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tv   Newsnight  BBC News  June 22, 2017 11:15pm-12:00am BST

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i am in brussels and we'll be asking if the europeans are, for the moment, being polite but unhelpful. and what was it like in aleppo during the last days of the siege? we follow local journalists as they leave their hometown. good evening. the government confirmed this evening that the number of high rise blocks of flats found to have combustible cladding similar to that used on grenfell tower has risen to 11, across eight local authorities. but tonight, concerns about safety are extending beyond the housing sector, into a leading hotel chain. premier inn has told newsnight that it is "extremely concerned" about the cladding on three
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of its high rise hotels. after an urgent review the company has advised this programme that the developers responsible for the construction of hotels in maidenhead, brentford and tottenham had installed cladding that premier inn says does not appear to comply with recognized government guidance. chris cook has the story. the grenfell tower still casts its shadow over britain. today the government revealed that the external cladding on 600 buildings is now being investigated. the house should be careful on speculation of what caused the fire but as a precaution the government have arranged to test cladding in all 11 tower blocks. shortly before i came to the chamber i was informed that a number of these tests have come back as compost the ball. the relevant local authorities and services have been informed and they are taking all possible steps to insure that buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.
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cladding was a key issue at grenfell, the building's outer skin was an aluminium composite material which is quite common, bound around a core of something. the best cladding has a minima lcore which is completely non—combustible but at grenfell it was polyethylene, a plastic, which may have let the fire spread so the government is looking at those at 600 buildings to see how many may have cladding which is too combustible. —— mineral core. a new worrying element emerged today. a camden tower block contained a majorfire back in 2012. camden believe this is because they have a safer kind of cladding. but they have revealed that they were not supplied with the cladding they thought
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they had bought for some of their buildings. we thought we were dealing with reputable companies, we feel let down and the tenants feel let down. my priority is to make sure that the tenants feel safe which is why we're putting in place 24—7 fire wardens and to take down the extra panels. five towers are having cladding stripped off them. we know we have 13 of the taller buildings across camden and these one the leeds ones in particular were clad as the same company as rydon, who did the work in kensington, so it was top of our list, to look at the workmanship and projects that we used and make sure we 100% sure that our residents are safe. i am in maidenhead, theresa may's constituency and the building behind me is her local premier inn. it is covered in cladding, specifically an aluminium composite
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material. if it were being used as social housing it will have had to send a sample of the cladding to the government for testing to ensure it was one of the safe and not the unsafe forms of aluminium cladding but because it is used as a hotel there is no such obligation. so we checked and this hotel is one of three premier inns which the company says do not appear to meet the required standards. they say that the developers were responsible for the construction of the buildings. premier inn also said that an independent expert has assured them that those three hotels
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are safe to continue operating given their evacuation plans and robust safety measures. working out whether things are compliant is surprisingly complex because people can commission tests to prove that things work in certain scenarios, so—called desktop studies. it is open to wiggle room in that the criteria given for which tests should be used in the desktop study are not laid down and it does not say who is qualified or is not qualified to do such a study. a tougher building rule book is surely already on the cards. a simple one may be wise as well. chris cook with that report. chris is with me now. you have singled out premier inn. is it fair to do that? not really at all, to be honest. we had a list of buildings which we believed have issues potentially with their cladding and we went to premier inn and they were very honest
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and straightforward and replied immediately after they had checked. it's important to stress that it is not premier inn we should be worrying about. furthermore it is important to stress that the cladding they used is a fire retardant cladding. it isn't of the sort that automatically meets all of the codes but it isn't bad, not the stuff we think was used at grenfell. furthermore, they have multiple escape routes in the hotels, alarms in every room. there's no reason to be particularly worried about them. it's unfortunate that we singled them out because they were so honest with us when we went to them. it tells you that a lot of people don't know what is at the heart of their cladding. no, absolutely. nick, in terms of the political ramifications, does it feel like the government is on top of the scale of the problem? it has been a difficult week for theresa may because of what she described today as the unimaginable scale of the tragedy, the woeful
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response on the ground for which she apologised and her misjudgement in failing, on her first visit, to meet the residents and their families, failure to win their confidence and make a connection in the way that jeremy corbyn did. today was her first chance in parliament to update mps properly since the election. she sends two significant signals. first, she hears the concerns of the residents who say that this tragedy highlights a really big point about our society, that people living in the heart of london, living completely different and fundamentally different lives to people in westminster, that she understands the concern. the second big signal she wanted to send, that the government has a grip but there was an unfortunate moment this morning when number ten, as chris reported, said that 600
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high—rise buildings have similar cladding to grenfell tower and it turns out it was expanded tower downing street at the moment, not quite functioning properly. yes, a bit of confusion. we did invite the government onto the programme tonight but nobody was available. instead, i'm joined by the conservative mp sir david amess, chair of the all—party parliamentary fire safety and rescue group. also with me is matt wrack, the general secretary of the fire brigades union, and pilgrim tucker from the grenfell action group which represented residents of g re nfell tower. nice to have you here. i wanted to pick up on the back of chris's piece, first with you, david. this is not to detract from what we are learning about social housing, which must be the priority but this discovery suggests there could be a much wider problem with building regulation as a whole, doesn't it? absolutely and i'm shocked by what i've heard. the committee is going to look at it very quickly. it's so frustrating that we've been
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asking for the building regulations to be reviewed every year and nothing at all has happened until now. i wanted to say, before i came from my office in westminster, sajid javid the communities secretary sent all mps a letter setting out in detail what he is asking local authorities and housing associations to do. i am reassured that the government has got a grip on the situation that shouldn't have happened. there is some confusion about a desktop study, the criteria. we just don't know what the law is, do we? we don't, but mps, ministers aren't experts, they depend on advice and the idea that cladding should contain any element that is combustible is crazy. i don't think people will understand that because it seems that we have done via research, even, notjust the scale of the problem was so shocking but the fact that it happened at all in 2017,
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are we not on top of fire regulation in the way that we thought we were? clearly not, from what has happened and what is unfolding you mentioned research, of government commissioned fire research, there is virtually no a team used to exist in the department for communities and local government, but they have gone after the cuts. if local authorities... the debate about cladding had been going on for a long time, we submitted evidence to parliament in 1999 about it. if the fire services or local authorities identified this and said, let's commissioned research, there is no want to go to because every time you raise the issue, and david found this
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from a different angle, you run into obstacles, you are placing obstacles in the way of development, red tape and so on and that is the endless mantra. about fire safety will run into that brick wall. that's the irony. we talked on that first night after the fire and the people who knew and had real worries were those who had voices that were not being heard. not being heard, no. is your sense that that is now changing? i don't believe that is changing, i heard that theresa may said she understood about inequality — if she did she would rapidly start reversing some of the conservative rydon misled the council in terms of the cladding it was putting on the building. that is shocking. isn't that the problem that
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many of these companies have contractors and subcontractors. premier inn were very honest and tried to provide clarity but they don't know what is on their building. premier inn owned the hotel chain, it is not the contractor rydon is the contractor, so they should know what materials it is using. local government should have the capacity to scrutinise and oversee what contracts it is going into but it doesn't and that's a consequence of these government cuts since 2010. that's really the root cause of the killing of all of these people. do you think that the government should ask all of these departments... ? what happens in terms of who has to go to the government, to have their cladding or materials fire checked?
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is tested, you send the best fitters to fit it in the way that you want it to be fitted, there will be a technical sheet going out to the construction firm who fit it but the question is, who is monitoring it as it is put on? that is, if it complies with the regulations anyway. on each corner of the building. you're talking about grenfell? an grenfell tower, there are a host of questions and clearly, people haven't got to grips with this. this is, i think it goes longer,
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i think it has got worse since 2010 but the whole regime i; abfiut’éggrggufi“.a.lgng and anyone who raises safety concerns runs into this brick wall. it is welcome to hear a bit of a u—turn today on some of this but why it has taken a week to have this material tested, i think people will be shocked. of conservative policies, do you refute any of that or do regulated and our culture of prioritise intercutting of red tape or whatever? with all of those things i accept they must look at but i don't want to get into the party politics really because 2008 he‘s; ‘jgszé—g :-‘~--— the la ka nal disaster.
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in spite of the resources local authorities have got already, this is not very good, it does not reflect at all, local authorities should still be able to do checks and there is something not right about this. whether it's the contractors or new products available, i'm very pleased we are going to have this enquiry when i think the truth will come out. there will be residents, we now know 11 more towers, this is a very delicate situation for the government and those people as well, what would you, if they were calling you up now 01’ see you as a voice for grenfell residents, what would you say? would you say, it's notjust to do with the cladding because there will be other precautions like sprinklers in place or would you say leave the tower and your home now? contact somebody like matt but you would want to start getting that cladding taken down. that would be a sensible thing to do. i think so.
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david mentioned lakanal house. it was not cladding which caused the issues in lakanal house, it was other alterations. if we just focus on cladding we will miss out on other operations which have affected fire safety within the building. there may be a whole, a thorough audit of every single high—rise building and london fire brigade today has altered the attendance of fire services at calls to those premises, that should happen across the uk immediately. thank you very much. we should mention that the contractor in that discussion involved in the cladding of grenfell tower and in camden but they are not connected to premier inn just to clarify. that's it from me for now — but now let's go over to evan in brussels. hello, from thejustus lipsius building here in brussels. behind me the good folks of the media, excitedly working on their stories from the european council meeting underway here.
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it's the first time theresa may has met all her counterparts since the election. and to think, that was just two weeks ago. back then, she — we — thought she'd be here with a strong a leader with unassailable authority on our behalf. but now she finds herself a minority leader, coping with crisis and anger at home, with a parliament unkeen on her version of brexit, and a nation utterly divided on how to proceed. so, it wasn't her strutting in with a big mandate, but emmanuel macron of france, the new hero of the european establishment. tonight, mrs may told the others her proposals for eu citizens in the uk post—brexit, one step in the exit negotiation. 0ur diplomatic editor mark urban is with me. just about this offer that broke tonight, on uk citizens and their rights, eu citizens and their rights? theresa may hoping to regain the initiative with this offer.
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broadly, 3 million eu citizens in the uk at the moment can all remain, through a five—year naturalisation process they can the second point is you could still arrive and start that five—year clock, it gave a cut—off date somewhere between the article 50 declaration and the end of this process in 2019. we are already some months into that and it's going to negotiation, it could still be possible to arrive and start that five—year process. and a streamlining of the process for naturalisation, some people have complained about that, 85 pages, the uk government will look again and make it simpler. that is the package in effect. we are not getting a lot of reaction to that because they do not want to get into negotiation about that.
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it's not going to happen. you have 28 arriving, then one has to leave at a certain point. we already knew that was happening, add a couple of previous meetings but it's so awkward. now these concrete proposals are being made, the eu standing on its formal position of seeing no, it's done through michel barnier and david davis, that is when the conversation will resume next week. they will not give her any sort of proper reaction to her proposed packages. a whole second level of awkwardness because of the outcome of the uk general election where people see her weakened, they see things happening like philip hammond the chancellor this morning opening up all sorts of possibilities, talking about three or four year transitional period. maybe past the date of a uk election before we know what the trading terms will be and under what terms
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would we carry on during those three orfour years added onto the article 52? that has led people here to be more vocal and open things up to debate. it's never been easy, getting the 28 to move in the same direction. now 27 are learning that there is something even harder. managing the departure of a nation from this place and its myriad rules. theresa may arrived, post—election a wounded antelope to use a phrase coined by a tory colleague — but hoping to regain the initiative. we will be setting out how we propose to ensure that eu citizens living in the uk have their rights protected in the united kingdom.
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hearing the different views emerging from within theresa may's cabinet, many of the european leaders arriving here are discarding the usual protocol of not commenting on another states affairs
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