The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report after the first phase of an inquiry.
Fewer people would have died in the 2017 fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.
The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front”.
The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.
The document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.
The second phase will focus on wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.
General secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, said: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding. The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.
“Firefighters’ actions on the night, which were remarkable in the circumstances, are now being scrutinised. Nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny, but we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.”
The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all questioned during the inquiry’s first phase.
The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.
Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.
But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.
For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.
He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.
“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.
“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.
By Lucy Manning, special correspondent
This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.
The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.
But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.
That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.
So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?
Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for following a “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.
The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”
Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.
Four members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.
Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.
The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.
Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”
A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.
Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.
He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.
The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.
“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.
- Additional reporting by Vinnie O’Dowd.
About 15,000 homes near the River Thames could be protected from flooding by 2027 after a flood defence scheme was given a £270m funding boost.
The scheme will protect homes and businesses between Datchet, Berkshire, through Surrey to Teddington.
The Environment Agency said it could now afford to build the defences thanks to funding from Surrey County Council.
In 2014, about 2,000 people were flooded out of their homes in Chertsey, Egham, Sunbury, Staines and Weybridge.
Central government, local authorities and other partners including Thames Water will all contribute to the scheme.
Dave Bedlington, from the Environment Agency, said the new funding from Surrey County Council meant the scheme could now be shown to be affordable.
If the defences were not built, flooding such as that seen in 2014 would become more frequent, according to Mr Bedlington.
“If everything goes with a fair wind we’d being submitting our planning application in two years’ time. Because of the scale, that’s likely to take a two-year inquiry,” he said.
If given the go-ahead, construction could start in 2023 and it could be operational in 2027, he added.
The Environment Agency said three new channels alongside the River Thames would reduce the flood risk at Datchet, Wraysbury, Egham, Staines, Chertsey, Shepperton, Weybridge, Sunbury, Moseley, Thames Ditton, Kingston and Teddington, affecting 15,000 homes and 2,400 businesses.
The plans also include 260 acres (106 hectares) of new public open space and the creation of 615 acres (250 hectares) of new wildlife habitat, a spokesman said.
Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said: “The floods in 2014 were devastating and ever since then it’s been clear we need to do all we can to make sure our residents and their properties are protected from such risks in the future.”
All-rounder George Scott has signed a three-year deal with Gloucestershire after declining the offer of a new contract at Middlesex.
The 23-year-old right-hander and medium pacer leaves Lord’s after four seasons.
His 43 appearances in all formats saw him score 692 runs and take six wickets following his debut in July 2015.
“I’m very excited, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me cricket-wise,” Scott said. “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining.”
Gloucestershire won promotion to Division One of the County Championship this summer and will play in the top flight for the first time since 2005 next season.
People have been warned to avoid an area in north London after a burst pipe has flooded the road.
Twelve fire engines and around 80 firefighters are now at the scene of the flooding in Queen’s Road, Finsbury Park.
There is low water pressure and no water in N1, N4, N5, N7 and N19, as a result and a number of schools have closed.
Thames Water said specialist engineers were investigating the problem, and “they will be doing everything they can to get things up and running as quickly as possible.”
Recipe box business Gousto has announced plans to create 700 jobs, more than doubling its workforce.
The firm, which delivers meal kits directly to customers, is set to hire about 400 staff at its distribution centre in Spalding, Lincolnshire.
A further 300 will be hired at its headquarters in London.
Gousto secured a £30m investment two months ago, and plans to expand following a period of rapid sales growth.
It currently employs more than 500 staff and will recruit more over a period of three years.
The £30m cash boost investment firm Perwyn takes its total external investment to more than £100m since its creation in 2012.
The money will be used to expand its rapidly growing technology team, while roles will also be created in data science, analytics, software engineering and user experience, the company said.
Timo Boldt, chief executive officer and founder of Gousto, said he is proud to be “bucking the trend” in job creation, after a recent decline in the total number of new job vacancies in the UK.
He added: “The 700 jobs we will create over the next three years will enable us to keep pace with rapidly changing consumer behaviours.
“Growing Gousto and fulfilling our ambition to become the UK’s best loved way to eat dinner, requires a specific focus on our technology team.”
Gousto said it hopes its expansion strategy will help to grow its position as “one of Europe’s leading technology enabled companies”.
Boris Johnson is to call for the release of jailed British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe when he meets Iran’s president later.
The prime minister will meet Hassan Rouhani at a UN summit in New York, hours after blaming Iran for attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
It comes amid calls for him to take a tougher line with Tehran over its detention of dual nationals.
Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016.
The 40-year-old was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she denies.
On his flight to New York on Sunday, Mr Johnson told reporters: “I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region, but also the need to release not just Nazanin but others who in our view are being illegally and unfairly held in Tehran.”
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested Mr Johnson should form a new coalition of allies at the UN to call out Iran for its “diplomatic hostage taking”.
And Mrs Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the prime minister must tell his Iranian counterpart “enough is enough” and secure his wife’s release.
“I don’t mind how he does that, but this has gone on long enough,” he said.
“Nazanin is at the end of her tether. We have to be clear with Iran that it’s not OK to conduct hostage diplomacy.”
Mr Hunt is supporting Mr Ratcliffe’s move to launch a new campaign group made up of other families of different nationalities with loved ones held in Tehran.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it should be a priority to ensure the price of taking hostages is “too high” for Iran.
“Iran is one of the few countries in the world that seeks to settle disputes by taking hostages,” he said.
He said it is thought other countries’ citizens have been taken hostage in Iran and only by working together can countries find a solution.
“When Europe and the US go separate ways on Iran it doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said efforts by Mr Johnson to get his wife released could make amends for comments he made as foreign secretary in 2017, when he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalism.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family has always insisted she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested – and the UK government later clarified it had “no doubt” this was the case.
A number of people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality have been detained in Iran in recent years.
In August, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said a British-Iranian dual national, Anousheh Ashouri, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a court in Tehran after being convicted of spying for Israel.
British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East politics specialist at Melbourne University, is being held on charges that remain unclear, according to the Australian government.
Australians Mark Firkin and Jolie King, who also holds a UK passport – are also being detained in Iran.
Earlier this year, the UK foreign office warned all dual nationals against travelling to Iran because of the risk of arbitrary detention.
Tensions between the UK and Iran have worsened in recent months following a row over the seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf.
The meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Rouhani comes after the UK, France and Germany agreed on Monday that Iran was responsible for the attack on Saudi oil facilities last weekend.
Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of carrying out the 14 September attacks, in which 18 drones and seven cruise missiles hit an oil field and processing facility.
However, Iran has denied responsibility, accusing the UK, France and Germany of “parroting absurd US claims”.
BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said slowly and cautiously, some diplomatic pressure was being applied on Iran.
But he added there was little sign Iran was ready to make any diplomatic concessions, not least while Europe and the US appeared uncertain over how to respond to the Saudi attacks.
A large blaze has broken out at a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, leaving smoke visible over much of central London.
Twelve fire engines were sent to Gerrard Place shortly before 08:45 BST.
London Fire Brigade (LFB) said part of the first and second floors of the end of terrace building were alight, as was a section of the roof.
Gerrard Place and the westbound carriageway of Shaftesbury Avenue have been shut.
Smoke from the blaze covered much of Soho after the fire broke out.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage, LFB said.
A man accused of strangling his ex-girlfriend and burying her in her garden has told a court they had split up over the death of their pet dog.
French film producer Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34, was discovered in a shallow grave at her home in Kew, south-west London, on 5 March.
Kirill Belorusov told the Old Bailey they separated a week after their Rottweiler was put down, and he had owed her nothing at the time.
The 32-year-old denies murder.
The court previously heard Mr Belorusov owed the victim thousands of pounds, and he had tricked his way into her home where he strangled her.
Giving evidence, he said he moved to London in 2009 and began dating Ms Garcia-Bertaux after meeting her at a gig.
“We spent the whole of the night walking and walking and walking, and in the morning I decided to get to her place and she invited me over. She said ‘yes’ and I never left,” he said.
Speaking about their relationship, Russian national Mr Belorusov said they argued “like any couple” over food and money “but everything was OK”.
He said they had separated in 2016 after “a slow build-up over years” and at the time their dog Jazz was “the only thing connecting us”.
The jury has heard Mr Belorusov avoided paying back money he owed to Ms Garcia-Bertaux by pretending to have cancer and there was no record of him receiving treatment at hospitals in London.
However, he insisted he had suffered from cancer with “pancreatic complications” and went on drug trials in Sussex, Kent and Ipswich, the court has heard.
The trial continues.
About 30 residents have been evacuated and part of a building has been destroyed following a suspected explosion.
London Fire Brigade said it was called to a fire after the suspected blast on High Street in Hampton Hill, south-west London, on Tuesday night.
On social media, one witness described hearing a “boom” before the blaze. No was injured.
Road closures remain in place at the scene, Richmond Council said.
A fourth teenager has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a boy at a chicken shop in central London.
Josiph Beker, 17, was stabbed to death outside Edgware Road KFC, Westminster, at about 14:00 BST on 10 September.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder. He remains in custody.
Two 16-year-old boys were charged with murder on Saturday. An 18-year-old arrested over the murder has been bailed pending further inquiries.