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Firefighter Numbers

Volume 667: debated on Monday 28 October 2019

We are confident that fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work. Operational decisions are for each fire and rescue authority to make as part of the integrated risk management planning process, and it is for individual fire and rescue services to make decisions on the number of firefighters they employ.

Since Grenfell, London Fire Brigade has undertaken focused and enhanced visits to high-rise buildings, using both station-based crews and fire safety inspecting officers. Inspecting officers are highly skilled individuals who ensure that those with responsibility for buildings are taking the necessary steps to uphold fire safety standards. What is the Minister doing to support brigades in recruiting and retaining officers in these essential specialist roles?

Obviously the Grenfell inquiry is due to publish shortly, and we will all have to learn lessons from its conclusions. The hon. Lady is right to point towards prevention as a key part of the mission of the fire service, and one in which there has been enormous success in the past decade or more in driving down the number of fires attended to, in particular, and incidents across the board more generally. We have secured an extremely good financial settlement for the fire service across the country this year, and I have urged fire chiefs, not least in the light of the first set of inspections for some time, to invest in prevention.

I certainly support the Government in recruiting an extra 20,000 police officers, but may I ask the Minister to look again at the resources for the fire service? In West Yorkshire, and I suspect in other parts of the country, they are extremely stretched at the moment. The number of people on a fire engine is going down to try to mask over those stretched resources. Will he look at that again, because the fire service needs extra resources, just as the police do?

I would expect nothing less than a challenge from the champion of Shipley on my portfolio, just as he has challenged me in my previous portfolios. I would be more than happy to look at particular problems in his local fire service if he believes there are any, but we have recently instituted and had the results of the first inspection regime of fire and rescue services for some time. It has been reassuring in parts, but it does point towards particular areas we need to address. As I say, we had a good settlement from the Treasury this year from the financial point of view, and it will be for local fire and rescue chiefs to decide how they invest that extra money.