Fire chief tells of repeated rebuffs by ministers as Theresa May admits Grenfell victims were let down.
The extent to which government ministers failed to act on expert warnings about inadequate fire safety rules before the Grenfell Tower disaster in London can be revealed by the Observer.
As public outrage mounted and political pressure grew on Theresa May over the tragedy, former chief fire officer Ronnie King – who is secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety – said urgent requests for meetings with ministers and action to tighten rules were stonewalled.
King also revealed that ministers had failed to insist that life-saving sprinkler systems were mandatory in the design of new schools in England, despite clear recommendations in reports commissioned by the government itself, which advocated their use.
His criticism came as the prime minister admitted on Saturday that although the emergency services had been “heroic”, support for families of Grenfell Tower victims who needed help after the fire “was not good enough”.
King, who was a chief fire officer for 20 years, said: “They seem to need a disaster to change regulations, rather than evidence and experience. It was the same with the King’s Cross fire and the Bradford City football club fire. They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”
He said that requests for meetings with former housing minister Gavin Barwell, now Theresa May’s chief of staff, were turned down. King said: “We have had replies, but the replies were to the effect that you have met my predecessor [the previous Tory housing minister James Wharton] and there were a number of matters that we are looking at and we are still looking at it.