On 27th November we published a post under the headline: Knight: How can we get MPs to take their own fire safety more seriously?.
We have now received a letter from Sir Ken Knight (no relation to Stephen Knight, referred to in the headline) who is the Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser and Head of the Crown Inspection Premises Group.
Contrary to the impression given, the Palace of Westminster is not exempt from fire safety regulations and is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The management at the Palace of Westminster have exactly the same responsibility for fire safety matters as do those responsible for commercial and business premises in London and elsewhere.
The enforcing authority is known as the Crown Premises Inspection Group, and while this sits within the Department for Communities and Local Government, it is staffed by those with considerable firefighting, fire protection and prevention experience.
The Crown Premises Inspection Group undertook a fire safety inspection at the Palace of Westminster in September 2011. Since then, the Inspection Group continues to monitor the implementation of fire safety work planned by the Palace of Westminster’s management, who remain responsible for the fire safety and security of the people within it.
Our post did not specifically state that the Palace of Westminster was exempt from fire safety regulations, although we were aware that the Evening Standard had made that erroneous statement. We did not link to the Evening Standard article for that reason. Instead we focused on the demand from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority for it to take over the enforcement role. We also highlighted the undisputed fire risks listed in the report by the House of Commons Commission.
We did quote London Assembly member Stephen Knight, who said “Many people will be shocked to learn that Parliament has exempted itself from the normal enforcement powers of London’s fire brigade over breaches of fire regulations.” We appreciate that this could give the impression that the Palace of Westminster was exempt from all fire regulations, although that was not exactly what he said. In the circumstances we are happy to publish this clarification.
* Mary Reid is the Tuesday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.