Richard North, 06/07/2017  
 


Monbiot was in the Guardian yesterday, ostensibly beating the drum for a more independent Grenfell inquiry.

With this disgusting man though, there is always a "hidden agenda" – although in this case it's scarcely hidden. He sees Brexit as a threat to the corpus of social environmental legislation to which he and his fellow travellers are so much in thrall. But, where Corbyn is so keen to put it down to Tory "austerity", Monbiot sees in Grenfell Tower an opportunity thwart the mad regulators.

These dark, satanic creatures, he will have it, are hiding in the shadow, biding their time to come leaping out to ignite their own bonfire of regulation, sufficient to burn a thousand more Grenfell Towers and incinerate their blameless inhabitants.

Already, under the chairmanship of Oliver Letwin, they have set up The Red Tape Initiative and such is their evil intent that they chose deliberately to hold a meeting to look at "EU fire safety rules" on the morning of the very day that the Grenfell Tower was burning.

This is a meme the Guardian is running alongside its friends in Greenpeace which recently ran what they call an "investigation" telling the world that the "Deregulation taskforce targeted building standards before Grenfell Tower blaze".

Unwittingly, this puts the Guardian in a somewhat schizoid situation, as the paper's official position is that, "regulations on building materials and fire safety are a matter for national governments".

Yet, as part of its case, we have Greenpeace complaining that on the list for the chop is the EU's Construction Products Regulation, "which sets standards for construction materials traded across the EU such as cladding", and "it also puts fire safety at the heart of its 'basic requirements for construction works'".

Failing then to keep in step with his own paper's line, Monbiot thus writes that the tasks of The Red Tape Initiative – in considering the effect of EU rules, "was to consider whether rules determining the fire resistance of cladding materials should be removed for the sake of construction industry profits".

The panel's task on 14 June, he adds, "was to consider a report that the Red Tape Initiative had commissioned whose purpose was to identify building rules that could be cut". Among those it listed as "burdensome", was "the EU Construction Products Regulation, which seeks to protect people from fire, and restricts the kind of cladding that can be used".

And there, after all the squeaking and gnashing of teeth from the Europhile tendency, and the expressions of outrage that I should dare to implicate the EU in the framing of UK Building Regulations, we have a High Priest of Europhilia squealing with rage at even the thought that this supposedly non-existent regulation should be abolished.

The dire games that these people play thus comes into high profile. At any suggestion that EU laws might be deficient, the Europhiles come rushing to the defence of their beloved construct, pinning the responsibility on the Member States and absolving the EU of any responsibility.

Yet, at the first hint that the EU's laws might be under threat and the likes of Monbiot come rushing in to tells us how this munificent EU "seeks to protect people from fire, and restricts the kind of cladding that can be used".

And then, just to prove how wicked and wrong-headed these deregulators are, Monbiot cites a Booker column from May 2014, in which Booker highlighted a particularly egregious flaw in the Construction Products Regulation. The inference, of course, is that if Booker opposes the Regulation, then it has to be all good.

But what is particularly dishonest about the Monbiot line is that, while he is willing to claim the EU has a role in protecting people from fire, he is never willing to concede that the object of his admiration could possibly fail to perform the function claimed of it. He could never, therefore, concede that Booker's driver is the fact that, so often, the EU is the sledgehammer to miss the nut.

As a result, on the one hand we have this little man squeaking about wanting an open, independent inquiry into the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire, the very last thing he wants, or will allow, is a free and independent inquiry if it then highlights any failings of the EU or – for that matter – his green agenda.

Back in February last year, when I was summonsed to give evidence to the Environment Audit Committee on the EU's role in the Somerset Levels Flooding, it was he who conspired with a Labour member of the panel to ensure that my evidence was not heard.

In this case, though, Monbiot has done us the unintended favour of acknowledging that the EU does indeed have a role in framing UK Building Regulations, and in particular fire safety standards.

We, on the other hand, are building an unassailable case that the process failed and, far from ensuring that UK tower blocks were safe, the EU was a major factor in preventing adequate standards being imposed.

The irony is – if that is what it is – that the EU was blocking a the more rigorous standard needed to ensure that cladding systems are safe, which puts Booker and myself in the position of wanting tougher regulations and seeing the EU as the obstacle to getting them.

We thus have nothing at all in common with this band of "right wing" deregulators, who are every bit as dangerous as the rabid left. In truth, there is not much to choose between left and right, neither of which group seem to have the public good as their objective. They are as bad as each other.

That, if you like, leaves the "moderate middle" very badly served. The Red Tape Initiative is being generously funded by "business donors" when the left has its own source of income – with Monbiot enjoying his income from his Guardian column. Yet those of us who have a far better grasp of the situation, are unfunded and ignored by the powers that be.

Even now, the Building Research Establishment (as BRE Global) is enjoying the fruits of an EU contract costed initially at €330,000 to come up with a better fire safety test (even though they've had one for nearly 20 years).

And yet, for all their knowledge and expertise, they were not prepared to rock the boat or call time on the never-ending flow of research funds and consultancy. When, in April 2016, with the cladding and insulation in Grenfell Tower already in place, with the benefit of (UK) government funding, three of their researchers in a joint report were able to reassure us that, "there is currently no evidence … to suggest that Building Regulation recommendations, to limit vertical fire spread up the exterior of high-rise buildings, are failing in their purpose".

Yet, this was the very organisation which tested the Celotex RS5000 product and gave the company the opportunity, without protest from BRE Global, to claim that the product was suitable for use above 18 metres.

Now, the Evening Standard has noticed that Celotex is has kept its "datasheet" on its website, still proclaiming its suitability – which is still the case, alongside its technical brochure (at the time of writing), with a claim that "the insulation was independently assessed by BRE Global, the accreditation company".

Asked for a statement, BRE said: "Celotex has been tested as part of another cladding system - it can therefore only be used specifically as part of that system as tested", adding, "Celotex should not be claiming that their insulation product can be used generically in any other cladding system on a building above 18 metres".

Yet this is precisely what Celotex have been doing for three years, without any protest from BRE Global – and they are not the only company doing this. As a business, BSE will take their money, but do nothing to police the claims made on the back of the tests they have carried out (said to be in the order of £30,000 for each test).

In their own way, these "experts" are just as loathsome as the polemicists from left and right. Even Monbiot is honest by comparison, as you can see where he is coming from. But, either way, the battle lines are being drawn – and most likely, the truth is going to be the casualty - as always.






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