Former communities secretary of state Lord Pickles has told the Grenfell Tower inquiry that he was not aware officials in his ministry thought the coalition government’s drive to cut red tape applied to Building Regulations designed to curb fire risks.
The peer, who had responsibility for Building Regulations in his role as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2010-15, told the ongoing inquiry on 7 April that building safety regulations were exempt from the policy promoted by David Cameron’s government.
Under the so-called ‘one in, one out rule’, ministers had to identify an existing piece of legislation to be scrapped for every new one proposed.
Brian Martin, who was responsible for the cladding guidance in a part-time role on secondment from the BRE, told the inquiry on 28 March that there had been a ‘lot of pressure’ relating to deregulation. He said this pressure had ramped up after the Conservative Party victory at the 2015 General Election, after which regulation was seen as a ‘dirty word’.
However, Lord Pickles said it was ‘utterly inexplicable’ and he was ‘genuinely amazed’ that officials working on the Building Regulations – and, specifically, the Approved Document B fire safety guidance – thought they were subject to the deregulatory policy.
He said an official at Martin’s level should have been ‘wholly concerned with technical matters’ and not have made ‘political assumptions’.