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Fire Risk: Commercial and Residential Buildings

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

11. What recent assessment he has made of the capacity of fire inspectors to assess the fire risk of commercial and residential buildings. (910135)

As the hon. Lady knows, each fire and rescue authority is required to have an integrated risk-management plan and risk-based inspection programme, and the adequacy and effectiveness of those arrangements are now subject to independent inspection.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the London fire brigade implemented a more rigorous and detailed building inspection programme, which has brought up additional issues that need enforcement action. That inevitably takes up a great deal of time and limits the brigade’s ability to assess premises. Will the Minister agree to review funding, to improve the recruitment and retention of the suitably qualified officers we need to ensure that people are safe in their beds?

I understand the hon. Lady’s point. Core spending for the Greater London Authority has increased by 6.3% in 2019-20. We are reviewing the funding arrangements for the fire service as part of the spending review, and I will note the hon. Lady’s intervention in that context.

Not only are the Government failing to deal with dangerous cladding wrapped around buildings, but they are responsible for cutting one in four fire inspectors since 2010. They cannot cut red tape and fire inspectors and expect there to be no ticking time bombs like Grenfell. Cuts have consequences. The fire service must be funded to seek out risk, not just to respond to it. I add my voice to those asking the Minister whether he will undertake a serious review of fire service funding, with a view to implementing a robust national standard framework to set expectations of fire inspector numbers and competency.

I can certainly assure the hon. Lady, as I have before, that as it prepares for the spending review the Home Office is extremely serious about assessing the demand on the police and the fire service. In the latest forces reviews by the independent inspectorate, 10 out of the 14 forces were rated “good” for effectiveness. I hope the hon. Lady would join me in welcoming that.

Order. I hope the whole House will want to join me in congratulating the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) on her wedding on Saturday. We wish her and her new husband a long, happy and healthy life together.