This article appeared in the Llanelli Star on 16th January 2019
We were all very saddened 18 months ago by the terrible Grenfell fire in which 72 people died and another 70 were injured.
This should have been a wake-up call for all those with responsibility for the fire safety of accommodation. So it is shocking that in the past few weeks it has emerged that, far from addressing fire safety, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been sitting on a report by the Defence Fire Safety Regulator highlighting a catalogue of failures in the management of fire safety in armed forces living accommodation, which includes tower blocks.
This is completely unacceptable, and so this week in Parliament, in my role as Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, I have been putting the Government’s Defence Ministers on the spot, calling for them to carry out an immediate review of fire safety across all MoD sites and to implement the report’s recommendations in full.
It is particularly telling that the maintenance contract for defence estates that was outsourced to private contractors CarillionAmey did not include the inspection and maintenance of fire doors and fire escapes. This highlights the very real danger that when services are outsourced under financial pressure, not only are contractors tempted to cut corners, but the massive cuts that the UK Government has foisted upon government departments and public services often leaves them without the resources and personnel to manage contracts effectively.
So it is very worrying that the Government is still determined to outsource the Defence Fire and Rescue service to Capita, in spite of Capita’s well-documented failure on army recruitment. And this is why, where contractors are failing, an incoming Labour Government would take the services back in house, and issues like fire safety should never be compromised by outsourcing.