness and to offer support to the most vulnerable in our society.”


Diane Abbott steamrollers Tory MP for calling Grenfell safety a ‘technical issue’

Labour’s Diane Abbott steamrollers Tory minister for calling Grenfell safety a ‘technical issue’ in furious TV clash. The top MP hit out at Housing Minister Dominic Raab on the BBC’s Question Time after a chaotic day for the government

Ministers revealed today they will “consult” on banning all flammable cladding hours after an official report failed to do so.

But Shadow Home Secretary Ms Abbott demanded ministers “issue a directive today” to enforce a ban. “Would you live in a house that was covered in combustible cladding?” she asked. Housing Minister Dominic Raab said it was a “technical issue”, adding it was important to get the definition of combustible right. Shamed government COULD now ban flammable cladding after crucial post-Grenfell report fails to

“The 71 people that died were not a technical issue. You need to step up!” 
Housing Minister Dominic Raab said it was important to get the definition right Landmark report which failed to ban flammable cladding in the wake of Grenfell Tower branded a “betrayal and a whitewash”

He told her: “We’ve made it very clear we will proceed to ban combustible cladding. We’re going to consult on the best way to do it.” But Ms Abbott shot back: “The 71 people that died were not a technical issue.

“You need to step up!”

The pair clashed on the BBC’s Question Time less than a mile from Grenfell Tower in London’s Kensington and Chelsea. David Cameron ’s former No10 policy chief also demanded an immediate ban. Baroness Cavendish told BBC Question Time: “I think it’s completely obvious. “The one thing surely we must do is ban combustible cladding now.” ‘I’m sorry it’s taken this long’: Tory minister makes shamefaced TV apology after being confronted by Grenfell survivor

The pair clashed on the BBC’s Question Time less than a mile from Grenfell Tower

She added there had been a “race to the bottom in the building industry” and “everone was doing it”, adding: “We need to know who was responsible.

There was a furious backlash after Dame Judith Hackitt’s official review failed to recommend banning the materials with campaigners branding it a “whitewash” and a “betrayal”.

Instead her report, which was commissioned in the wake of the tragedy which killed 72 people, calls for a new single regulator to be set up, with a tougher testing regime for building owners and managers and more serious penalties for those who choose to “game the system” and put residents at risk.

The Housing Secretary will now consult on banning flammable cladding.


Disabled man born with 17 holes in his heart denied benefits for months

Disabled man born with 17 holes in his heart who had five operations denied benefits for months and told to get a job after moving on to Universal Credit

Samuel Moore, 24, who even tried his hand at a job but had to quit after just a few days, was rejected for Personal Independence Payments after doctors said he should stay on it for life

A DISABLED man born with 17 holes in his heart has been denied benefits and told to start looking for a job. Samuel Moore, 24, who has undergone five operations for his condition and wasn’t expected to live longer than three weeks, was repeatedly rejected for Personal Independence Payments. But Sam – who had his first operation to try and repair parts of his heart at just six months old, says he’s a 24-year-old trapped in an 80-year-old’s body.

He desperately doesn’t want to rely on state hand-outs but can’t walk more than 100 metres without getting out of breath, and gets dizzy spells and heart palpitations too.

But officials slashed his benefits after he swapped onto Universal Credit and had a fresh assessment, and said he wasn’t ill enough to get them. He’s getting just £295 a month at the moment.

Up to three in four disabled people who challenge their benefit cuts win an appeal

Sam, who lives with his gran in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, told The Sun Online: “They said ‘you can read a computer screen so there’s nothing wrong with you’.”

Sam [left], who studied animal care at college but had to drop out due to his poor health, even desperately tried to give work a go but only lasted five days before he was forced to quit.

“I wasn’t supposed to make it past three weeks old,” Sam added.

“I was born with 17 holes in my heart. They christened me at three days old because they thought I wasn’t going to make it.

“The teachers at school told me I’d never get anywhere, I just wanted to be like everyone else.

“It’s never going to be totally repaired, all they can do is keep replacing my heart valves. “I’m 24 but I’m in an 80-year-old’s body. “I provided all this medical information to them, but they told me I had to start looking for work.”

Sam worries about what he’ll do when his gran, who has bowel cancer, isn’t around any more and he has to provide for himself. He’s already started saving any money he can for when that happens.

He went on: “My doctor was fuming and disgusted, he said I never should have been taken off it and I genuinely shouldn’t be working. “He’s been giving me sick notes, I was told I was indefinitely on it. “But then after an assessment they said I had scored zero. “They stopped chunks of my benefits for no apparent reason.”

Sam, who is forced to take drugs daily to thin his blood and treat his heart conditions, appealed and was rejected again. If he were to get Personal Independence Payments (PIP) he would be eligible to get another £229.20 per month, or £342.40 if he were on an enhanced rate.

Universal Credit is gradually replacing Employment and Support Allowance and is the main benefit to claim if someone is out of work due to sickness or a disability. It is part of Government reforms to replace six benefits with one payment.

But the rollout has been beset with issues – with thousands said to have been driven to food banks as a result of waits, and claims that they are fuelling domestic violence cases.

PIP can also be claimed on top, but is usually for a fixed amount of time, and can be reviewed by the Department for Work and Pensions at any time.