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Debates
Wednesday, 13 September 2017 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

15. Fire safety in buildings (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  Neena Gill, on behalf of the S&D Group . – Mr President, for far too long we have not debated the issue of fire safety of buildings, so it is high time we did so. That was my rationale behind proposing to have this debate on fire safety. Twenty years ago I worked in social housing. Our ethos was simple: social housing provides homes for the most vulnerable so it needs to be of the best quality. Clearly, over the years, this message has been diluted, especially in the UK. Had it not, we would not have had the tragedies, such as Grenfell Tower in June. My heartfelt condolences to the families of those affected.

The issue of fire safety should always be at the forefront of our minds. It should not take losing 80 people in an inferno that could have been prevented. But it is not just about what has happened, but also about what could happen in the future. Across the EU there are too many buildings – hospitals, student accommodation and office buildings – that are vulnerable, and a key lesson from Grenfell is that it is not always the fire, but also the toxic fumes that kill people. EU regulations already require that construction work is done to limit the spreading of smoke and fire, but what we need to do is ensure there are fire sprinklers in all buildings, residential and commercial. These rules also need to be enforced and expanded to inform consumers about the toxicity of materials through harmonised labelling.

We also need to secure better fire testing methods for façades that reflect the reality. It concerns me that shortly after Grenfell, instead of trying to strengthen these regulations, the UK Government supported the ‘Red Tape Initiative’ that classified it as an ‘expensive and burdensome’ ‘red tape folly’ that should be abandoned after Brexit. I think it is far too easy to dismiss regulation as red tape, but these regulations save lives and should be strengthened.

Finally, this initiative is supported by firefighters across the EU who put their lives at risk, but very rarely get the kind of hearing they deserve. I sincerely hope that this House will continue to put this high on the agenda.

 
Last updated: 12 October 2017Legal notice