British Conservatives knew about fire hazards years before Grenfell, did nothing


This 2 August 2018 video from Britain is called Government told in 2014 that Grenfell-style cladding was highly dangerous.

By Tom Pearce in Britain:

UK government warned of dangers of flammable cladding three years before Grenfell fire

14 August 2018

As [early] as 2014, the UK government was warned of the risks of using combustible aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding on buildings and did nothing to stop its use or warn the population.

The details emerged just as the Grenfell fire inquiry broke for its summer recess. It was because Grenfell Tower was surrounded by highly flammable cladding that a small fire on the fourth floor rapidly became an inferno that consumed the entire block on June 14 last year, claiming 72 lives.

Inside Housing, the weekly trade publication, revealed minutes of a meeting of the fire group of the Center for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) on July 2, 2014. Inside Housing was able to access the minutes through a Freedom of Information request.

The meeting, held two years before Grenfell tower was covered in flammable ACM, was called after the CWCT received inquiries about the fire safety and performance of facades (cladding) due to the fact that there had been “a number of issues recently.” It was attended by officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

On the combustibility of insulation, the minutes state, “Limited combustibility insulation should be used above 18 metres when following the prescriptive requirements of Approved Document B (ADB) Cl[ause] 12.7 but other materials, principally foil faced phenolic foam are often used in rainscreen walls.”

This was not the case at Grenfell, with its cladding being compared to “solid petrol” by some experts.

The minutes show the building regulations to be deliberately ambiguous, providing grey areas where building control officers have allowed the use of combustible material that does not comply to the standards in ADB clause 12.7.

Regarding the use of ACM, the CWCT findings showed that, “This material generally achieves a reaction to fire classification of class 0 or class B s1 d0.” In the minutes, CWCT recommends that there are safer and less combustible options available. “There are versions available with a mineral core which can achieve A2 s1 d0. There are also similar materials available with other metals such as copper used for the facing.”

The minutes give a stark warning of the dangers associated with the use of ACM: “There have been major fires in buildings in various parts of the world including the Middle East and France where ACM materials have been used for the cladding with the ACM responsible for external fire spread.”

It is stated that “clause 12.7 of ADB is intended to prohibit the use of polyethylene cored ACM in buildings over 18m as they are not classed as limited combustibility. …

“In a building with a storey 18m or more above ground level any insulation product, filler material (not including gaskets, sealants and similar) etc. used in the external wall construction should be of limited combustibility.”

While it was made clear to the Department for Communities and Local Government that cladding was directly responsible for the spread of external fires in tower blocks, the government was doing nothing with this information.

These official guidelines were ignored by the government, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)—that carried out Grenfell’s “refurbishment” on behalf of the council.

The minutes also point to the dangers in the use of cladding that has not been properly fitted and buildings that have not been designed to take the new forms of cladding:

“Cavities/openings may be formed in a fire due to melting or deformation of materials. The cavities/openings may lead to unexpected routes for fire spread. In ADB [Approved Document B] the requirement for insulation of limited combustibility applies to all insulation so includes insulation within a rainscreen cavity or within a curtain wall spandrel panel.”

This adds to the evidence pointing to the vast criminality committed at Grenfell by the political and corporate elite, who are doing everything possible to conceal their crimes.

In the Grenfell Inquiry’s last session, Michael Mansfield QC, representing some Grenfell families, interrupted inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to insist there was a “sense of urgency” to act and help families still living in tower blocks with similar cladding. He said, “There is no need to wait another nine months to make recommendations that could—and possibly should—be made now.”

The same call was made in June by Pete Weatherby, QC, who demanded “a moratorium on the use of any insulation or rainscreen products that are below A1 (non-combustible) standard, at least until [the inquiry chair’s] final report.”

In response, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) claimed, “We are acting quickly” and are “consulting on banning the use of combustible materials on high-rise residential buildings. We are also restructuring building regulations fire safety guidance to ensure it is clear.”

The truth is that the government is “consulting” on the banning of ACM only in order to ensure that any such measure, if legislated at all, will result in the least impact on the profits of big business. A full ban is opposed by Sir Ken Knight, the chair of the government’s independent fire safety panel, who wrote to the MHCLG on July 2 calling only for a limited ban on combustible materials used on buildings.

Virtually nothing has been done to make thousands of people safe in their homes 14 months after the Grenfell fire.

In total, 470 public and private buildings in the UK are known to have Grenfell-type cladding. A year after the Grenfell fire, the government’s own building safety programme had identified 297 private high-rise blocks with ACM cladding. However, only 21 had begun the process to remove cladding and only four buildings have had their cladding completely removed. It is estimated by other sources that there are many more buildings clad in ACM, which are not being listed by their owners, who fear a collapse in the value of their property.

Recently residents at the New Capital Quay block in Greenwich, London had to prepare a class action suit against developers and insurers over building safety to force the company to agree to remove the cladding from their homes.

Those guilty of social murder at Grenfell Tower must be arrested and charged, including former London Mayor Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Theresa May and her predecessors, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

Those instrumental in the decision to add the cladding to Grenfell must also be arrested and charged, including former RBKC council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown; his then-deputy, Rock Feilding-Mellen; former housing director Laura Johnson; former head of the KCTMO, Robert Black; the CEO of Rydon, Robert Bond; the managing director of Harley Facades, Ray Bailey; the CEO of Arconic, which manufactured the cladding panels used; and the chief executive officers of Celotex, which manufactured the flammable insulation.

  • For an emergency multibillion-pound programme of public works to build schools, hospitals, public housing and all the infrastructure required in the 21st century!

The Grenfell Fire Forum, initiated by the Socialist Equality Party, will be discussing these issues at its next meeting on Saturday, September 1, at the Maxilla Social Club in North Kensington, London. All are welcome to attend.

Grenfell Fire Forum meeting

Saturday, September 1, 4 p.m.
Maxilla Social Club, 2 Maxilla Walk
London, W10 6SW (nearest tube: Latimer Road)

For further details visit facebook.com/Grenfellforum

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British Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ against artists


This British TV video says about itself:

Windrush: ‘Hostile environment policy like Nazi Germany‘ – BBC Newsnight

19 April 2018

The former head of the civil service, Lord Kerslake, said that some ministers were “deeply unhappy” about the introduction of the “hostile environment” strategy under then Home Secretary Theresa May. He and David Goodheart from the Policy Exchange spoke to Evan Davis about the policy.

Newsnight is the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs TV programme – with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

International artists’ visa refusals highlight UK government’s “hostile environment” against migrants

13 August 2018

The Conservative government’s “hostile environment” against migrants is impacting on artists visiting the UK.

Members of three acts at the WOMAD world music festival were denied entry to Britain last month, while a dozen authors have been barred from attending this month’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Nick Barley, the director of this year’s Edinburgh festival, said visa applications for several authors from the Middle East and Africa were still outstanding. The festival opens today with an international line-up including authors, poets, scientists and historians across 900 events.

“We’ve had so many problems with visas, we’ve realised it is systematic. This is so serious. We want to talk about it and resolve it, not just for [this festival], but for cultural organisations UK-wide”, Barley told the Guardian Wednesday.

The visa bans have provoked widespread protest, with hundreds taking to social media to condemn the government’s racist visa restrictions and with many drawing parallels with the 1930s.

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel released a statement Thursday, pointing to similar moves underway in the US: “At a time of geopolitical polarization and hardened borders, cultural and intellectual exchange provides an essential lifeline to keep societies and peoples connected and prevent schisms from deepening as a result of ignorance and fear.”

International musicians have also been hit by visa bans. Tunisian singer and guitarist Sabry Mosba and Mozambican marrabenta singer Wazimbo were both denied entry to Britain for the WOMAD festival. Members of Nigerian group Tal National were also denied entry, with the rest of the band forced to perform a stripped-down set. Indian musical duo Hashmat Sultana, who are sisters, only cleared border control 24 hours after their scheduled appearance.

Held annually since 1982, WOMAD invites festival goers to discover “a world without borders, a global fiesta of music, food, dance & art.” But festival organiser Chris Smith says many international artists are now refusing to attend because of humiliating Home Office application procedures.

Other artists confirm this. Ebo Taylor, an 82-year-old Ghanaian musician who has played Britain many times, had a visa application denied last year. His band’s passports were held for weeks, preventing them from travelling and causing them to miss shows, including at London’s Jazz Café in Camden. Their visas were denied because of “insufficient funds on accounts”, even though their agent’s company was covering all their costs.

After the visa ban cost his company £17,000 in lost flights and fees, Taylor’s agent Ben Makkes said, “I don’t think we’ll come back to the UK”, calling Britain “definitely the toughest country to enter.”

Serbian DJ Tijana T said she felt like a “criminal” after three visa applications were rejected last year. She provided financial records, proof of a company in Belgrade, evidence that her earnings would support her during the trip, documentation of future employment, contracts, and proof of years working in similar engagements, but her visa applications were denied, with authorities citing grounds of “reasonable doubt” that she would stay and work illegally.

Tijana T’s story shows how the visa system is used to milk applicants. She explained that artists must apply for a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from an agency. This costs €250 for a fast-track procedure, which took 19 days the last time she applied, leaving her without a passport and unable to perform outside Serbia. “If you are from Eastern Europe it’s not so easy-peasy … especially if we talk about Serbia where average monthly salary is €300-400.”

The visa is not the only expense. Applicants must also attend a visa application centre (VAC) in person, sometimes involving huge cross-border trips. The nearest VAC for Mali, for example, is Dakar in Senegal, some 1,000 miles away. All band members must attend. Even then, visas are not guaranteed.

The visa bans are genre-blind. Last year Russian baritone Igor Golovatenko was twice refused a visa to sing in La Traviata at Glyndebourne, where he had sung in 2015. The Philharmonia Orchestra also lost the German-based Armenian violinist, Sergey Khachatryan, “due to visa issues.”

Much criticism of the current situation has been framed against Brexit.

WOMAD co-founder Peter Gabriel asked, “Do we really want a white-breaded Brexited flatland? A country that is losing the will to welcome the world?”

Chris Wright of Chrysalis Records warned that hard borders would mean “we can kiss goodbye to the plentiful imports of musical goods we have got so used to.”

However, those looking to the European Union to protect their business interests have to turn a blind eye to the trade bloc’s own hard borders and barbarous anti-refugee policies.

It may have worsened since 2016, but what is happening is not new, nor was it created two years ago. As Gabriel notes, “The right to travel for work, for education and even for pleasure is increasingly being restricted and often along racial and religious lines.”

Professor Alison Phipps, UNESCO chair of refugee integration at Glasgow University, has called it “extraordinarily difficult … to bring a musician into the country”, saying “undoubtedly, since 2015, it has got considerably harder.”

Last year she booked 22 Ghanaian musicians and dancers to appear in a government-funded academic project at Solas festival—20 were denied visas. When she appealed, all but two were allowed entry, but costly flights had to be rebooked. Official or not, says Phipps, “there is a travel ban in place in the UK.”

“The message the UK is sending out to international artists is ‘you are not welcome in Britain’”, Phipps told the i website.

This has been true for years. The points-based visa system, introduced by Gordon Brown’s Labour government in 2008, was used to bar artists long before Brexit.

In June 2010, Russian ballerina Polina Semionova had to cancel eight performances in Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. Two months later, despite having correct documentation, Brazilian theatre company Teatro da Curva were held for five hours, denied entry and deported.

In 2013, Gaza-based writers Ali Abukhattab and Samah al-Sheikh were refused visas for the Shubbak Festival and had to appear via Skype. Later that year, Kazakh painter Karipbek Kuyukov, who was born without arms, was prevented from attending an Edinburgh anti-nuclear conference because his “biometrics were of poor quality.” In other words, his fingerprints were unsatisfactory.

In 2015, Tbilisi’s New Collective theatre company were denied visas because they were young, single and without dependents. Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was also denied a visa on those grounds …

A recent survey by the British Incorporated Society of Musicians reported 40 percent of members noticing a negative impact on their work since the referendum. More than a third of respondents said they had experienced visa difficulties travelling outside the EU, and 15 percent said they had lost work through visa issues.

British Conservatives not learning Grenfell disaster lessons


London burnt-out Grenfell Tower

By Alan Jones in Britain:

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Government ‘ignoring Grenfell warning signs

Firefighters attending more incidents than ever – but cuts to the service continue

FIREFIGHTERS‘ leaders accused the government of ignoring the warning signs of Grenfell today, as new figures showed a rise in incidents amid continued fire service cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that, despite mounting difficulties over the last year, the government continued to “starve” fire authorities of funding.

There were 564,827 incidents in England in the past year, an increase of more than 4,000.

Firefighters attended more than 167,000 fires, the most since 2011-12, said the FBU, adding that the long period of improvements in public safety has plateaued, with cuts the “most likely explanation” for the rise.

The union said that, since 2010, one in five firefighting jobs have been cut, including around 10,000 in England.

FBU national officer Dave Green said: “These dreadful new figures confirm firefighters‘ worst fears. Austerity cuts are now damaging public safety.

“For years, politicians have slashed our service and excused their actions because long-term improvements were still being made.

“Now their figures show the public is at greater risk. The Grenfell Tower fire should have been a wake-up call.

“The Westminster government should have reacted by investing in the fire and rescue service, but instead they just keep on cutting.

“Firefighters have lost complete confidence in this Tory government. They are putting the public at risk, while wrecking a well-respected, professional public service.”

Labour’s shadow fire and emergencies minister Karen Lee added: “With fire and rescue services attending thousands more incidents in the last year it’s clear we need investment not cuts to our services.

“Swingeing cuts to staffing and funding capacities means that our hard-working fire service is once again expected to do more with less.”

She said a Labour government would recruit 3,000 more firefighters and ensure that the fire service is properly supported to keep our communities safe.

THE FBU has revealed that firefighters dealt with more incidents, more fires and saw more fire deaths last year than for most of the last decade in England, yet the Westminster government continues to starve fire authorities of the central funding necessary to keep the public safe: here.